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Peter Donolo is a strategic communications consultant in Toronto and served as director of communications to former prime minister Jean Chrétien.

When it comes to the British monarchy, Canada never misses an opportunity to miss an opportunity.

With an alacrity one seldom sees on the part of contemporary governments, Ottawa announced within hours of the coronation of King Charles III that the new monarch’s likeness would replace that of his mother on our country’s coins and $20 banknotes.

It is just the latest example of a bizarre compulsion on the part of our country’s political class to tie itself – and their fellow Canadians – even more tightly to an antiquated, deeply diminished institution that belongs to a long-ago era, and is deeply out of sync with the Canada of the 21st century. Indeed, polls conducted since the death of Queen Elizabeth have shown a large, and growing, majority of Canadians want our country to sever ties with the monarchy altogether. That makes its embrace by so many politicians even harder to understand – and to stomach.

Much has already been written – including by this author – on the reasons for abolishing the monarchy, from the fundamentally undemocratic nature of inherited high office to the absurdity of a country having a foreigner as its head of state. The rebuttal has always been that abolishing it would involve a constitutional amendment requiring the unanimous approval of all federal and provincial legislatures. As the trauma of Canada’s last large-scale efforts at constitutional reform more than three decades ago can attest, that is not an idle concern.

Not seeking a constitutional showdown over the monarchy is one thing. But missing the opportunity to further shrink its symbolic presence is harder to defend. After all, this is a process that has been going on for decades. Canadians used to sing “God Save the King/Queen” before movies and sporting events. Royal portraits were once ubiquitous in government offices. And we began featuring individuals other than the monarch (i.e. former prime ministers) on our banknotes in the 1930s. This would have been the perfect moment to finish that last job – placing a Canadian, rather than a British, face on our $20 bill.

I even have a perfect candidate: Lester B. Pearson, who became prime minister 60 years ago this spring. Pearson has been dead for half a century. His government laid many of the foundations of modern Canada: our national public health care system, the Canada Pension Plan, even the Canadian flag itself. These accomplishments are long past political debate and have been embraced by subsequent governments of all political stripes. They are defining characteristics of our country. Moreover, Pearson remains the only Canadian ever to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. What a fitting expression of widely held Canadian values. What an apt addition he would make to the lineup of Canadians who already adorn our banknotes: his fellow prime ministers Macdonald, Laurier, Borden and King, and the civil rights pioneer Viola Desmond.

Yet rather than take the opportunity to honour one of our own, and all he stood for, we have jumped on a, frankly, non-existent coronation bandwagon. Is it too late to yell “Stop the presses!”? Our politicians have passed the buck for so long on the monarchy, it’s really not too much to ask them to take a pass on the buck, in a literal sense, this time around.

Perhaps all is not lost. A small minority of parliamentarians are beginning to agitate for a change to the Oath of Allegiance to the monarch, which is mandatory for many government officials – including elected officials across Canada. Notably, all new Canadian citizens must also swear this oath to a crowned head an ocean away. It is a strange introduction, indeed, to their new country.

Yet even this movement for change is predictably timorous. The MPs and Senators calling for it simply want to give people the “choice” between swearing allegiance to King Charles (and, it should be noted, “his heirs and successors”) or an oath of allegiance to Canada. Imagine if Pearson had said 60 years ago that the new Canadian flag was optional; some days we’d fly the Maple Leaf from Parliament’s Peace Tower, others the Union Jack or Red Ensign.

Alas, while our politicians are mostly acting like couch potatoes binge-watching The Crown, the rest of the world is moving on. Of the 56 Commonwealth countries, only 14 (aside from the U.K. itself) have retained the monarchy – and that number is dwindling further, with governments in six Caribbean countries considering abolition.

Even if our constitutional complexities prevent Canada from going that far, there is still no reason to pause – or even worse, reverse – the “quiet quitting” of the Royals that we started decades ago.

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