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Fiction Humorous

King John of Canada

by (author) Scott Gardiner

McClelland & Stewart
Initial publish date
Jun 2008
Humorous, Political, Satire
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Jun 2008
    List Price
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Feb 2007
    List Price

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A hilarious political satire in the tradition of Mordecai Richler.

This is a funny, biting political satire set in the not-too-distant future. A series of minority governments, and endless Quebec referendums (designed to lose narrowly, to keep the money coming) have left Canada almost ungovernable. When the Governor General resigns in disgrace and the House of Windsor implodes in London, a media baron launches the idea of a Canadian king or queen elected by lottery.

It starts as a joke — except that the lucky winner, King John, a bright and charismatic guy from Toronto, knows exactly what people want. Soon Quebec is gone, while Toronto’s surprise bid to leave Canada is averted by shifting his official residence, the new seat of power, to the Toronto waterfront. Many good things happen, and the politicians go along for the ride. And the blockades of Native lands are ended for good, after John is heroically wounded keeping the peace at risk to his life.

His popularity soars and Canadian morale soars with it. Soon the rest of the world is taking notice of this model leader. In the United States, the blue states look enviously northward. Then Canada’s king, ignoring assassination threats, goes on a formal visit to Washington. . .

About the author

Scott Gardiner is a journalist who has written for Maclean’s, Toronto Life, and National Geographic. He is also the author of two novels. The first, The Dominion of Wyley McFadden, was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize in the Best First Book category and the Amazon/Books in Canada First Novel Award and declared one of the Globe and Mail’s Best Books of the Year. He lives in Toronto.

Scott Gardiner's profile page


  • Nominated, Stephen Leacock Memorial Medal for Humour

Excerpt: King John of Canada (by (author) Scott Gardiner)

Time-­honoured custom permitted a sitting Prime Minister to devote as much attention as he liked to choosing the Crown’s next representative. It was — according to tradition — a process involving much deep re?ection, lengthy consultations, and a great deal of politely ruthless jockeying among the top-­drawer contenders in the nation’s cultural elite. This time round, however, the PM was responding to a situation none of his predecessors had ever imagined.

Rumours as to certain nap-­time activities involving a nanny formerly employed at Rideau Hall — rumours only hinted at, initially — had by now erupted into full-­blown, front-­page scandal. The press corps was riveted, and Ottawa pink with embarrassment. Politically speaking, it was a delicate state of reserve — though there was no hint of delicacy on the part of the principals: in the weeks leading up to the resignation of Canada’s last-­ever Governor General, their Excellencies had barricaded themselves into opposite wings of the mansion, trading af?davits through their lawyers like knife blows in a tavern brawl. Then came the Governor General’s tearful, prime-­time resignation before an astonished nation. His wife was equally upset.

The Prime Minister handled the situation with inspired brilliance. Neatly turning the crisis to his own advantage, he summoned the press to announce that he would scrap his customary privilege and appoint the winner of the Be a Monarch! Sweepstakes instead. The move was positioned as an open, democratic, and resolutely Canadian response to a situation that — were it not for the PM’s swift and steely resolve — might easily have cascaded into ever-­more damaging farce.

Governors General were all pomp and circumstance anyway, so the thinking went. A few yards more red carpet, a little extra ermine here and there, maybe half-­a-­dozen trumpets added to the foyer of the House of Commons and Bob’s your uncle — Your Excellency becomes Your Highness. Buckingham Palace would have to con?rm the nomination, sure, and play along with whatever changes were inked into the job description, but the Royal Family was in no position to get shirty, just then. And furthermore, once everything had settled down, the dummy-­king could be retired at the end of his term, and the whole embarrassing interlude laid to rest and forgotten.

It might have worked too, except for the ridiculous.

The next act was staged courtesy of the House of Windsor, which could not have timed its exit more dramatically: nothing so common as furtive encounters in the linen closet off the vice-­regal nursery, no; hereditary monarchs understood the rules of misconduct better than that. But certain inconsistencies were stalking connubial tradition in Buckingham Palace too. Aroused by rumours of royal misbehaviour involving animals and national soccer stars, Londoners had begun taking their doubts into the streets, waving placards and hurling pointed accusations across the palace gates. The Royals, confronting issues of succession en famille, and increasingly fed up with being held to higher standards than everybody else — not to mention all the paparazzi — started slinging their resentment straight back into the faces of their critics in the hoi polloi. Their tactic did not go down well with the public. The sun may have set on the empire, but not on presumptions of stiff upper lips. Canada’s request for John’s con?rmation as Governor General — together with some other provisions no one paid the slightest attention to — arrived just as the crisis had reached the point of no return. The papers were hastily signed by a monarch teetering at the edge of the unthinkable. Two days after the Sovereign of the British Empire had formally appointed John as Canada’s Keeper of the Crown, the House of Windsor imploded as a family.

No need to go into the scramble this caused all over the world, as one former colony after another woke up next morning no longer certain exactly who was supposed to be their head of state. Canada, like all the other members of the former Commonwealth, was now a monarchy without a Crown — except the imaginary article that had just been settled on the head of my friend John.

The point I’ve been driving at, with the usual apologies for taking so long, is that John — however inadvertently, however accidentally — was invested with the same authority as a Canadian Governor General. Canadians were about to “nd out just how extraordinary those powers were.

Editorial Reviews

Praise for The Dominion of Wyley McFadden:

“A rich, dark and highly accomplished debut.”
Ottawa Citizen

“[Gardiner’s] wry descriptions of motels, diners, truckstops and the eccentrics who inhabit them evoke Steinbeck in his hard-travelling days.”
Globe and Mail

“Gardiner’s writing is tight and sure.”
Edmonton Journal

Other titles by Scott Gardiner