Julie Payette could be described as a wee
bit turbulent. Early missteps were largely
forgiven as the actions of someone new to
the role. But as the one year anniversary
of Her Excellency's appointment rolled
around there were new questions. Her
presence at various events was being
This is a problem as it doesn't become law otherwise. But for a
while things were quiet and I hoped Her Excellency was
finally settling in to her role as the governor general. Then
earlier this year allegations of verbal abuse and the creation
of a hostile work environment were made against the
governor general and her secretary. This resulted in the Privy
Council Office launching an investigation into these claims.
could be avoided given his unimpeachable tenure in the
office. So how did things go so wrong? The tory partisans will
likely point out that Julie Payette was recommended for this
appointment by Justin Trudeau while David Johnston was
recommended by Stephen Harper. Except this isn't fully true.
Stephen Harper made many poor appointments as prime
minister (mostly to the Senate). But when it came time to
appoint a governor general and later the lieutenant governors
he opted to create a committee of constitutional experts. He
had no input on their selection and recommended one of the
five who the committee recommended to him. David
Johnston came out of this process as did several lieutenant
governors who, as of yet, have not become famous for the
Notably, Justin Trudeau set up a committee to recommend
Senate appointments to him and this system has worked fine.
But the committee on vice-regal appointments was not kept.
There are a couple possible reasons for this. Perhaps he
already had Julie Payette in mind for the job. Or perhaps he
wanted the reflected glow of a star appointment to shine upon him. If so, his current troubles are karmic in nature. It has
become clear that the vetting process is where the problem
lies. Failure to find previous assault charges? Check. Failure
to find involvement in a fatal crash? Check. Failure to do a
basic background check with her former employers? Check.
Now lets be clear: Her Excellency is very accomplished and as
such gets a lot of attention from employers looking to hire the
best and brightest. But it is becoming clear she was thrust into
a role that does not fit her personality. As someone who has
been in that situation I can say for a fact that it is stressful.
And stress without any sort of outlet can manifest as the sorts
of behaviors she is accused of.
This leaves us with an important question: would a special
committee designed to vet vice-regal candidates beforehand
have been able to better warn the prime minister about what
he was getting into? If so, the greatest legacy Trudeau could
leave behind would, ironically, be to restore part of the legacy
of his predecessor and work to restore the Advisory
Committee on Vice-regal Appointments. Everyone will
be better off.
A Kisaragi Colour