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Gov Gen speaks out on 2008 prorogation

OTTAWA - After almost two years, Gov. Gen. Michaelle Jean has broken her silence about the day she saved the Harper government.

With her mandate winding down, Jean shared some of her thoughts Tuesday in a farewell interview with The Canadian Press.

She said she never meant to keep the country in suspense when she kept the prime minister waiting two hours before granting his prorogation request. But she felt she needed to make the right decision and took her time in making the final call.

"I had the duty to make a decision. It couldn't be dealt with in just a few minutes," Jean said. "So I had to analyze, I had to anticipate what my decision would imply — whatever it was."

She made the remarks while seated in the same Rideau Hall office where, two years earlier, she had hosted Harper. Outside her door, moving vans were lugging some of her personal belongings to her new Ottawa home.

Jean said her 11-year-old daughter asked to stay in the capital because she has grown attached to it, and asked her parents not to move. Jean will run her charitable foundation and her new United Nations job out of offices at the University of Ottawa.

In December 2008, the nation's television cameras were transfixed for what seemed like an eternity on the front door of the Governor General's residence.

The prime minister was on the verge of being toppled and replaced by an opposition coalition. Ultimately, Jean's decision to grant the prorogation request bought Harper more time, while the coalition deal crumbled.

Jean said she saw a positive result from that December 2008 episode: the whole prorogation crisis prompted a national discussion and, as a result, led Canadians to learn more about their democracy.

And she suggested that's part of the reason she took so much time. The meeting in her office with Harper dragged on so much longer than scheduled that he was forced to cancel a planned event.

"The idea wasn't to create artificial suspense," she said. "The idea was to send a message, and for people to understand that this warranted reflection."

Jean said she had only been a casual observer of the office of Governor General before she took office, and subsequently heard directly from Canadians who disliked the viceregal role.

But she said she believes that as long as Canada has a viceroyal office, it can be used to accomplish good things.

Jean said she hopes her five year-term helped give a voice to people in Canada and abroad.

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Tags: canada, stephen harper
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