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Canada  

Payette fiasco shows need for stronger governor general vetting process

Stronger vetting needed

Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc concedes Julie Payette's resignation as governor general shows a need to strengthen the process for vetting vice-regal appointments.

Payette resigned Thursday, about a week after the government received the damning findings of an independent investigation into allegations that she presided over a toxic work environment at Rideau Hall.

LeBlanc says the report, commissioned by the Privy Council Office which he oversees, came to "compelling" and "stark" conclusions.

He says the debacle of Payette's tenure shows that the vetting system for such appointments needs to be strengthened.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau chose the former astronaut to be Canada's 29th governor general in 2017 — after disbanding a non-partisan, arm's-length committee created by the previous Conservative government to recommend worthy nominees for vice-regal posts.

At his biweekly briefing today on the COVID-19 pandemic, Trudeau can expect to be pummelled with questions about his judgment and his government's failure to check with Payette's former employers at the Montreal Science Centre and the Canadian Olympic Committee, where she faced similar allegations of harassing and bullying subordinates.

"Obviously, this circumstance is far from ideal," LeBlanc said in an interview shortly after Payette's resignation.

"There always has been a process of vetting, of checks that are made when somebody is appointed to any government position. But clearly, the process can be strengthened, can be improved."

LeBlanc said discussions have already been had with those responsible for vetting, but the prime minister hasn't had time yet to reflect on the best way to choose Payette's successor. The government will have more to say on that likely next week, he said.

Trudeau's minority Liberal government could be defeated at any time and, were that to happen, it would fall to the governor general to decide whether to call an election or give Opposition Leader Erin O'Toole a chance to see if he can command the confidence of the House of Commons.

Until a successor is named, Supreme Court Chief Justice Richard Wagner will assume the duties of the governor general so there will be no constitutional vacuum.



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