Prime Minister Stephen Harper has extended David Johnston's tenure as Governor General of Canada for an additional 2 years.
Though the Governor General technically represents the Queen in Canada, how long the Governor General serves depends on the prime minister.
The Governor General usually serves about 5 years in the role in Canada. Johnston has been in the role since October 1, 2010.
The end of a 5-year term would come right around the federal election, provided that election is on time. Extending the term is not the surprise; extending the term by 2 years is the surprise.
Roland Michener was the last Governor General to serve as many as 7 years (1967-1974), though a few have served 6 years. Michaëlle Jean, Johnston's predecessor, served 5 years and 4 days. Adrienne Clarkson, Jean's predecessor, served about 10 days short of 6 years.
Jean was appointed by Paul Martin in 2005, so Johnston has been Harper's only pick. Jean was helpful to Harper in 2008 when she prorogued Parliament, ensuring that the Conservatives would remain in power.
We were told in the announcement last week that the extension was also to cover Canada's 150th anniversary celebrations in 2017. Plausible, but the real impact will be serving through the next election and beyond, no matter which party wins the election.
The fixed election date that Harper and the Conservatives pushed through is designed to call for an election every 5 years. The Governor General's term lasts 5 years, so the 2-year extension would change the timing so that the two don't collide.
If Justin Trudeau or Thomas Mulcair is the new prime minister, they will end up with a Governor General they didn't pick for 2 years.
The presumption for Harper's decision — besides him making the decision and not the Queen — is that the announcement implies that Harper will win in October … or September or August.
Every politician thinks they will win an election; acting as if that is guaranteed to happen comes across as pompous.
Of course, Johnston's 2-year extension is subject to change if someone other than Harper wins this year, though expect Johnston to remain for a few months at absolute minimum.