While many Canadians have been assiduously following every twist in the plans of Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, to take a break from royal duties, the couple may find their plan to live part time in Canada will, in the end, be greeted by a great national yawn.
Half of Canadians contacted by the Angus Reid Institute, a nonprofit polling organisation, “really do not care” if the couple, known formally at least for now as the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, lay down roots in Canada, according to a recent survey by the group.
And an overwhelming 73 per cent of those polled said they don’t want Canada spending any money on their security.
“The whole thing is being met with a royal shrug,” said Shachi Kurl, the executive director of Angus Reid, which is based in Vancouver, British Columbia. “There’s a disconnect between the coverage of this story and the perceptions of what the reaction of people will be. It really signals to the royal family that Canada is not to be taken for granted.”
Almost nothing is actually known about the couple’s plans for Canada, but that has not limited speculation. The main question for Canadians who are eager to see them come is where will they live.
Perhaps inevitably, there are some long-shot attempts to attract the couple.
The mayor of Sussex, New Brunswick, the self-proclaimed dairy capital of New Brunswick, has played along gamely with humorous suggestions that its name alone makes the community an ideal place for Harry and Meghan.
But most speculation, particularly in the British press, has centred on three places: Vancouver and Victoria, both in British Columbia, and Toronto.
The Sun tabloid in Britain recently claimed that the couple was looking at a six-bedroom home in Vancouver listed for CAD$35.8 million (Dh100.6 million).
While technically in the Kitsilano neighbourhood — famous as the centre of the city’s counterculture in the 1960s and ‘70s — the house sits on rarefied Point Grey Road, which follows the shoreline, and is dominated by mansions.
Its residents include Chip Wilson, the founder of the yoga clothing maker Lululemon, whose house was assessed last year at just under $65 million.
Dampening the Vancouver speculation, however, are reports in the Canadian media that the real estate agent handling the offering of the Point Grey house is unaware of any interest from Harry or Meghan.
Further fuelling the Vancouver speculation has been the city’s comparative proximity to Los Angeles, Meghan’s birthplace, and her recent appearance at a charity in Vancouver’s poorest neighbourhood.
Whatever Canadian polls indicate, several Vancouver residents said they would welcome the couple as neighbours — although perhaps not for reasons people seeking a more private life would desire.
Samantha Miller, 29, who works in human resources at the University of British Columbia, said the couple could boost tourism to Vancouver and lend the city some “sparkle.”
“I feel quite bad for them for the way they have been treated,” she said. “There is excitement that they would pick Vancouver.”
The area around Victoria, the capital of British Columbia, is on the list largely because the couple are renting a house in one of its suburbs. It seems like a good prospect because the winter weather in Victoria is moderate, it has long played up its British heritage and the local newspaper, which features a coat of arms granted to the colony of Vancouver Island by Queen Victoria, voluntarily withheld publishing any articles about Harry and Meghan’s Christmas retreat there until they made the news public.
But greater Victoria has a population of 367,770, and is known mostly as a place where people retire rather than embark on a new life.
Toronto was the duchess’ home when she was known as Meghan Markle and starring in the television drama ‘Suits,’ which was filmed in Canada’s largest city. The city is the capital of Canada’s English-language media and once she became romantically linked with Harry, the couple’s movements there were constantly tracked by cameras and reporters.
Toronto is also home to Jessica Mulroney, a close friend of Meghan’s who recently babysat her child, Archie, when she returned briefly to Britain. Mulroney, a fashion stylist who frequently appears on Canadian television, is married to Ben Mulroney, a Canadian television host and the son of Brian Mulroney, a former prime minister.
The prospect of the couple’s long-term presence in Canada has induced hand-wringing among some of the country’s constitutional scholars.
While many polls, including the recent Angus Reid survey, show a great deal of respect for Queen Elizabeth, Canadians are less enthusiastic about the institution of the monarchy and, in particular, about the idea of Prince Charles, Harry’s father, as the country’s king.
But doing anything about the role of Britain’s queen or king as Canada’s official head of state would involve amending Canada’s constitution, a process so fraught with disagreement that no political appetite exists to take it on.
While the royal coat of arms long ago disappeared from mailboxes in Canada and the country’s laws are created and enforced in the queen’s name, public servants swear an oath to her, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his Cabinet are technically her advisers.
Resolving the issue of who should cover their security costs might be harder to work out. Their soon-to-vanish status as active members of the royal family entitles Harry and Meghan to protection by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police under a United Nations treaty. The Mounties have remained silent on what will come next or what it will cost, and Trudeau said recently that there have been no discussions on the matter.
But whatever the cost and wherever they live, Matthew Tam, 45, who runs the Oh Sweet Days bake shop in Vancouver, is opposed to any taxpayer help because “they’re not Canadian citizens.”
“They’re here for the long term,” he said. “I would think they should pay for their own security.”