Harper may delay picking next lieutenant-governor, expert says

Prime Minister Stephen Harper may delay the announcement of a new lieutenant-governor until after the dust settles from the upcoming provincial election.

Lt.-Gov. Graydon Nicholas's term ends 8 days after the Sept. 22 election

Prime Minister Stephen Harper stands next to Lt.-Gov. Graydon Nicholas at the recent funeral for three slain RCMP officers. Nicholas's term as New Brunswick's lieutenant-governor will end in September. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

Prime Minister Stephen Harper may delay the announcement of a new lieutenant-governor until after the dust settles from the upcoming New Brunswick election.

The prime minister recently announced a five-person committee will draw up a shortlist of candidates that he will choose from to replace Graydon Nicholas.

Nicholas's five-year term expires just eight days after New Brunswickers vote on Sept. 22.

One of the roles of a lieutenant-governor is to ask the leader of a winning political party to form a government after an election.

That's a straightforward task if a party wins a majority but if no party does, the lieutenant-governor may be called on to decide who is most likely to win a confidence vote in the legislature.

Lt.-Gov. Graydon Nicholas was appointed in 2009 to a five-year term to represent the Queen in New Brunswick.
Philippe Lagasse, a professor at the University of Ottawa, said that could be daunting task for a rookie lieutenant-governor. Lagasse is an expert on the vice-regal position.

"In periods of stress or uncertainty it's better to have someone who's more familiar with those principles at the outset,” Lagasse said.

"What it presents as different scenarios is an individual who may not have a full breadth of understanding of the role and the powers involved with the vice-regal office, who could potentially be faced with a legislature that's more volatile than most," he added.

Lagasse said New Brunswickers should not be surprised if Nicholas's term is extended to get through the post-election period and ensure a smooth transition.

In the last political poll, the Liberals held a lead over the Progressive Conservatives and the NDP. 

Lieutenant-governors are appointed by the governor general on the advice of the prime minister. They serve five-year terms, during which they act as their provinces' vice-regal representatives. 

Lagasse also said the timing of the upcoming appointment makes a non-partisan lieutenant-governor more important than usual.

"It weakens the office to some degree to see it as a purely ceremonial patronage position," he said.

Harper received praise for selecting Nicholas in 2009. Nicholas was the first aboriginal person to be named lieutenant-governor in New Brunswick. He was also the first aboriginal person to become a judge in the province.

Nicholas replaced Acadian poet and philosopher Herménégilde Chiasson.


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