Prince Charles deserves turn on throne

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Take it from one who met him on multiple occasions, Prince Charles is the real deal.


Published first in The Hill Times on Monday, May 8, 2017 12:00 AM


OTTAWA—The royal retirement of Prince Philip announced by Buckingham Palace last week begs the perennial question: who will replace the reigning monarch in the royal succession plan?

The world may be rooting for grandchildren, but I for one, would like to cast my vote for the most underappreciated member of the royal family, Prince Charles.

I was never much of a monarchist growing up. As my mother’s family hailed from working-class England, her political bent was more on the Labour side.

As children, we inherited her mistrust of hereditary lines of authority, and my older sister Mary went so far as to enter a regional speech contest sponsored by the Canadian Legion with the chosen topic, “Why we should abolish the monarchy.” Needless to say, despite her excellent content and perfect delivery, she scored last in the Legion declamation ranking.

But as we all know, views soften with age. As minister of Canadian Heritage, I had no problem defending the monarchy because I was of the firm view that in order to move forward as a country, we must embrace and understand our history. A rupture with royalty would also mean severing the unique connection that links Canada directly to 51 other countries on five continents around the world.

From a purely domestic perspective of self-interest, those connections are often very useful when global decisions are being made on issues like membership on the United Nations Security Council, or site selection for Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Networks matter. And the Commonwealth group of like-minded countries is a modern economic and social network that adds value to the Canadian body politic.

In addition, the Queen and her descendants come with a pedigree that makes Hollywood pale in comparison.

The opportunity to invite members of the royal family to celebrate with Canada when we achieve milestones like our 150th birthday is worth the price of admission.

The robust schedules of both the Prince and Queen Elizabeth have been truly amazing. The Duke of Edinburgh and the Queen have visited Canada more than 20 times.

The fact that both have retained relatively good health well into their ninth decades is statistically surprising.

Back in her 70s, the Queen enjoyed a travel schedule and stamina that would be the envy of people half her age.

Whenever she and the Prince would visit Canada, they would literally cover two or three provinces with an average of six or seven public appearances a day, involving handshakes and conversation with literally hundreds of people.

And through it all, in thick or thin, they followed the British motto of “Keep Calm and Carry On.”

Prince Charles carried on in his own inimitable fashion. He was never as deft of tongue as his father, nor did he inherit the regal bearing of his mother. But take it from one who met him on multiple occasions, Prince Charles is the real deal.

He is thoughtful, visionary, and extremely grounded.

He fought in favour of the environment long before it was fashionable. He understood the importance of local farmers years before anyone had written a word about the 100-mile eating craze. He was concerned about the plight of indigenous peoples long before the rest of us caught on.

Just after he had completed his education and the requisite naval tour of duty, he founded the Prince’s Trust. In 40 years, it has helped more than 825,000 youth by investing in local job creation and business start-ups.

He explained the name of his initiative as an attempt to offer young Brits the trust they need to move ahead.

His efforts garnered little attention as the world focused on his personal life.

But anyone who has seen the man up close knows that he is the real deal. He is a genuine thinker and doer, who levers his royal family credentials to assist those in genuine need.

Prince Charles may not be as photogenic as some of his progeny, but in terms of understanding how to exercise the delicate balance of royal responsibilities with real influence, he is best suited to ascend to the throne.

As his father retreats from public life, now is Prince Charles’ time to shine. He and the Duchess of Cornwall will be the official royal family representatives at the birthday bash on Parliament Hill.

It will be his 18th visit to Canada and, hopefully, all Canadians will get a chance to witness the human side of the prince.

He would make a great monarch for all.

Sheila Copps is a former Jean Chrétien-era cabinet minister and a former deputy prime minister. Follow her on Twitter at @Sheila_Copps.