Choices of Canadians to the offices of lieutenant-governor and governor-general have become interesting in recent years.
Brigadier General (Ret’d) John James (Jim) Grant was Nova Scotia’s most recent lieutenant-governor until his recent succession by Arthur LeBlanc from Cape Breton.
Grant’s appointment followed the tenures that lasted about six years for two women: educator Myra Freeman and human rights advocate Mayann Francis. His background is in business and the military.
People in this role offer different gifts. Some are more charismatic, but Grant shared a common touch over the more than five years he served. One is reminded of a similar countenance shared by former governors-general Ray Hnatyshyn and Romeo LeBlanc.
As the report this week shows, Grant felt honoured to meet Queen Elizabeth among the highlights of his time in office. He also cited his connections with youth and First Nations communities.
Many times, Grant — either on his own or accompanied by his wife Joan — would be whisked by limousine from their official home at Province House in Halifax to various parts of Pictou County among their official duties for short visits. They included his cherished walks to the cairn commemorating the Battle of Culloden at Knoydart and sufficient time to attend the luncheon that followed.
Still, they obviously longed for home and were ready to return once Grant’s successor was chosen. Now they reside once again on New Glasgow’s east side and were a walk away from activities associated with last weekend’s Festival of the Tartans as if they were never away.
LeBlanc gives Nova Scotia a lieutenant-governor of clear Acadian origin and will no doubt add a different touch. Like Grant, he entered the role in his mid-70s and will, hopefully, be in good health for the work that lies ahead for him.
Federally, we also have a new governor-general, Julie Payette, whose appointment adheres to the customary altering of francophone and non-francophone candidates. She is the third women to serve in the office among the last four people.
She succeeds David Johnson, an academic who brought a special dignity and skill set to the office.
Payette’s fluency in French and English and her capacity to speak four other languages, her musical skills and engineering background make her an interesting choice. It has been said that her achievements in science, engineering and space flight bring a new dimension to the office that we hope will engage Canadians in a special way.
Debate persists over the need for such representatives of the Queen, indeed for the monarchy. But these are good people who do extraordinary work and make a vital contribution to Canada’s political and social fabric. The country is better with them in these roles than without them.
Grant as he leaves and Payette as she arrives are worthy examples.