Not any more

New Governor General admits he has much to learn

In Canada on October 9, 2010 at 21:41

OTTAWA — Canada’s new Governor General says he has a lot to learn, particularly when it comes to the military, and he’s anxious to get started.

“The military is not something I have known a lot about and in this new role, I am commander and chief of the armed forces,” David Johnston told the CBC’s Peter Mansbridge in a wide-ranging interview that aired in its entirety Saturday.

“That’s a precious responsibility.”

Although his predecessor, Michaelle Jean, wore a military uniform on several occasions, something that’s become less common among governors general over the years, Mr. Johnston said he’s unlikely to do the same.

“If I had a military background I would’ve put on the uniform with great pride,” said the 69-year-old.

“Perhaps on the last day of the job as a way of showing respect for this wonderful tradition.”

Mr. Johnston, who officially took over the position of the Queen’s representative this month at a ceremony in Ottawa, told Mr. Mansbridge he was both “interested” and “honoured” when approached for the position, but that his wife, Sharon, needed a little more convincing.

He said it was Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his wife, Laureen, who managed to sell her on the move over dinner.

“Over a period of reflection she came to develop some enthusiasm for the position but it was an adjustment,” Johnston said.

“Today, of course, she’s delighted because she, like I, are honoured to have the opportunity to serve.”

The former University of Waterloo president best known for turning the sleepy southwestern Ontario town into Canada’s high-tech hub also gave a shout-out to BlackBerry-maker Research In Motion Ltd., which was started by a former student.

Asked about his favourite NHL team, the one-time Harvard hockey star, who spent a number of years in Montreal as McGill University principal and also taught at the University of Toronto, refused to say.

“I’ll embrace the Ottawa Senators but, you know, I’ll embrace every hockey team in the country because I love the game,” he said.

In a clip that aired on CBC earlier in the week, Johnston said he has met with former governors general Michaelle Jean and Adrienne Clarkson.

While admitting the issue of prorogation came up — something that put the political spotlight in Canada’s minority squarely on Jean during her tenure — Mr. Johnston wouldn’t elaborate on his discussions.

He instead focused on the constitutional role he would play to “consult, advise and warn.”

He said it’s also important that there’s a good “rapport” between the Governor General and elected officials so that ideas and advice can be shared freely.

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