On the same day that a parliamentary committee scolded the governor general for profligate spending by slashing her annual budget by ten percent, a book that purports to give the full story about life at Rideau Hall arrived on my desk. Working on the assumption that there is no such thing as coincidence, I cracked open Canada’s House: Rideau Hall and the Invention of a Canadian Home by Margaret Macmillan et al, (Knopf) and began looking at the pretty pictures. My favourite shows Adrienne Clarkson working in her study, wearing a floppy cardigan and what could be her cotton nightdress, and her husband reading in a chair in the next room, visible through a doorway. This image of an ordinary Canadian couple whiling away a Sunday morning reflects the book’s dual agenda. The historical agenda is to convince us that the institution of the governor general is not some anachronistic holdover from our colonial past (which happens to be what I believe) but has some role to play as “the emblem of the Canada of today” or the representation of “the continuity of the Canadian experience,” whatever these empty phrases might mean. The political agenda is to portray the incumbents of Rideau Hall as just plain folks. In Canada’s House, Ms. Clarkson and Mr. Ralston Saul are not the elitist spendthrifts the gutter press has painted them; they are industrious worker bees, down-to-earth democrats who love to welcome Canadians to their temporary home. “It feels like a very friendly house,” Ms. Clarkson assures us. “It feels like a home.” The book even includes some recipes, though they tend to contradict the cozy mom-and-pop message (I don’t know about you, but my mum never asked our chef to prepare barbecued caribou tenderloin with grilled vegetables in a juniper tea vinaigrette when company dropped over). Leafing through Canada’s House is a bit like watching the Masters Golf Tournament on television: the same photographs of lush flowers and gleaming mahogany, the same inference that it is in bad taste to mention how much it all costs, the same hushed, fawning tone and the same pretence that what we are witnessing has something to do with democracy.