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Why a 'curious interest' and questions of money loom over Harry and Meghan coming to Canada

cbc.ca logo cbc.ca 2020-01-14 Janet Davison

Prince Harry and Meghan clearly want to come to Canada — and senior members of the Royal Family gave their wish their blessing at their Sandringham summit on Monday.

But how Canadians feel about the Duke and Duchess of Sussex spending part of their time here as they step back from their senior roles in the Royal Family is more nuanced.

"I'd say there's a curious interest to some degree as to how this will unfold, that certainly Harry and Meghan's enthusiasm about Canada is well-received," said Carolyn Harris, a longtime royal observer and Toronto-based author and historian.

"There are many who have commented that Harry and Meghan — as Harry is unlikely to succeed to the throne — should be able to live life on their own terms, provided they will be indeed be financially independent."

While some Canadians may welcome Harry and Meghan, others may feel great indifference.

"People who support the Crown, most of them will think this is nice," said John Fraser, author of The Secret of the Crown: Canada's Affair with Royalty, and founding president of the Institute for the Study of the Crown in Canada.

"The idea of members of the Royal Family actually having some domicile in a Commonwealth country, to me, is wonderful. It suggests the possibility — especially if the Queen goes along with the idea — that Harry and Meghan can be special Commonwealth ambassadors or supporters."

Others who are often less interested in the Crown, he suggests, will "think they are leeches on the body politic."

But whatever interest there is among Canadians could be tempered by one very tricky topic: money.

"I think any support for Harry and Meghan would be negatively affected if the couple were seen as making use of public funds in Canada for their security while they live a private life," Harris said.Chenoa Paccagnan, of Invermere, B.C., echoed a similar sentiment.

"I love my royals, but I am not interested in paying for long-term security or maintenance if they choose to spend increased time in Canada," Paccagnan wrote in an email to CBC's Royal Fascinator newsletter over the weekend.

a river running through a forest: It's not yet know where the couple will settle, but over Christmas, they reportedly stayed at this property in North Saanich on Vancouver Island. © Kevin Light/Reuters It's not yet know where the couple will settle, but over Christmas, they reportedly stayed at this property in North Saanich on Vancouver Island.

'Honour and a privilege'

Others looked at the financial aspects differently.

Bill Kostiuk, of Alliston, Ont., said it would be "an honour and a privilege" to have Harry and Meghan living in Canada.

"They do so much for charitable organizations and they seem to inspire the younger generation in a very positive way," he said in an email to the Fascinator.

"Thousands of immigrants come into Canada and no one questions who's going to pay for what and what they will do for income. I wish people could get off the gossip train and let this couple and their young child try to have a life together without all the finger-pointing."

WATCH: Expert Robert Lacey says Harry and Meghan might follow the Obamas' example managing their finances:

Harry and Meghan's seismic announcement last week that they wanted to step back included mention that they want to become financially independent. And in a statement Monday, Queen Elizabeth said Harry and Meghan "have made clear that they do not want to be reliant on public funds in their new lives."

But what exactly that means remains unclear.

Finance Minister Bill Morneau said Monday the federal government hasn't decided if Ottawa would help cover security costs associated with a move to Canada by the sixth in line to the throne and his wife.

Watch: Harry and Meghan should expect a 'stampede' of offers

'Serious issue'

There's little doubt security for such a high-profile couple will carry a hefty price tag.

"The question of security is a serious issue," said Fraser.

"Whether they are here or anywhere, they are major public figures who need protection," he said.

"At the moment, unless something is being worked out with the Canadian government, they don't have any official status here other than the respect there is — and also the lack of respect — for members of the Royal Family."

Fraser said the cost for security would probably have to be covered privately. "I don't think it should be a Canadian government cost," he said.

Christine Richardson, of Uxbridge, Ont., said in an email to The Royal Fascinator that she can understand why Harry and Meghan may want to step back, but feels "very strongly they can't have their cake and eat it, too."

"Independence means what it says, and from a financial perspective, it should not cost Canadians anything (i.e. for security) if they live here part-time. Also, they should have to pay income tax relating to money made in Canada, just like the rest of us."

What about the taxes?

Taxation poses significant unknowns around Harry and Meghan's plans, and would depend on numerous issues.

"If Harry spends enough time in Canada to become classed a Canadian resident, then he would start to become liable to Canadian taxes," Craig Prescott, director of the Centre for Parliament and Public Law at the University of Winchester in southern England, said via email.

"With Meghan, she is still a U.S. citizen and so is liable to U.S. taxation on her worldwide income (as U.S. taxation operates on citizenship rather than residency — only Eritrea and Myanmar do the same). There are reliefs and exemptions to this, but they appear to be relatively limited."

Under U.K. tax rules, Prescott said, if overseas tax is paid on overseas income, then you can claim relief to avoid being taxed twice.

WATCH | U.K. PM Boris Johnson says he's a 'massive fan' of the Royal Family:

"How this operates will depend on any double tax treaty between the U.K. and that country. The U.K. has a double tax treaty with the U.S. and Canada," he said.

While much remains unknown about how Harry and Meghan's part-time residency will unfold, Fraser said a lot of that will be answered "just by them taking up residence here of some sort, whatever it is."

The only people he can see being really upset by the move are the British tabloids that "love either praising them or damning them."

WATCH | Canada undecided on covering Harry and Meghan's security costs:

Fraser expects there will be some "fervent following" of Harry and Meghan for a little while.

"But I think they have a fair chance of having a more normal life over here, whatever a normal life is, a private life, than they do in the U.K."

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