World

Prince Harry and Meghan's possible move could be costly for Canadian taxpayers

Reuters, AFP-JIJI

Canadian taxpayers could be on the hook for millions of dollars a year in security expenses if Britain’s Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan, move there — even part time — as they step away from their royal duties, security experts said.

The couple, formally known as the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, stunned Queen Elizabeth II and the rest of the royal family this week by saying they plan to spend much of their time in North America.

While the pair have not said where in North America they planned to reside, many observers pointed to Canada as a logical choice. The couple spent the last six weeks of 2019 in that nation, part of the British Commonwealth of countries that have the queen as their head of state.

The Canadian government would likely have a legal obligation to provide them with security because of their royal status, security experts said.

“I don’t believe they can refuse the government of Canada’s security,” said Larry Busch, an ex-Royal Canadian Mounted Police officer who directed security for world leaders including U.S. presidents and the royal family.

The cost could easily run into the millions of dollars, said Mike Zimet, whose eponymous New York executive security firm has protected clients including U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders and actors Lin-Manuel Miranda and Alec Baldwin. “If they want private protection, then a whole machine needs to be built around them.”

The level of security they need would be defined by a threat assessment, said Joe Balz, president of GloProSec Preventative Services, a Toronto-based security company, and an ex-RCMP officer who has worked with the royal family and other heads of state in the past.

“There’s always going to be the odd idiot who causes some type of problem,” Balz said, adding that they would be safer in Canada than in the United States, where gun laws are much laxer.

Harry and Meghan have said gaining financial autonomy is a key goal but declined to say whether this extends to the cost of security, stating that their security detail is mandated by the British Home Office.

Experts say they could make a fortune in North America but may not find the privacy they crave.

Sharron Elkabas, the chief executive of booking agency MN2S, said the couple could charge seven-figure fees for a single speaking engagement.

“Harry and Meghan would be one of the most valuable talents in the global industry and become extremely sought-after, receiving hundreds if not thousands of potential opportunities,” Elkabas said. “As the most progressive royal couple to date, they represent a new era and a change in the royal rituals, which provides a unique angle and only serves to broaden their audience,” he added, calling them “pioneers.”

Analysts say they would likely restrict their work to the charity sector and causes they both believe in.

Last month, Britain’s Daily Telegraph newspaper reported that Markle had recently reconnected with contacts in Los Angeles as part of plans to launch a charitable foundation in the United States.

Speculation is rife in U.S. tabloids about which North American city Harry and Meghan will choose to set up a home in. The smart money seems to be on somewhere in Canada. The royals spent several weeks holidaying on Vancouver Island over Christmas, and Markle lived in Toronto for several years while filming the television series “Suits.”

However, the New York Post, citing an unnamed source close to the couple, said Markle wanted to live in California. Her mother, Doria Ragland, lives in Los Angeles.

The United States might appeal to them because Americans do not tend to demonstrate the cynicism and dislike of the royal family that some Brits do.

The couple also would need to worry about kidnapping of their son, Archie, said Zimet, who called that threat a “major situation, especially when it comes to terrorists. Kidnap a kid, hold them for ransom, what are the parents going to do?”

A poll for Canadian news company Postmedia found that more than 60 percent of the 1,515 Canadians surveyed would support the appointment of Prince Harry as governor general, the queen’s representative in Canada, who acts as the head of state on her behalf.

The poll was conducted on Monday, two days before the couple announced their plan to move away from their senior royal roles.