Group tries to make monarchy an election issue

A group devoted to promoting the idea of a parliamentary republic is encouraging voters to consider the monarchy's role in Canada when casting their ballot in the upcoming federal election.
Queen Elizabeth visited Toronto last July. Prince William and Kate Middleton are scheduled to visit Canada this summer. (Darren Calabrese/Canadian Press)

A group devoted to promoting the idea of a parliamentary republic is encouraging voters to consider the monarchy's role in Canada when casting their ballot in the upcoming federal election.

None of the major Canadian political parties endorse cutting ties with the monarchy, and debate over the future of the monarchy in Canada has not figured prominently in the current campaign.

Citizens for a Canadian Republic, which advocates cutting the link between the Governor General and the monarchy, tried to change that with the release of its "voter guide" this week.

The guide provides people with the non-partisan organization's interpretation of where the major federal parties stand on the monarchy-republic debate.

"We hope that voters will use the monarchy issue as a gauge for voting in their constituency," said Tom Freda, co-author of the guide.

Canada and the Crown

Canada is a constitutional monarchy and Queen Elizabeth is Canada's head of state. The Queen's representative is the Governor General.

Citizens for a Canadian Republic said the guide is based on research and public material, including quotes, public comments and "excerpts from non-private conversations."

"The main goal of this guide is to point the massive block of republican-minded voters toward candidates and parties that we feel are the most open to promoting both internal and public debate on the monarchy," the authors said.

Freda said his organization felt all parties have been "negligent" on issues around the monarchy, and the guide doesn't endorse any single party.

The guide rates the perceived views of the party leaders and caucus, as well as the present party policy and the openness of the party to discuss ending the monarchy. It also looks at the frequency of party spokespeople and MPs in expressing pro-republic opinion and the "likelihood the party will form a government with a pro-republic initiative."

Robert Finch, a spokesman for the Monarchist league of Canada, said the guide was a "lame attempt at trying to be relevant at a time when the eyes of the country are squarely on London for the Royal Wedding of Canada's future King and Queen."

Millions are expected to tune in when Prince William and Kate Middleton  are married Friday at Westminster Abbey in London.

Freda said the voter guide was released to coincide with the royal wedding, but he noted that his group has been getting requests to compile this type of document for years.

"We've been fortunate to have a monarchy-related event and an election occurring at the same general time, so we'd be negligent if we didn't try to use that to help our message come across to Canadians," Freda said.

Freda said he wished William and Kate well, but said he would continue pushing for change.

"We're not about bad-mouthing the Queen or the monarchy," Freda said. "We're all about helping Canada evolve."