Canada’s constitutional monarchy costs each Canadian $1.53 a year, less than a small coffee at Tim Hortons. That includes the Governor General, the 10 provincial lieutenant-governors, their official residences, staff, administration, travel, security and even office supplies. That’s way under the Senate ($2.38 per capita) and the House of Commons ($11.76). Heck, it’s just a bit more than the cost of the Library of Parliament ($1.16 per capital).
The data comes from the 6th edition of the Cost of the Crown Survey, a detailed, annotated breakdown from the Monarchist League of Canada. Its motivation was simple: “We needed a tool to counter any republican or anti-monarchy claims that the monarchy costs too much money,” explains Robert Finch, the league’s dominion chairman. “Second, we felt there was a real lack of understanding amongst the general population surrounding how much the monarchy costs Canadians. We want to convey the message that there is great value, rather than expense, in the service, significance, and symbolism of the Canadian Crown and the viceregal offices.”
In the so-called “post-truth” era, in which assertions are repeated ad nauseam while factual rebuttals are ignored, this survey is an exacting fact-check. No detail was too small. For instance, the lieutenant-governor of P.E.I. spent $1,500 on travel and training while Ontario’s office holder spent $81,020 on supplies and equipment. “We have a small team of researchers and editors,” Finch explains, noting that most of the data is readily available online. “Once the data is compiled, we send a draft report to all of the viceregal offices for their input” into double-checking the information or explaining anomalies.
The reaction from the public? “Usually, I get comments such as ‘Wow, that’s pretty cheap,’ or, ‘I thought the monarchy cost so much more,’ ” Finch recalls. Indeed, the total for the fiscal year 2014-15 is $55 million, of which $42.9 million was allocated to the Governor General, down from $47.1 million in 2012-13. In that same fiscal year, the Governor General and 10 provincial viceregal appointees undertook more than 4,000 engagements.
Included in those costs are everything from the running two historic residences—Rideau Hall costs $6.7 million while La Citadelle in Quebec City is $730,000 and entertaining some 245,000 visitors and guests to those buildings. As well, RCMP security for the Governor General cost $6.6 million. There were also two royal visits (that the league calls “homecomings”) in the survey’s time frame: official visits by Prince Charles and Camilla, duchess of Cornwall ($650,500 or two cents per capita) and Princess Anne ($128,000 or 0.3 cents per capita). Those costs are for expenses; the royals are never paid, Finch emphasizes.
There were also 10 other so-called working visits by members of the royal family since the last survey, including Prince Philip’s two-day trip to Toronto to present new colours to the Royal Canadian Regiment. As they weren’t at the invitation of the government, expenses are covered by the organizations, not the government.
For those wondering about comparisons with other “head of state” operations, the survey has those numbers as well. The Netherlands’ monarchy cost an estimated $53.3 million ($3.14 per capita) while the scandal-plagued Spanish institution came in at a bargain $13.2 million (28 cents per capita). Republics weren’t a bargain. France’s presidency cost around $170 million ($2.20 per capita), while Ireland’s clocked in at an estimated $6.6 million or $1.22 per person.
“For the price of a cup of coffee, we get an institution that provides us with an excellent system of government and contributes to national unity and Canadian identity,” Finch says. “You can’t beat that.”