Canada

PM extends Clarkson's term as Governor General

Adrienne Clarkson's term as Governor General extended til Sept. 2005

Adrienne Clarkson will stay on as Governor General for an extra year, until September 2005, the Prime Minister's Office confirmed Thursday.

"Her Excellency has accepted the prime minister's invitation to stay on for an extended term," the announcement read.

Prime Minister Paul Martin praised Clarkson's record in office. "The Governor General has done an outstanding job as Canada's Head of State and Commander-in-Chief of the Canadian Forces", said Martin.

"In addition to her ceremonial functions, she has reached out to Canadians in communities throughout the country and I am pleased that she has accepted to continue her role for another year," he added.

Observers said the PM wanted an experienced Governor General in office, amid concerns the current parliament – in which the Liberal party clings to power with a minority – could bring political instability to Canada.

Speaking after a cabinet meeting in Ottawa earlier on Thursday, Martin had said Clarkson's experience was "very valuable" in a minority government situation.

Conservative Leader Stephen Harper agreed to Clarkson carrying on for another year. He told the press he would not like to see someone new take the post at a time when the Governor General may have to rule on difficult parliamentary situations.

If the Liberal government lost a vote of confidence in the house, Clarkson would get to decide whether there should be new elections, or whether the opposition, or anyone else, should try to form a government.

Rideau Hall spending jumps under Clarkson

Clarkson, who took up the post in 1999 after Romeo Leblanc resigned due to ill health, has raised the profile of the nation's highest ceremonial position by travelling frequently and widely, both domestically and internationally.

She arrived in the country as a refugee from Hong Kong in 1942, and became well-known during a long career as broadcaster with CBC Television.

Her connections in the arts as well as her marriage to the philosopher John Ralston Saul, have lent her tenure intellectual weight and not unconsiderable glamour.

But her demeanour – often described as "regal" – has put off critics, who also question her office's spending, which rose from $11.7 million to more than $19 million between 1999 and 2003.

An embarrassed Department of Foreign Affairs in February cancelled the second leg of her Nordic nations trip, after Clarkson's first $5.3 million Modern North tour of polar nations alongside 59 prominent Canadians attracted a public outcry, and the scrutiny of Parliament.

Clarkson had defended herself as being "above politics."

A New Year's visit to Canadian troops peacekeeping in Afghanistan, however, had drawn much positive comment.

But tough criticism of Clarkson, particularly from the opposition benches, led, during the summer's election campaign, to speculation that the prime minister would appoint someone else to the post as her fifth anniversary nears.

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