NEW GOVERNOR GENERAL:
Sources say astronaut Julie Payette will succeed David Johnston in the role
Astronaut Julie Payette is expected to be named the next governor general of Canada.
She will be announced Thursday by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as the federal government’s selection to replace David Johnston, who held the post for seven years, at a ceremony outside the doors of the Senate.
Sources have confirmed Payette to The Canadian Press and other media outlets. Payette will be the 29th governor general since Confederation in 1867.
The Parliament Hill ceremony will be reminiscent of the day in 2010 when Johnston was named to the viceregal job, standing alongside Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
Johnston’s term is set to expire in September, after Harper extended it by two years ahead of the 2015 federal election.
Payette, the mother of two, was born in Montreal in 1963. She has a degree in engineering from McGill University and a degree in computer engineering in the University of Toronto. She was named an astronaut by the Canadian Space Agency in 1992 and piloted the shuttle Discovery in 1999 to the International Space Station, becoming the first Canadian to set foot on the station. She travelled to the station again in 2009 aboard the shuttle Endeavour.
She is fluent is French and English and can converse in Russian, German, Spanish and Italian. She is a licensed pilot who plays the piano and enjoys skiing, running, racquet sports and scuba diving.
Payette received honorary science degrees from McMaster University in 2004 and the University of Waterloo in 2010. She also has 16 honorary degrees from other universities across Canada.
During her visit to McMaster, she spoke of what people need to become an astronaut — they needed to be a jack of all trades.
“They are looking for wellrounded people,” Payette said. “You’re a photographer, movie director ... a construction worker ... You’re the cook.”
Traditionally, the viceregal job rotates between anglophones and francophones, with all indications pointing to a francophone filling the portfolio beginning this fall.
Johnston, who had a long career in academia, and was president of the University of Waterloo, was chosen for the position off a short list presented to Harper by an ad hoc committee of experts struck with the express task of selecting a non-partisan person with constitutional knowledge. When asked late last year how he’d pick the next governor general, Trudeau was noncommittal about what process he would use. “I’m not going to change things just to reinvent the wheel,” Trudeau said in a year-end interview with The Canadian Press.
Johnston is currently on a visit to China, and is expected to have an audience with the Queen next week when he travels to the U.K. for Canada 150 events. likely marking the last time he will sit with the monarch.
Astronaut Julie Payette stands with Governor General David Johnston after she was invested into the Order of Canada in 2011.