By Paul Wells - Monday, December 17, 2012 - 0 Comments
David Johnston used the word “tradition” at least three times as he introduced the subject of Rideau Hall’s latest portrait this morning. The current Governor General is a voracious reader, an early advocate of the internet, and a stickler for propriety; he will not have been unaware that advance coverage of John Ralston Saul’s portrait unveiling generated not inconsiderable online umbrage over the fact that Saul, while he may have his charms, was never the Governor General of Canada, and why are my tax dollars etc., etc., etc.
Johnston said nothing to address the monetary question, but here’s the answer: portraits of former viceregal consorts that hang at Rideau Hall, such as this one of Gerda Hnatyshyn, are paid for by the subject. As for the who-does-he-think-he-is bit, the incumbent guarantor of the viceregal office’s propriety was quick to remind the little crowd that his predecessor Adrienne Clarkson had worked with Saul in continuation of “a tradition of governors general and their spouses working together for a better country.” He then mentioned the paintings and photos of previous spouses that line the august joint’s corridors. (Gabrielle Léger, who read portions of two Throne Speeches after Jules Léger suffered a stroke in office, stands with him in his official portrait.) “Today’s portrait unveiling is a continuation of this tradition.”
Populist dudgeon thus banished, Johnston moved on to what we may perhaps call the Clarkson-Saul legacy. Continue…