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BRIAN LILLEY: Governor General Julie Payette resigning over damning workplace report

The governor general is heading for the exit rather than be turfed by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, the Toronto Sun has learned.

Julie Payette is set to submit her resignation as governor general ahead of the release of a report that will claim she was responsible for a toxic work environment at Rideau Hall. Had Payette not decided to resign, the Trudeau government would have sought to have her removed.

The move caps off a months-long campaign against Payette waged by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, the Privy Council Office and Trudeau’s media allies.

Let me be clear: I’ve never been a fan of Payette as governor general and never felt she should have been appointed – something a proper vetting would have uncovered. But she doesn’t deserve this and there is no way that a sitting prime minister, especially one leading a minority Parliament, should be able to unseat the Queen’s representative. That is what has happened here.

While Payette was not an ideal choice, this mess falls at the feet of one person and one person only — Justin Trudeau.

When Trudeau came to office, he promised merit-based appointments for all manner of government jobs and set about establishing teams to vet candidates for everything from senators to appointees to government boards. For the role of governor general, he went in the opposite direction.

Trudeau dismissed the committee set up by former Prime Minister Stephen Harper to advise and present prospective candidates to serve as either governor general or as the lieutenant-governor of the provinces. He and his team selected Payette directly in 2017 and it quickly blew up in their faces.

Stories of Payette running over a blind woman in a traffic accident in Maryland arose. Payette was cleared by police in that incident, but then there were stories about her messy divorce and claims of violence and abuse, issues that would have precluded any man from taking the job.

As for her management style and questions about her suitability for high-level positions, any vetting of her past would have exposed concerns raised when she worked for the Montreal Science Centre, an organization owned and operated by the federal government.

Anything they are concerned about now should have been raised in a proper vetting, like the one that would have been conducted by the committee that Harper set up and Trudeau dismissed.

Instead, they ignored warnings and pushed ahead with their chosen candidate. They even defended her when stories leaked out in the media two years ago.

They defended Payette until they needed a distraction.

Last summer, as the Trudeau government fought off allegations that they were rewarding their friends at WE Charity with a massive untendered contract as part of their pandemic response, Trudeau and his team started to leak.

Every time the temperature was raised on the WE scandal there would be another selective leak that could only come from a highly placed government source, and suddenly there was a CBC story published about the horrors at Rideau Hall. By September, enough dirt had been kicked up that the Privy Council Office, Trudeau’s own department, hired a firm to investigate.

Imagine that — the governor general acts as the impartial referee in our system, especially in a minority situation, and here was the PM’s department investigating.

This is a bad precedent, one that sets up the next GG that Trudeau picks to be his puppet, to do his bidding at any turn. It’s true that governors general have little actual power, but they can curtail the worst excesses of our elected leaders if they go astray.

With what has happened today, Trudeau has shown that he has taken out one GG and the next one is on notice.

This is a sad day for our fragile democracy.

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