Jackson Doughart
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Royal visits a waste of time, money
Why I don't care about the royal family, and neither should you

The Charlottetown Guardian, 06 July 2011

The attention surrounding Prince William's visit to Canada is enough to give one indigestion. Over the last few weeks, both the national and local media have overhyped the arrival of newlyweds William and Kate, who arrived on Prince Edward Island on Sunday for their two-day visit. This coverage has included everything about their trip, including their meals, security and accommodations, in preparation for a visit from the future king.

I do not have anything in particular against William and Kate, as they seem to be a nice young couple. I even give William credit for his service in the British military, which included a brief deployment in Afghanistan, and for his decision to marry outside of the aristocracy. In fact, I'm sure that William and Kate would prefer to be celebrating their marriage in a much warmer place than Canada. Perhaps they would also like to be free of regal responsibilities, which will one day include the thrones of 16 countries. It is a job that must become incredibly unsatisfying over many years, during which they must travel around and pretend to keep alive a defunct link between the United Kingdom and the countries of the Commonwealth Realm.

I could not imagine anything more infantile than our obsession with these people, who are quite clearly no more special than any other couple of their age - which is to say, not that special at all. Princes and princesses belong in fairy tales for children, not official ceremonies that cost our government millions of dollars to facilitate. (The bottom line for the current visit is estimated at $4-6 million, some of which is covered by the provinces.) It goes without saying that this money could be better spent on other things, especially given our province's perpetual state of economic dependence on the rest of Canada.

Worse yet is the obvious hypocrisy that accompanies our temporary infatuation with the monarchy. Most of the time, we couldn't care less about what goes on at Buckingham Palace, but when a member of the Royal Family gets married, or dies in a car accident, or comes to visit us, we act as though our ties to Britain and its monarchy are actually important. Now that William and Kate are gone, we have surely had our dose of royalty and will go back to not caring again.

Furthermore, every time the Royal Family becomes involved in a scandal, usually surrounding Prince Charles, the media ruckus that inevitably follows reflects poorly on our country, which has willingly gone along with this foolish arrangement because of apathy and laziness.

If William and Kate were to visit Prince Edward Island on their own accord, we would of course treat them with respect and hospitality, as we do for all of our guests. However, what makes this entire event insulting is the expectation that we should feel honoured by the token presence of royalty, who otherwise take no interest in our affairs. Also, the fact that Prince William is considered to be an important person by virtue of the family into which he was born should be revolting to anyone who values individual merit as the sole legitimate source of influence.

I am told that having the Duke and Duchess on P.E.I. will help promote the Island because of the media attention from their visit. Even if this were true, it would not refute the fundamentally babyish nature of our interest in William and Kate and would not serve as a reason for which we should be footing any part of the bill. Show me some evidence that tourism on the Island is improved by this investment and I'm listening, but otherwise this just looks like an unnecessary expense for our already indebted province.

There is certainly a place for ceremony in public life, as it provides a sense of continuity and prestige to our otherwise competitive political system, whose players are constantly changing. Notwithstanding my objections to the use of the hereditary principle in determining a head of state, it is clear that the monarchy provides an identity symbol that is important to many Britons, and it is they who can choose to keep or discard their royal family. However, in Canada we have our own identity, whose realization is impeded by our bizarre constitutional monarchy, in which the head of state lives in another country. Instead of maintaining the status quo, we should follow the example of Israel and Germany by electing our own ceremonial head of state, which personifies our own values and represents the apolitical face of the country.

In conclusion, we should recognize the royal visit as a completely silly exercise and a waste of time. The way in which we are star struck by William and Kate is embarrassing, and demonstrates just how much growing up our country has left to do. One can only hope that Canada will never again host an official royal visit and will permanently cut its ties with the British Royal Family.

Jackson Doughart jdoughart (at) gmail (dot) com