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The Globe and Mail

New governor-general plans 'highly symbolic' swearing in

David Johnston, then president of the University of Waterloo, meets the Queen at a Toronto dinner reception with Prime Minsiter Stephen Harper on July 5, 2010.

Jason Ransom/PMO

David Johnston is incorporating several new, dramatic and personal twists into the ceremony Friday that will install him as Canada's 28th governor-general.

In keeping with his theme, "The Smart and Caring Nation: A Call to Service," Dr. Johnston will pay tribute to Canada's military men and women as well as young and exemplary Canadians, including a peewee hockey player and an Olympic athlete.

After his installation, Dr. Johnston and his wife, Sharon, will travel by state landau from Parliament Hill to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier where the couple will lay a bouquet of 26 roses given to them by 13 special Canadians, representing all the provinces and territories. It will be a first for a new governor-general.

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"It is highly symbolic," Kevin McLeod, the Usher of the Black Rod and Canadian Secretary to the Queen, noted Monday afternoon in outlining for journalists how the installation will unfold.

The visit to the War Memorial is just one of the several unique elements Dr. Johnston has added to underscore his theme. Right from the outset Canadians will see his personal touch on the ceremony - even when he enters the Centre Block before the ceremony.

Rather than proceeding directly to the Senate Speaker's office, as governors-general before him have, he and his wife will be greeted in the Hall of Honour by the 13 chosen Canadians. These people have been selected by lieutenant-governors and territorial commissioners to exemplify service to country, Mr. McLeod explained. They will present the new vice-regal couple with the roses they will later lay at the tomb.

In addition, Dr. Johnston has asked that when he exits the Senate chamber after becoming governor-general he be greeted by 143 Canadians - one person for every year of Confederation. These citizens are to represent the country's past and present leaders, including veterans of the Second World War and the Korean war, as well as young Canadians.

Dr. Johnston, an academic and former university president, is replacing Michaelle Jean. She and her husband, Jean-Daniel Lafond will attend the ceremony but as ordinary citizens.

Although, she is constitutionally still the Governor-General, she is not recognized as such for the ceremony. The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Beverley McLachlin, who as deputy governor-general is recognized as the Queen's representative, will be treated as such when she arrives on Parliament Hill.

Of course, there is still the usual pomp and circumstance of an installation - speeches, flags, 21 gun salutes, choirs and string ensembles, military honour guards, fanfares and fly pasts. And Dr. Johnston will deliver a speech in the Senate chamber, picking up on his theme of service to country as well as laying out his mandate. Prime Minister Stephen Harper will also speak.

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And it would not be a truly Canadian endeavour without concerns about the weather and road construction. Although the forecast for Friday is not stellar, officials reminded reporters of a precedent set by the Queen during her 2005 visit to Regina when she travelled in an open landau in inclement weather.

And then there is the issue of the construction zone that is Sussex Drive, the normal route used to travel from Rideau Hall to Parliament Hill. It would be much too bumpy for the 1890s hand-carved wood and wrought-iron state carriage that will carry the vice-regal couple, so an alternate route has been plotted.

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About the Author
Ontario politics reporter

Jane Taber is a reporter at Queen’s Park. After spending three years reporting from the Atlantic, she has returned to Ontario and back to writing about her passion, politics. She spent 25 years covering Parliament Hill for the Ottawa Citizen, the National Post and the Globe and Mail. More

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