Captain Kirk as Canada’s Head of State?

May 6th, 2010 at 10:34 am | 9 Comments |

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In Canada, the Governor General sweepstakes continue, and momentum is gaining for one long-shot pick: William Shatner.

The decision as to who becomes to the next Governor General, the country’s de facto head of state and representative of the Crown, is made by the Prime Minister, but popular opinion is steaming behind a term for Shatner. More than 45,000 people have joined a Facebook campaign to support the concept. I say no.

Firstly, I say no as an alumni of McGill University, a school from which Shatner also graduated. Being perhaps the most famous of all McGill alumni, Shatner-as-idol is drilled into each freshman’s mind from the minute he or she steps on campus. From drinking games to the naming of our student society building, we’re quite proud of our very own William Shatner.

But William Shatner is not so proud of us. In 1992, McGill students held a referendum to rename their student society building after the legendary actor. The resolution was passed, but the university was not pleased, as it had usually reserved the right to name buildings on campus, usually after prominent faculty or generous donors.

Shatner was reportedly delighted to hear that a building had been named after him, and visited in 1999. An old McGill Reporter article notes that when he was told the building must be renovated to bring it up to the fire code, Shatner played the heartstrings poignantly: “The magic words are: how can I help?”

And he didn’t stop there. “Academic knowledge stays for a while, but the student life is what I will always cherish,” he said. “I’m happy to be connected with this building… It means a great deal to me. It’s the center of student life… in many ways, the center of the University.”

But what happened? Nothing. To this day, William Shatner has not made a substantial offer of help to McGill University. In short, he waxed poetic, but then he stiffed us.

Yes, he stiffed McGill, and my view of him today remains wholly tainted by the knowledge that McGill’s most famous alumni spoke generously and then refused to follow through. McGill, which now struggles mightily to close a $14 million budget deficit, deserved better.

Personal reasons aside, I say no to Shatner because he lacks competence. Twittering last week, he wrote that he was unsure as to what the position even implied: “I believe Governor General means you govern the generals. Does that make me part of the army?”

He’s an entertainer, an agent of satire, an action hero, not a potential head of state. He just doesn’t have the required poise to sit quietly through formal ceremonial activities. And he doesn’t have the dignified presence of a William Massey or an Adrienne Clarkson.

Finally, while it might be oh-so delightful to hear Shatner poeticize the government’s annual Speech from the Throne in his trademark style, it would take forever.

Can you imagine Shatner reciting, say, this passage from the most recent speech from the throne?

“Our energy resource endowment provides Canada with an unparalleled economic advantage that we must leverage to secure our place as a clean energy superpower and a leader in green job creation. We are the world’s seventh largest crude oil producer with the second largest proven reserves. We are the third largest natural gas producer, the third largest hydroelectric generator, the largest producer of uranium, and by far the largest supplier of energy resources to the world’s largest marketplace. To support responsible development of Canada’s energy and mineral resources, our Government will untangle the daunting maze of regulations that needlessly complicates project approvals, replacing it with simpler, clearer processes that offer improved environmental protection and greater certainty to industry.”

Sure, it would be amusing, but the halting, stumbling meter would be dizzying, and would draw out the speech to three or four times the length! It would get very old, very quickly.

William Shatner is a man of many achievements. He’s been persuasive in all those ‘Priceline Negotiator’ commercials. He seems to have no illusions about himself. And when it comes time to act, nobody can accuse him of under-doing. But Governor General? That’s the wrong pay grade for this retired Starfleet Captain.

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