De­fend­ing ‘spec­tac­u­lar’ viceroy Julie Payette DICK POUND

The Expositor (Brantford) - - OPINION - Richard W. (Dick) Pound is coun­sel at Stike­man El­liott LLP in Mon­treal and chan­cel­lor emer­i­tus of McGill Uni­ver­sity.

It has been dis­ap­point­ing to see some re­cent me­dia at­ten­tion di­rected at Gov. Gen. Julie Payette. Much of it was un­fair, mis­di­rected and anony­mous. It also tar­geted some­one for whom it would not be seemly to re­spond force­fully.

Payette’s ap­point­ment by Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau, a lit­tle more than a year ago, was an in­spired nom­i­na­tion of a great Cana­dian, in recog­ni­tion of her many — and ex­tra­or­di­nary — ac­com­plish­ments in fields un­fa­mil­iar to most of us. In that re­spect, she is quite dif­fer­ent from her dis­tin­guished pre­de­ces­sors. Those dif­fer­ences, how­ever, are part of what will make her so spe­cial dur­ing her term.

There is not the slight­est doubt that, as a leader and spokesper­son for our coun­try, she rep­re­sents the best of what Canada stands for.

We should be grate­ful that she ac­cepted the ap­point­ment, which she will cer­tainly en­dow with flair, distinc­tion and an en­light­ened sense of duty.

She brings some new and ex­cit­ing el­e­ments to a ven­er­a­ble in­sti­tu­tion, that of rep­re­sent­ing Her Majesty the Queen in Canada, re­spect­ing both the tra­di­tions in­cum­bent in the hold­ing of such an of­fice, and the po­ten­tial of en­cour­ag­ing causes that will fur­ther en­rich our coun­try.

Be­com­ing gov­er­nor gen­eral is not a po­si­tion that you seek. It is a re­sponse to a solemn re­quest by the prime min­is­ter, on be­half of all Cana­di­ans, to serve your coun­try. It in­volves, among many other per­sonal sac­ri­fices, sur­ren­der­ing essen­tially all of your pri­vacy.

Let’s cut the gov­er­nor gen­eral some slack as she fo­cuses on how she can ac­com­plish as much of an im­pos­si­ble sched­ule (many el­e­ments of which are im­posed on her by the gov­ern­ment, with lit­tle or no ad­vance warn­ing) as pos­si­ble. She is a sci­en­tist and it is part of her na­ture to un­der­stand the el­e­ments of any sit­u­a­tion or en­vi­ron­ment in which she ex­pects to func­tion.

One “com­plaint” is that she has, seem­ingly, dared to re­view the causes and or­ga­ni­za­tions that should re­ceive vice-re­gal sup­port. The mere fact that an or­ga­ni­za­tion may have re­ceived such pa­tron­age in the past is no guar­an­tee (and should not be) that it will be con­tin­ued. Cir­cum­stances may change and pa­tron­age is a per­sonal cour­tesy ex­tended, upon re­quest, by each gov­er­nor gen­eral.

An­other el­e­ment of neg­a­tive cov­er­age cen­tres on the an­nual salary, in the range of $270,000 a year. When put in per­spec­tive, this is well un­der the salary of any su­pe­rior court judge and con­sid­er­ably less than that of a Supreme Court of Canada jus­tice.

The same is true of so-called “perks,” such as liv­ing in Rideau Hall. Those who re­gard such res­i­dence as a perk may not have spent much time in Rideau Hall.

No gov­er­nor gen­eral, and cer­tainly not Payette, is in this for the money. Her life has been one of duty and ser­vice to her coun­try, in the course of which her per­for­mance has al­ways been ex­em­plary, truly ex­em­plary. Her ser­vice and her achieve­ment, as well as her per­sonal style, make her par­tic­u­larly fit for the role.

The at­ten­tion de­voted to the is­sue sug­gests that Cana­di­ans feel deeply, as do I, about the im­por­tance of our gov­er­nor gen­eral.

We need to unite in sup­port­ing her ef­forts to be a su­perla­tive gov­er­nor gen­eral as she strives to bring about trans­for­ma­tive change to ben­e­fit Cana­di­ans and to per­form the pub­lic du­ties in­her­ent in her cer­e­mo­nial role.

Those of us who have seen her in ac­tion know she is spec­tac­u­lar. She is a warm, car­ing and con­sid­er­ate pres­ence. She lights up a room.

I look for­ward to the com­ing years and pre­dict the as­sess­ment at the end of her term in of­fice will be that she was clearly one of our best.

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