Payette ‘re­ally very proud’ of her role

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OT­TAWA • Gov­er­nor Gen­eral Julie Payette is pub­licly apol­o­giz­ing to char­i­ta­ble or­ga­ni­za­tions for the “per­cep­tion” that it has taken too long for Rideau Hall to re­view its pri­or­i­ties and de­ter­mine which re­la­tion­ships it will con­tinue.In her first in­ter­view since the Na­tional Post pub­lished an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into her first year in of­fice, Payette also de­fended her ap­proach to June’s royal assent cer­e­mony, her of­fice’s lighter events sched­ule and a ma­jor turnover in se­nior staff.De­spite mul­ti­ple sources close to Rideau Hall telling the Post that she seems un­happy in the job, Payette told CPAC’s Es­ther Bé­gin in a French-lan­guage tele­vi­sion in­ter­view that she is “re­ally very proud” and takes the role and its re­spon­si­bil­i­ties se­ri­ously.“An of­fice like this de­mands com­plete en­gage­ment,” she said dur­ing the half-hour in­ter­view that will air in in­cre­ments on CPAC’s French pub­lic af­fairs pro­gram L’essen­tiel, start­ing Wed­nes­day evening.Re­spon­si­bil­i­ties in­clud­ing sign­ing de­crees, pro­vid­ing royal assent and swear­ing-in cab­i­nets are “pri­mor­dial” and “non-ne­go­tiable,” she said.But more dis­cre­tionary re­spon­si­bil­i­ties, such as which events the Gov­er­nor Gen­eral will at­tend, which awards cer­e­monies she will pre­side over and which or­ga­ni­za­tions will en­joy a tra­di­tional “pa­tron­age,” re­main un­der re­view al­most a year af­ter Payette took of­fice.In the in­ter­view she promised that or­ga­ni­za­tions wait­ing to find out whether they will get Rideau Hall’s co­op­er­a­tion will be able to see a freshly minted set of “cri­te­ria” and “pa­ram­e­ters” on a new web­site that will go on­line within the next few days. New re­la­tion­ships will be es­tab­lished too, Payette said, such as with or­ga­ni­za­tions pro­mot­ing women in science.“With our teams we have had very, very many dis­cus­sions, plan­ning ses­sions and or­ga­ni­za­tion to as­sure that the great­est num­ber of char­i­ta­ble or­ga­ni­za­tions con­tinue hav­ing a re­la­tion­ship with Rideau Hall.We have an enor­mous amount of es­teem for them and we value that re­la­tion­ship,” she said. “We are sorry about the per­cep­tion that maybe it took a bit of time.”Sources told the Post that Payette was ques­tion­ing even some of her ba­sic con­sti­tu­tional re­spon­si­bil­i­ties. Payette did not deny the Post’s re­port that there was trou­ble or­ga­niz­ing a royal assent cer­e­mony in June.The cer­e­mony was im­por­tant to the Lib­eral gov­ern­ment be­cause Payette was to sign into law a bill le­gal­iz­ing recre­ational cannabis — a land­mark com­mit­ment in its 2015 elec­tion plat­form. But it took phone calls be­tween the gov­er­nor gen­eral and of­fi­cials all the way up to Canada’s top civil ser­vant, Clerk of the Privy Coun­cil Of­fice Michael Wer­nick, to con­firm Payette’s at­ten­dance.“You can imag­ine that with com­pli­cated sched­ules, with the Prime Min­is­ter’s Of­fice, the Clerk’s of­fice of the gov­ern­ment of Canada, with the of­fice of the sec­re­tary to the gov­er­nor gen­eral, we of­ten spend a lot of time, all of the time, try­ing to co-or­di­nate and marry the sched­ules,” Payette said.She said that such con­flicts have never pre­vented re­spon­si­bil­i­ties from be­ing car­ried out, how­ever. Call­ing royal assent the “num­ber one func­tion of the gov­er­nor gen­eral,” she said it was given “as planned, at the right time.”The Post also re­ported that Payette has some­times been re­luc­tant to sim­ply rub­ber-stamp oth­ers’ de­ci­sions. She ac­knowl­edged be­ing keenly in­ter­ested in the process for in­duct­ing Cana­di­ans into the Or­der of Canada.“When I ar­rived, I wanted to un­der­stand that process, and I re­main strongly in­ter­ested in the nom­i­na­tion process,” she said. “Be­cause we want, again with a new web­site, to be able to use in­for­ma­tion tech­nol­ogy to al­low more Cana­di­ans to of­fer nom­i­na­tions for peo­ple who de­serve it, and to have greater agility to in­crease the num­ber of dec­o­ra­tions and hon­ours that we can give.”Re­spond­ing to a spe­cific ques­tion about whether she wanted to have a say in the award­ing of the Or­der of Canada, Payette said, “it would be ab­so­lutely un­eth­i­cal for one per­son to al­ter the list that is sub­mit­ted to the ad­vi­sory com­mit­tee.”Payette’s pub­lic sched­ule ap­pears less busy than her pre­de­ces­sor’s, al­though sources note that Gov. Gen. David John­ston was par­tic­u­larly ac­tive. This year the gov­er­nor gen­eral de­clined to par­tic­i­pate in two awards cer­e­monies that carry the name of her of­fice — the Gov­er­nor Gen­eral’s Medals in Ar­chi­tec­ture and the Gov­er­nor Gen­eral’s His­tory Awards.But she de­fended the slower pace. “When we are trav­el­ling, and we are of­ten, our days are filled morn­ing to night be­cause we want to max­i­mize time meet­ing Cana­di­ans,” Payette said. “Here at Rideau Hall we have a lot of plan­ning to do, es­pe­cially in the first year, a year of tran­si­tion, a year when teams formed, and when we es­tab­lished our ob­jec­tives.”Payette down­played the ex­o­dus of se­nior staff, say­ing it is “very nor­mal” for peo­ple to seek ex­pe­ri­ence in other de­part­ments.

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