Comment: Canada’s sad obsession with Harry and Meghan

Wake up, Canadians! 

Wake up because we’re making international fools of ourselves with the sad, fawning obsession many of us are displaying over Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, who stunned royal watchers when they announced they want to “step back” from being full-time working royals and plan to split their time between Canada and the U.K.

Like young kids screaming, “Pick me, Pick me” when it comes time to choose sides for schoolyard games, our royal lovers are ecstatic that Harry and Meghan picked Canada (well, at least for part of the year).

Giddy newspaper columns gush about a “fairy-tale ending” for Canadians; monarchists in our midst are beside themselves with joy; businesses like Tim Hortons are offering free gifts to the royal couple; television newscasts are filled with interviews with people clamouring for Harry and Meghan to move to their neighbourhood and offering advice on real estate.

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It’s as if we’re trying to convince the world yet again — and maybe ourselves — that we truly are “world class” and Harry and Meghan’s move here is proof that we are important, that we really are nice people.

To those of us who don’t care much for the British monarchy, however, this love-in for royal gossip is an embarrassment.

Sure, while many Americans long to have a royal family to call their own, we Canadians don’t need to be “honoured” by having foreign royals from a remote, outdated institution that once looked upon us as merely one of “the colonies” choose us as their new “home.”

In truth, the Windsors aren’t to be admired. By most accounts, they are a dull, dysfunctional family, saddled with the unenviable job of preserving the royal legacy through countless, mind-numbing appearances at ribbon-cutting ceremonies, charitable events and seniors’ residences.

Indeed, the royals are now more about celebrity and notoriety than playing a meaningful role in today’s society.

Obviously, the job of being a royal pays extremely well.

Harry gets millions of dollars a year and is worth an estimated $40 million. Even low-ranked royals have lives of luxury with country estates, servants and fancy vacations that few Canadians will ever know.

Even better for the royals, they were born into wealth and privilege; they didn’t have to earn it.

One thing is clear, though: British royals don’t come cheap.

Consider these recent costs to Canada:

In 2016, Ottawa spent $855,000 for Prince William and Kate on an eight-day visit to B.C. and the Yukon. Add to that another $2 million for RCMP policing costs, plus another $73,000 in pay and overtime pay for local police departments. Total cost: $2.93 million, or $370,000 a day;

In 2014, Ottawa coughed up $650,000 for Prince Charles and Camilla’s four-day tour of Nova Scotia, P.E.I. and Manitoba. That same year, Ottawa spent $128,000 for a two-day visit by Princess Anne;

Add in approximately $45 million a year for the Governor General and her staff, residences and security, plus another $12 million or so for the lieutenant-governors in the provinces and their operations and you can see why many Canadians are saying “enough is enough!”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says no decision has been made about who will pay the security costs and other expenses that Ottawa may be forced to pick up. He’s smart to be cautious because, despite the emotional love-in for the Sussexes, the vast majority of Canadians don’t want to kick in a nickel for security or other costs incurred by Harry and Meghan in Canada.

In fact, some 73 per cent of us don’t want Ottawa to pick up any of the costs, according to a survey released Wednesday by the Angus Reid Institute.

The same poll found that despite Harry’s popularity here, half of respondents don’t really care if he and Meghan move here or not. Significantly, in a shift from a similar poll in 2016, the survey found more Canadians now want to drop our ties to the British throne than those who prefer to remain a constitutional monarchy.

So, yes, let’s welcome Harry and Meghan. But wake up — enough of the sycophantic fawning. We’re embarrassing ourselves.

Bob Hepburn is a columnist for the Toronto Star.

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