Gov. Gen. Jean explains 2008 prorogation

Michaëlle Jean says she never meant to keep Canada in suspense when she kept Prime Minister Stephen Harper waiting before granting his prorogation request in 2008.

Gov. Gen. Michaëlle Jean, whose term ends Thursday, said she never meant to keep Canada in suspense when she kept Prime Minister Stephen Harper waiting two hours before granting his prorogation request on Dec. 4, 2008.

Jean said she felt she needed to make the right choice and took her time in making the call.

"I had the duty to make a decision. It couldn't be dealt with in just a few minutes," Jean told The Canadian Press. "So I had to analyze, I had to anticipate what my decision would imply — whatever it was."

At the time, Harper was on the verge of being toppled and his government replaced by an opposition coalition. Ultimately, Jean's decision to grant the prorogation request bought Harper more time, while the coalition deal crumbled.


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Jean said she saw a positive result from that December 2008 episode: the whole prorogation crisis prompted a national discussion and, as a result, led Canadians to learn more about their democracy.

And she suggested that's part of the reason she took so much time. The meeting in her office with Harper dragged on so much longer than scheduled that he was forced to cancel a planned event.

"The idea wasn't to create artificial suspense," she said. 

"The idea was to send a message, and for people to understand that this warranted reflection."

Prepares for UN role

As Jean spoke in her office Tuesday, movers outside the door lugged some of her personal belongings to her new Ottawa home. Her successor, David Johnston, the former president of the University of Waterloo, will be sworn in on Friday.

Jean said her 11-year-old daughter asked to stay in the capital because she has grown attached to it, and asked her parents not to move. Jean will run her charitable foundation and her new United Nations job out of offices at the University of Ottawa.

In December 2008, Jean said she had only been a casual observer of the office of Governor General before she took office, and subsequently heard directly from Canadians who disliked the vice-regal role.

But she said she believes that as long as Canada has a vice-royal office, it can be used to accomplish good things.

Jean said she hopes her five-year term helped give a voice to people in Canada and abroad.