Deputy Prime Minister John Manley greeted the arrival of the Queen in Canada yesterday by repeating his call for the country to chop its ties with the monarchy -- a move one royal supporter condemned as an "unpardonable breach" of etiquette.
While a crowd of well-wishers in Iqaluit gushed over the Queen on the first day of her cross-country Golden Jubilee tour, Mr. Manley told reporters in Montreal that, while he thinks the current monarch is "doing a good job," he would prefer the country's head of state was represented by a "uniquely" Canadian choice.
"I don't think it's necessary for Canada to continue with the monarchy," the Finance Minister said when asked by reporters if he thought it should continue after the end of the Queen's reign. Mr. Manley has long voiced his opposition to the country's formal ties with Buckingham Palace.
Mr. Manley will be the Queen's official government escort when her tour wraps up in the national capital region next weekend.
John Aimers, dominion chairman of the Monarchist League, said Mr. Manley's comments, regardless of his personal views, were rude and inconsiderate of a woman who "has been a friend to Canada for 50 years."
"It's just bad manners," Mr. Aimers said, calling it an "unpardonable breach."
He added, "He could have said today is the day we're welcoming the Queen, I'm not going to touch this."
Progressive Conservative MP Elsie Wayne, a staunch monarchist, demanded that Mr. Manley apologize for his remarks and said she plans to call him to account in the House of Commons next week.
"His timing is outrageous," Ms. Wayne said from her home in Saint John. "It's an insult to the whole of Canada. If you were in [the Queen's]position, you'd be very hurt."
And, in fact, a new poll suggests that the majority of Canadians, while squarely divided over the future of the monarchy in Canada, would rather Mr. Manley left the issue alone.
A national survey conducted for The Globe and Mail and CTV indicates that when it comes to dumping the Queen and all her royal trappings, 52 per cent feel the debate over the monarchy's role does not really matter to them, so why go to the fuss of changing it.
Atlantic Canadians, at 60 per cent, and Quebeckers, at 56 per cent, were the most likely to approach the subject of reforming the monarchy's role with a yawn. Those regions typically led antimonarchist sentiment in other areas of the survey as well.
Mr. Aimers acknowledged that Canadian support for the status quo is more a reflection of the country's weariness of constitutional wrangling than a sign of deep-rooted royal fervour.
"Canadians are practical people," he said. "Would abolishing the monarchy relieve one overcrowded emergency room in Toronto, or one overcrowded classroom in Ottawa?"
Canadians, on the other hand, seem rather fond of Her Majesty. While 58 per cent said she is little more than a celebrity, the Ipsos-Reid survey shows that eight of 10 Canadians surveyed think she does a good job -- leading Mr. Aimers to remark: "The Queen could tell Mr. Manley, 'My poll numbers are better than yours.' "
In the poll, 13 per cent disagreed that the Queen does a good job. Her ratings were highest in British Columbia, where 91 per cent approved of her work. Although Quebeckers were the least likely to applaud the Queen, two-thirds of those polled commended her performance.
The Queen is Canada's favourite living royal personage, with 30 per cent of those surveyed ranking her first in their hearts. Her handsome grandson, Prince William, who is second in line to the throne, placed a close second at 22 per cent, especially with those under age 34. Prince Charles was tops with only 9 per cent.
And when it comes to Prince Charles's turn, the country seems to be split down the middle on whether breaking its royal ties would be a good step. In the poll, 48 per cent agree that Canada should cut its links with Buckingham Palace when the Queen is off the throne, with 51 per cent disagreeing.
The majority of Canadians unite on one point: if the monarch goes, they want a vote on who the head of state would be.
About 40 per cent would like to see an elected governor-general with limited duties. Almost as many -- 37 per cent -- said they would rather see Canada become a republic with the prime minister filling a dual role as head of both state and government.
The poll is based on a random sample of 1,000 adults. The results are accurate to within three percentage points, 19 times out of 20.
"I've always said I have a lot of respect for the Queen and the work she does. But I still think, for Canada, that after Queen Elizabeth, it will be time for us to think about the institution and I would prefer to have an entirely Canadian institution
"She deserves everbody's respect. She does extraordinary work. It's a difficult job. "Personally, I would prefer an institution after Queen Elizabeth that is just Canadian. It might be as simple as continuing with just the Governor-General as the head of state in Canada. "But I don't think it's necessary for Canada to continue with the monarchy." Deputy Prime Minister John Manley
Of two minds
Do you agree or disagree: The issue of the monarchy and our form of government isn't important to me, so why go through the fuss of changing something that seems to work okay.
Agree 52% Disagree 44% Don't know 4%
Do you agree or disagree: The Queen and the Royal Family should not have any formal role in Canadian society. The royals are simply celebrities and nothing more.
Agree 58% Disagree 41% Don't know 1%