2017 a year to shape Canada: governor general


OTTAWA – Governor General David Johnston is marking the start of what’s likely his last few months as the Queen’s representative in Canada by urging all Canadians to make 2017, Canada’s 150th birthday, a legacy year.

“This year we celebrate, and we stand at a threshold. We have a rare, once-in-a-generation opportunity to think about Canada, and to look to the future,” Johnston said in his annual New Year’s message.

“We have a chance to reflect, to reaffirm, to look ahead and say: We love this country. We’ve come so far. Let’s make it even better.”

Johnston’s term is up in September, but how his replacement will be selected has yet to be determined.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told The Canadian Press in a year-end interview that he hasn’t given much thought yet on how the next governor general will be appointed.

But he said whatever the process, it will likely be in keeping with what he characterized as his government’s approach to appointments in general.

“Diversity and minority representation and hearing a broad range of voices in appointment positions across this country is important to me,” he said.

“…so it would surprise me if whatever process we end up putting in place for helping me select the next governor general didn’t put a tremendous emphasis on bringing in a broad range of perspectives and voices for me to choose from.”

Johnston, Canada’s 28th governor general, was appointed in 2010 after a committee proposed a list of names to then-prime minister Stephen Harper.

Two years later, Harper struck a formal panel to advise on future vice-regal appointments and Trudeau said he’ll review that system before deciding on how he’ll go forward.

“I’m not going to change things just to reinvent the wheel,” he said.

“If there is a good process that we can improve by making more open and transparent and more diverse, that I will probably do.”

Johnston’s term should have ended in 2015 but it was extended by Harper ahead of that year’s election.

Among the projects he’s worked on during his time in office has been expanding the reach of the country’s honours system, including the Order of Canada, which celebrates its own 50th anniversary in 2017.

The motto for that award — they desire a better country — is a fitting motto for the nation’s birthday celebrations as all Canadians desire a better country, Johnston said.

“We’re so fortunate to live in Canada, but there’s so much more work to do,” he said.

“Let’s ensure this is a country of both excellence and equality of opportunity for all. Let’s work towards achieving reconciliation with Aboriginal peoples. Let’s continue to celebrate diversity. It’s a strength, one that has allowed us to build a society that is the envy of the world.”