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Election's not the time to open a royal can of worms: Harper

Prince William and Kate Middleton during a visit to Whitton Park in Darwen, England.

Chris Jackson/Chris Jackson/Getty Images

This federal election is about many things. But it is not, it appears, about whether a big sister should become Queen.

As the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton nears, some British politicians, including Liberal Democratic Leader Nick Clegg, believe the time has come to abolish male primogeniture. This is the three-century-old law that says the oldest son of the monarch shall be the heir, even if the first-born is a woman.

Since the British monarch is Canada's head of state, any changes would affect the Canadian constitution, raising dicey issues over whether abolishing male primogeniture would require the consent of Canada and other nations who accept the king or queen of Great Britain as sovereign.

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New Zealand prime minister John Key has already lent his support to the proposal. But when Stephen Harper was asked by reporters whether Canada would support a proposal to reform the laws of succession, the Conservative leader pointed out that the question concerned a possible heir to the heir to the heir to the throne.

"The successor to the throne [Prince Charles]is a man," said Mr. Harper. "The next successor to the throne [Prince William]is a man. I don't think Canadians want to open a debate on the monarchy or constitutional matters at this time. That's our position, and I just don't see that as a priority for Canadians right now at all."

There was no word, at this posting, of how the other party leaders viewed the matter. But votes could hinge on this potential wedge issue. Or not.

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About the Author
Writer-at-large

John Ibbitson started at The Globe in 1999 and has been Queen's Park columnist and Ottawa political affairs correspondent.Most recently, he was a correspondent and columnist in Washington, where he wrote Open and Shut: Why America has Barack Obama and Canada has Stephen Harper. He returned to Ottawa as bureau chief in 2009. More

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