A quick reaction to Regg Cohn on the end of monarchy

The Star has an op-ed by Martin Regg Cohn on ending the monarchy:


One of these has to appear periodically. It almost feels like they’re tied to the change of seasons.

Cohn’s is better than most in that he: a) admits it won’t be easy to end the monarchy; b) he at least acknowledges the legal fiction of a separate Queen of Canada.

But, like most, he expects the end of the monarchy to occur as a clear break following a decisive debate.

That led me to muse about how I think the monarchy will actually come to an end, based on historical institutional theories of institutional change and the distinction that can be made between the monarchy and the Crown in Canada.

Here were my thoughts:

1. The monarchy in Canada will slip away through institutional drift, while the Crown will be converted as needed.

1.a. On institutional drift (not keeping up with changing realities, and falling aside as a result) and conversion (used for political ends) see Mahoney and Thelen, and Hacker, Thelen, and Pierson:



2. An elaboration: there are too many status quo vetoes preventing an abolishment of the monarchy, owing to the amending formula.

3. But neither Parliament, the executive or the courts are wedded to the monarchy; they’re simply letting it drift (i.e. treating the monarchy as a vestigial British institution, effectively abandoning the efforts made from 1931 to 1978 to Canadianize the monarchy.)

3.a. The end result is that, according to Parliament, the executive, and the courts, we have a fully independent Canadian state, except with a head of state determined by the British Parliament.

4. Crown is a different beast. It’s part of the Canadian Parliament, source of executive and prime ministerial dominance, and courts show it deference.

5. The Crown also provides the Canadian state’s and executive’s legal personality, and it serves as the foundation of responsible government.

6. But the Crown can also be converted (ie manipulated) to serve various ends. Courts, executive and Parliament have all done this of late.

7. In the absence of a shock, the Crown will remain, being used to serve whatever ends are required, because it’s useful to all three branches and strongly embedded in the Constitution.

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