It’s no secret that one of Justin Trudeau’s aims since he was elected in 2015 and re-elected in 2019 was to go after a seat on the UN Security Council. As it stands, Norway and Ireland seem to have the race for the available seat locked up, but that has not stopped this government spending ridiculous amounts of money to get the votes to gain the Security council seat.
Now, in 2020, that campaign has been ramped up and if Trudeau and the Liberals aren’t spending “an estimated $120,000 to New York-based organization Security Council Report to educate Canadian personnel” our Governor-General Julie Payette seems to have taken on the role of cheerleader to gain that seat.
Governor-General Julie Payette is now “lobbying foreign diplomats to support Canada’s UN Security Council bid”, something that flies in the face of the duties and position of the Governor-General.
National Post John Ivison revealed this tidbit in a recent column:
“When new ambassadors arrive in Ottawa they are obliged to troop along to Rideau Hall, where they are officially welcomed by the Governor General, as the Queen’s representative in Canada.
The presentation of credentials ceremony is normally a formality carried out by the dignified branch of government – perfunctory and uneventful, if done right.
Yet heads of mission who have handed over their letters of credence to Julie Payette in recent times say they were lobbied privately by the Governor General to support Canada’s bid for a non-permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council. A vote will be held in June and Canada is running against Norway and Ireland for the two-year mandate to represent “Western Europe and Others”. Government sources suggest it will be a close call.
One foreign diplomat who told me about the exchange said it was considered “unusual” – and, according to a number of accounts, it is. By convention, the governor general does not involve him or herself with government policy. As the Queen’s representative in Canada, the governor general is deemed to be non-partisan and above the fray of party politics. Payette’s predecessors were all firm non-interventionists when it came to politics.
A statement from Payette’s office does not refute she pushed Canada’s bid on foreign diplomats.
“The Governor General supports Canada’s foreign policy in many ways, in particular by receiving ambassadors, hosting state visits and representing the country on the international stage. The meetings and exchanges that take place in these circumstances are conducted in close collaboration with the government,” it read.
That suggests Payette was invited to raise the issue by the Prime Minister’s Office. A spokesman for the prime minister said he had no direct knowledge but defended the concept of governors general advocating government policy.”
Ms. Payette, along with Justin Trudeau should go back and re-read the handbook of what a Governor-General – the Queen’s Representative in Canada does and does not do. What Payette is doing now flies in the face of decorum and tradition but, it’s not the first time for her.
In fact, it started in 2017 when Payette was appointed to the position and right out of the gate, she “sidestepped” a question regarding her support of the monarchy.
“I don’t think it is appropriate for me to respond to this question at this moment,” she responded in French. “[In] this position, which incredible predecessors have occupied, and I will do my best to advance subjects and directions and to also listen, because I believe it is very important to listen to what people have to say in our communities and to do the best I can with the parameters that are offered to us now.”
It didn’t take long for Ms. Payette’s biases to come out when, in a 2017 speech, Payette “stressed the need for greater public awareness of scientific knowledge and noted, with some incredulity, that certain unscientific beliefs persist, including astrology and skepticism about climate change. She also made a reference to religious belief. “
“We are still debating and still questioning whether life was a divine intervention or whether it was coming out of a natural process let alone, oh my goodness, a random process.”
Conservative leader Andrew Scheer criticized Justin Trudeau as he offered support for Payette’s remarks, when he said this:
“We are a government grounded in science. Canadians are people who understand the value of science and knowledge as a foundation for the future of our country. And I am extraordinarily proud of the strength and the story of our Governor General, Julie Payette, who has never hidden away her passion for science and her deep faith that knowledge, research and the truth is a foundation for any free, stable, successful society. And I applaud the firmness with which she stands in support of science and the truth.”
Globe and Mail columnist John Ibbitson made some good points in an op-ed piece, calling into question Payette’s neutrality, especially in matters of state, noting this:
“Julie Payette’s transgression is more serious than some suppose. In a speech last week, she celebrated secularism and science over faith and superstition in tones so derisive that the Conservative Leader protested and the Prime Minister rose to her defence, which only made things worse.
In presenting herself as an enlightened governor-general, did Ms. Payette inadvertently cast herself as a Liberal governor-general? If the next election produces an unstable House, can we count on her to rule impartially on who should be asked to form a government, or whether and when to accept a recommendation to prorogue or dissolve Parliament?
The governor-general exists to resolve such impasses. With her remarks on science and superstition, Ms. Payette has made it harder to credibly fill that role.”
Since the Liberals have a minority government now, it’s a good question to ponder when it comes to a question of Ms. Payette’s neutrality if a vote of non-confidence leads to the dissolution of Parliament.
Just like Justin Trudeau is now a part-time Prime Minister, it seems that our Governor-General has been a part time Governor-General before she was called out by various members of the press as to her approach to the job.
“In 2018, “she has dramatically reduced events attended, as well as trips abroad and speaking events. The Star reported she rarely attends events on weekends (she prefers to hang out in Montreal), has never travelled to Manitoba, Saskatchewan and the Yukon. And only made it to Newfoundland in the last few weeks. She’s attended more than one hundred less events than her predecessor David Johnston.
A large number of organizations have been snubbed or rebuked. They include the Canadian Cancer Society, the Duke of Edinburgh’s Gold Awards ceremony, the Governor General’s Medals in Architecture, Scouts Canada and the Royal Canadian Geographical Society.
Payette won’t even attend the 2018 Governor General’s History ceremony. That’s like not attending your own party.
Then there was the story that Payette didn’t want to sign the bill legalizing marijuana because she was in a snit to have to change her schedule on short notice. Clerk of the Privy Council Michael Wernick had to step in and arm-wrestle her to do it.”
Even Maclean’s magazine called Payette out on her approach to the job.
“The Governor General faced a spate of bad press in 2018. The National Post quoted numerous anonymous sources who complained about Payette’s perceived inability to adapt to her new role after her appointment on Oct. 2, 2017. They pointed to the office’s reduced workload and Payette’s initial challenges with Rideau Hall protocol. Last January, the Post published another story in which Payette received mixed reviews—she’d ratcheted up engagements and was more active on social media, part of a concerted PR effort, but also reportedly “micromanaged” the Order of Canada selection process. More recently, CBC News reported Payette had no plans to move into the recently renovated Rideau Hall—instead opting to live in a smaller, more private residence nearby. A Governor General’s typical term runs five years, though they can be extended.”
The bad press must have spurred Payette into action as “More recently, Payette has adopted a more conventional approach to her role. She is heading to Poland later this month for the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, having recently been in Jerusalem at the Fifth World Holocaust Forum.”
While it’s a good thing that Ms. Payette is stepping up to the plate with more traditional duties, she is still sticking her nose into business that is not part of her job description and it seems, done with the indirect approval of the PMO.
The role of Governor-General is largely a ceremonial one, but there are duties that form the cornerstone of how Canada is governed, which include representing the crown and ensuring there is always a prime minister, acting on advice of prime minister and cabinet ministers to give royal assent to bills passed in the Senate and House of Commons, signing state documents, reading the throne speech and presiding over swearing-in of the prime minister, chief justice and cabinet ministers.
“When Justin Trudeau appointed Julie Payette, he “abandoned the option of being advised by a panel of vice-regal experts who had been convened to vet previous governors and lieutenant generals, in order to fast-track a female, multi-lingual, francophone former astronaut. As with most of his appointments, she appeared to have been sent by central casting to fill the position. She was “too spectacular to say no to,” in the words of one person involved in the process (such as it was).”
This isn’t about whether the need for a Governor-General in Canada is or is not warranted. It’s about a Governor-General who is flaunting the rules to stay neutral in political affairs with this latest gaffe, trying to lobby ambassadors to support Trudeau’s bid for a UN Security Council seat.
It’s about a Prime Minister who is trying to re-shape Canada into the post national state he talked about after he was elected.
It’s about flaunting the rules and traditions as to the selection of the Governor-General – the Queen’s representative in Canada who, like the Queen, is supposed to remain neutral in political affairs.
Regardless of the fact that Ms. Payette may be taking on more traditional duties now after a very rocky start, a staffer noted this recently:
“She just doesn’t understand the role,” just like our Prime Minister who, in 2020 is still “not ready for the job.”