Tuesday 21 January 2020

Harry and Meghan: The big question Canadians have about move

Many Canadians have an affection for the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. But one big question is hanging over the shock news of the couple's part-time relocation to Canada - what will it cost?

There has been plenty of chatter in Canada since Prince Harry and Meghan said they would be stepping back as senior royals and spending part of their time in North America.

The duchess is spending time on Canada's west coast with their infant son as the couple flesh out the details of their move away from their role as full-time royals, with her public outings closely followed.

But the main preoccupation hovering over the royal couple's decision to spend part of their time in Canada comes down to who will foot the bill - especially if they are spending the bulk of their time as private citizens.

Some have outright rejected the idea of the public shouldering any costs for the couple.
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex will spend part of their time in Canada

The leader of the Bloc Quebecois - a federal party that represents the interests of Quebec, a province where attitudes towards the monarchy tend to be frostier than in the rest of Canada - said Quebecers should not have to pay a dime.

Yves-Francois Blanchet quipped he was already paying for a Netflix subscription, where he could watch The Crown, a drama about Queen Elizabeth II's reign.

He is not alone in not wanting to fork out any cash.

A public opinion poll released this week by the non-profit Angus Reid Institute indicated that 73% of Canadians have no interest in paying any of the costs for security and other expenditures associated with their relocation.

"This view is consistent across demographic groups including age, gender or region or political preference," the organisation said in a release.

Just 3% of respondents told the pollster that Canadians should pick up the tab for security and other necessary costs, and 19% said they were fine with paying a portion of the bill.

The Canadian Taxpayers Federation, a taxpayer advocacy group, says the current debate over who should ante up for costs related to the members of the monarchy is different from those that regularly bubble up in Canada.

The country is a constitutional monarchy - its head of state is Queen Elizabeth II - and things like Royal tours and the office of the Governor General, who is the Queen's representative in Canada, are paid for by the public purse.

"Normally when we get into debates about the cost of the monarchy in this country there's a pretty clear line - people who are monarchists and people who are small 'r' republicans," says Aaron Wudrick, the organisation's federal director.

But the relocation of the duke and duchess has "changed the dynamic".

"The distinction is a bit like a friend who comes over for dinner and you're happy to prepare their meal versus them deciding they're going to move in and still expecting you to cook for them all the time," he said.

"I think that's how a lot of Canadians see this. I actually don't think it's about the dollar figure, it's a general view that people who have a lot of means and the capacity to pay for themselves should be doing it."

The duke and duchess themselves have not said they expect Canadians to pick up the tab, Mr Wudrick notes, and federal officials have admitted it's not clear yet how costs may be divided - or what those costs would be.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told broadcaster Global News this week that "there's still a lot of decisions to be taken by the Royal Family, by the Sussexes themselves as to what level of engagement they choose to have".

The question of security costs is "part of the reflection that needs to be had and there are discussions going on", he said.

So while the Queen has agreed to the couple's wish to step back as senior royals, become financially independent and to split their time between the UK and Canada, the details of the transition are still being worked out.

Mr Wudrick says that "in the interests of settling everyone down - maybe this is all a tempest in a teapot - it would be helpful if the duke and duchess could provide some clarity on what their expectations are".

John Michaelson, with the Monarchist League of Canada, agrees answers should come sooner rather than later.

Most Canadians don't spend much time thinking about the Royal Family or their official role in Canada, he says, and the benefits of the institution are often hidden from view - the thousands of community, ceremonial, and constitutional engagements the family and the Queen's representatives there carry out annually across the country.

The league have released regular reports on costs related to the Canadian Crown for the past 20 years "to try and bring the point home that this is something that we get great benefit from and it doesn't cost a great deal", he said.

The tally is approximately C$1.68 ($1.29; £0.99) a year per Canadian for the general cost of the Crown, according to their most recent study.

Mr Michaelson says Prince Harry and Meghan's relocation is also an opportunity for the pair to deepen their engagement with organisations like the Prince's Trust Canada, a charitable endeavour established by Prince of Wales in 2011.

Meanwhile, a columnist with the National Post newspaper said the debate over the likely negligible relative cost of protecting direct close relations to Canada's head of state "has revealed one of the ugliest elements of the Canadian national character".

"It's true, Canada. We're a nation of cheapskates," wrote Matt Gurney.
Richard Powers, with Toronto's Rotman School of Management, told the BBC that Canada could see some economic benefits from having the famous couple in the country, primarily in the non-profit sector.

Both Prince Harry and Meghan have said they are interested in continuing with their charity work, with the duchess visiting two Vancouver-based women's organisations this week.

But Mr Wudrick dismisses the idea that doing charitable works should be enough to open the public purse strings.

"If a Hollywood star or a pro-sports player with a lot of money moved here and they donate to charity and they do good things, they [still] pay for themselves," he said.

(Source: BBC)

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