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I see. They have no say over anything in your country?
Technically and in terms of tradition they do, the Queen guarantees our civil rights as Canadians are subjects not citizens, again that's technically, basically the Governor General (Queen's rep for the Federal Government) and Lieutenant Governor's (Queen's rep to the Provinces) rubber stamp any and all legislation, it's not really their job to interfere and if they do any of it can be countermanded by the Prime Minister due to laws set out in the British North America Act. They exist solely to fulfill a tradition, nothing more.
Do people respect that tradition? It seems that there is a lot of respect for them in England.
Depends on how you define respect, most Canadians have never really given it much thought, the Queen has been on our money for a long, long time that people accept it as actuality, people like the pomp and circumstance of the vice regal duties of the Governor General at Rideau Hall, that sort of thing, and of course whenever there's a royal visit everyone is all aflutter but that's more the celebrity of it than a bowing respect.
I see. What exactly is the Governor General and what do they do? Are they ever women?
The Governor General is a mostly symbolic role as the Queen's representative to Parliament, he or she preside over the newly elected Government throne speech (a motion of confidence that in a minority seat situation could be voted down, thus trigging an election) he or she is consulted or "informed" of the intent to call an election by the incumbent Prime Minister, this always happens as it is law. Back when Stephen Harper was Prime Minister he asked the GG to prorogue Parliament which bought Harper political cover without triggering an election, this angered a great many people and was instrumental in his eventual downfall, in a minority situation as I alluded to above, if the Government falls on a matter of confidence the GG does have the discretion to ask the leader of the Loyal Opposition if he or she can form a Government without an election being called, I'm not sure if this has ever happened certainly not in my life time, but the potential is there.
There have been three female Governor General's, Adrienne Clarkson, Michaelle Jean, and the recently disgraced Julie Payette.
It’s very interesting and I don’t understand it all. Mainly the part about giving himself cover. I’ve heard the name Harper but not the women. I’m going to do some reading.
Basically Harper was in a bad place in 2008/9, to avoid an election he would have likely lost he asked the GG to prorogue Parliament, thereby suspending the session and preventing a vote of confidence which would bring down the Government, he was then able to ride it out and return to governing after the Opposition split and he once again enjoyed the confidence of the House.
I see. Complex politics. What do your politicians typically do after they leave office?