(This column originally appeared in The Daily Telegraph)
Consider yourselves fortunate, British taxpayers. As you bid farewell to the Duke and Duchess of Sussex (for half the year, anyway) you’ve at least been given some sense of what Megxit is going to cost – and more importantly not cost – the public treasury.
This is far more clarity that we have across the pond in your former, partly-frozen, colony. Don’t get us wrong. We’ve enjoyed our country’s central role in this epic royal drama, relishing as we do any fleeting international attention we can get. And whatever protestations to the contrary, our peaceful dominion could always use a little razzle dazzle.
So Harry and Meghan are welcome here. The good people of Vancouver Island are happy to embrace them as neighbours and have even begun to develop a touching protective streak in support of the young couple’s much-desired privacy. Before you know it, they’ll probably have little Archie on ice skates like any good Canadian kid.
But hospitality must be reasonable, and when it comes to the issue of who should be paying their day-to-day costs, Canadians have made it crystal clear it shouldn’t be taxpayers.
A recent opinion survey showed that fully 73 per cent of Canadians believe that Harry and Meghan should be responsible for all of their own costs.
A national petition launched by the Canadian Taxpayers Federation calling on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to ensure taxpayers’ money isn’t used to support the couple garnered 80,000 signatures in just six days.
It is difficult to chalk this sentiment up to any overwhelming animus towards the monarchy generally. True, Canada has long had a complex relationship with the Crown, originally a consequence of broader tensions between Canadians of British and French extraction, now compounded by an increasingly pluralistic population with little tangible connection to an institution whose family members (until now) lived an ocean away.
But in spite of this, there has never been a serious movement to ditch the monarchy, such as in Australia. The Queen herself, long may she reign, remains widely popular, even earning the grudging respect of many republicans (although the same cannot always be said about whoever is serving as her official Canadian representative, the Governor General.)
Rather, the spontaneous public backlash to the notion of paying Harry and Meghan’s costs suggests Canadians largely view them through the lens of wealth and celebrity, rather than royalty. Simply put, it is very difficult for most regular people to understand why they should be required to bankroll the private lifestyle decisions of infinitely wealthier individuals, and rightly so.
Happily, there are signs that Harry and Meghan themselves understand this, having openly stated their ambition to achieve “financial independence”. And to their credit, they have not given any public indication that they expect Canadian taxpayers’ support.
Yet, as we welcome the Duke and Duchess to their new West Coast digs, Canadians remain in the dark about who will be paying their bills. The Queen has made clear that it won’t be British taxpayers. Canadians can only hope our prime minister proves equally resolute and reasonable.