TORONTO — Canadians have taken a perverse sort of pride in their indifference to the arrival of Prince Harry and his wife Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, as they prepare to spend time here in their new, not-quite-so-royal lives.
But one aspect of Harry and Meghan’s plans about which they do have strong feelings: They don’t want to be on the hook for their security.
More than 90,000 people have signed an online petition from the Canadian Taxpayers Federation demanding the royal couple pay their own way.
“It’s clearly something that’s resonating,” said Aaron Wudrick, the federal director of the organization.
Now, 90,000 people is just 0.2 percent of the population. But polls show strong majorities of Canadians agree.
Half of all those surveyed by the Angus Reid Institute said they “ultimately really do not care” if the family, holed up in a secluded $14 million mansion on Vancouver Island, spends a significant amount of time in the country. But bring up costs, and more than 70 percent said it should be the couple — not Canadians — that pick up the tab.
“Any fascination in, curiosity about and support for the couple does not necessarily extend to Canadians saying we have extra money in our household budget to subsidize their lives,” said Shachi Kurl, the institute’s executive director. “It’s an unequivocal number.”
Harry’s grandmother, Elizabeth II, is queen of Canada. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police provides security for members of the royal family when they’ve visited here because they’re “internationally protected persons.” But it’s not clear whether Harry, Meghan and their infant son, Archie, will lose that status as they cut almost all of their ties to “the Firm” in a bid for a more private life.
The Canadian government, for its part, has been tight-lipped about any role it might play in Harry and Meghan’s move, and who will be footing the bill.
Speaking to reporters in Winnipeg on Tuesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he had not spoken to Queen Elizabeth about her grandson’s decision to lay down roots in Canada, and he had “no updates” about who will pay for it. Bill Blair, Canada’s public-safety minister, said the country is not “engaged” in providing security services for the family.
The absence of concrete information about the couple’s plans and Canada’s role has fueled speculation and some concern.
Wudrick, of the taxpayers federation, said the petition against public funding is the second-fastest-growing in the group’s history. (A sample of the competition: “Tell Ottawa to Get Out of the Way of the Energy Sector,” “Scrap the Federal Carbon Tax” and “No Media Bailout.”)
Richard Berthelsen helped organize royal visits when he worked in the office of the governor general, the representative of the queen in Canada. He said he understands that everyone wants a quick answer to the security question. But he said the situation is “evolving,” without much precedent — and will ultimately depend on the couple’s plans, which are not yet clear.
Some estimates being floated in the media — a former RCMP officer told the Globe and Mail security could run to $7.5 million per year — seem unusually high, Berthelsen said. And though it might seem difficult to justify covering costs for a wealthy couple who want to sunder at least some ties with the royal family, he said, Canadians need to seriously grapple with the implications of taking a “leave them alone and hope for the best” approach.
“There’s no interest in having an incident take place on Canadian soil involving a member of the royal family,” Berthelsen said.
In the meantime, some lawmakers have proposed outside-the-box remedies.
Yves-François Blanchet, leader of the separatist Bloc Québécois party, told reporters that perhaps a fourth season of the Netflix series “The Crown” could cover the security costs.
The first three seasons “are really excellent,” said Blanchet, an anti-monarchist. “I adored them.
“They should finance that.”