Michaëlle Jean out as Harper goes shopping for new Governor General

Wheelchair star Rick Hansen says no but wasn't asked, Michaelle Jean can only cool her heels

Rick Hansen, Governor General Michaelle Jean photo: Peter Power/Toronto Star (left), Chris Wattie/Reuters

Canadians have finally warmed to Michaëlle Jean but she’s out in September. Rick Hansen turned down Stephen Harper who didn’t ask him to be Governor General.The story originates with the Toronto Star.

The role of Governor General has passed from colonial days to a modern figure head. When Canada was young the Governor General represented the Queen and Britain in Canada. The GG could decide a government lacked the confidence of the people and dissolve Parliament or ask the Opposition to form the government.

The GG is supposed to be a check on government. Former Quebec broadcaster Michaëlle Jean  did what ever the Prime Minister wanted and still he didn’t like her. At least she didn’t spend like a drunken sailor as did Adrianne Clarkson, another media darling.

Harper’s decision to replace Jean after five years is not unusual. We’ve had four five year term GG’s since World War II: Jules Leger, Ed Schreyer, Ray Hnatyshyn, and Roméo LeBlanc. That is more the norm than the exception in the past six decades. Longer terms have been: Adrienne Clarkson (6 years), Jeanne Sauvé (6), Roland Michener (7) and Georges Vanier (7.5).

Rick Hansen

It’s an election or pre-election year and Prime Minister Stephen Harper is looking for photo ops to balance his otherwise unlikeable government. Harper is in trouble every second week with some jarring reminder that he is a right-wing, religious demagogue from another era in Canadian life.

Last week he showed his anti-abortion colors. He’s been playing the humanitarian with women’s health and Haiti but we learned it’s all talk. No money is flowing to Haiti and women’s health doesn’t include reproduction.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper, left, sits with Rick Hansen in Vancouver during the 2010 Paralympics. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

During the Paralympics, Harper got to spend time with Canadian wheelchair hero Rick Hansen. Note the two sharing a laugh as Hansen hits up the Prime Minister for $13.5 million. Harper said yes. Hansen also squirrelled another $20 million from the BC government.

Hansen’s people say Rick wasn’t asked to be GG and wouldn’t accept anyway. He’s on a mission to raise $200 million for the Rick Hansen foundation. That’s Rick: he likes celebrity status raising money from politicians and businessmen who want to look good in photo ops next to him. He’s not going to give that up to serve all Canadians or at least Stephen Harper.

The buzz in the disability community is that Hansen would make a great governor general to represent us – us as in people with disabilities.

It’s true he has done wonders for Vancouver which ranks up there with the top accessible cities in Canada.

Hansen is a media darling and no one wants to be anywhere but on his good side. So if Rick Hansen wants something, people tend to give it to him.

Other than the optics, I can’t see the benefit. Rick Hansen is about Rick Hansen. He’s a celebrity, a star in a wheelchair who 25 years ago wheeled himself around the the world, which in my book is right up there with 6 months of flag pole sitting.

He does have charisma and speaks eloquently about reaching one’s potential with disabilities. Having met him twice, the reality is very deflating. He’s a celebrity and like most celebrities he’s really all about Rick, his ego his money his fame.

If he were GG would he do any more for Canadians with disabilities that preen for the cameras? He might spin the Canadian disability support system into a gigantic waste of money on spinal chord research. Of course the Canadian media who are short on substance and long on the quick story love Rick Hansen.

Michaelle Jean was able to get hundreds of millions in charity for Haitians. Perhaps Hansen would do the same. But aren’t you getting tired of the incessant charity drives? I am.

People with disabilities need their place in Canadian society, their human rights, not a donation. Rick Hansen is still begging for money and that’s not getting us anywhere.