Trudeau says no is­sues raised to pre­vent Payette from be­com­ing Gov­er­nor Gen­eral

The Western Star - - News / Canada - BY JOR­DAN PRESS

Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau ad­dressed the se­cre­tive process used to se­lect the next Gov­er­nor Gen­eral for the first time on Thurs­day, say­ing that noth­ing came up dur­ing the vet­ting of Julie Payette that he saw as a stum­bling block to her ap­point­ment.

Po­lit­i­cal ap­pointees are nor­mally run through a thor­ough vet­ting process de­signed to root out per­sonal his­tory that could be dam­ag­ing for the can­di­date and govern­ment should they become pub­lic. De­pend­ing on what is found, the govern­ment may move on to an­other can­di­date.

Trudeau said that Payette went through the same check as other high-pro­file po­lit­i­cal ap­pointees.

“The vet­ting process is deep and ex­ten­sive and raised ab­so­lutely no is­sues that would pre­vent her from be­ing Gov­er­nor Gen­eral. She will make an ex­tra­or­di­nary Gov­er­nor Gen­eral,” Trudeau said at an event in Bar­rie, Ont.

He didn’t say if the check turned up two in­ci­dents re­vealed this week: a dis­missed charge of sec­ond-de­gree as­sault when she lived in Mary­land in 2011 — Payette has called the as­sault charge “un­founded,” not­ing that she was “im­me­di­ately cleared” — and a fa­tal car ac­ci­dent in which Payette was not found at fault.

Nor did he say if he talked with Payette about either in­ci­dent.

“Ob­vi­ously, our heart goes out to the fam­ily af­fected by this tragic ac­ci­dent. It was a ter­ri­ble and tragic thing and we know that Mme. Payette ac­tu­ally per­son­ally reached out to share her con­do­lences with the fam­ily sub­se­quent to the ac­ci­dent,” Trudeau said.

Trudeau said his dis­cus­sions with Payette re­volved around her vi­sion for the coun­try and what she would do in the role of Gov­er­nor Gen­eral.

Payette is one of Canada’s most no­table as­tro­nauts and pub­lic speak­ers, has re­ceived nu­mer­ous ac­co­lades for her achieve­ments, and speaks six lan­guages. She will suc­ceed Gov. Gen. David John­ston when the out­go­ing vicere­gal re­tires in the fall.

Con­ser­va­tive Leader An­drew Scheer said he had full trust in Payette, and backed Trudeau’s de­ci­sion to ap­point her. But he added the prime min­is­ter should an­swers ques­tions about the ap­point­ment process to help Cana­di­ans understand what went into his de­ci­sion.

John­ston’s name had been put for­ward by a com­mit­tee struck by for­mer prime min­is­ter Stephen Harper. Trudeau de­cided to ap­point Payette with­out the same ex­pert com­mit­tee, so how her name came up re­mains un­clear.

Re­ports of the fa­tal car ac­ci­dent added a new di­men­sion Thurs­day to the ques­tions Trudeau has faced all week about Payette, ini­tially fo­cused on his thoughts about the dis­missed as­sault charge, given his pre­vi­ous comments con­demn­ing ha­rass­ment, bul­ly­ing and vi­o­lence of any kind.

An on­line back­ground check search shows that Payette was charged with sec­ond de­gree as­sault on Nov. 24, 2011. The pros­e­cu­tor for­mally dis­missed the charge about two weeks later.

The on­line records don’t de­tail what led to the charge. The records also don’t turn up in of­fi­cial Mary­land records searches, sug­gest­ing they were ex­punged from the pub­lic record.

In a state­ment is­sued through Rideau Hall this week, Payette de­clined to com­ment.

“For fam­ily and per­sonal rea­sons, I will not com­ment on these un­founded charges, of which I was im­me­di­ately and com­pletely cleared many years ago, and I hope that people will re­spect my pri­vate life.”

In July 2011, Payette was in­volved in a fa­tal car ac­ci­dent that killed a 55-year-old woman, Theresa Agnes Potts. Ac­ci­dent re­ports pro­vided by the St. Mary’s County sher­iff’s de­part­ment show that Payette had a green light when Potts ran across the in­ter­sec­tion with her head down and likely didn’t see Payette’s Volk­swa­gen Touareg be­fore the ac­ci­dent.

A po­lice in­ves­ti­ga­tion found Payette tried to brake and swerve out of the way, but didn’t have enough time to avoid a col­li­sion. She was not on a phone at the time.

Potts’ sis­ter told in­ves­ti­ga­tors that the vic­tim, who was on her way to an Al­co­holics Anony­mous meet­ing, likely didn’t see Payette’s car be­cause Potts had an eye con­di­tion that im­paired her vi­sion in one eye and was blind in the other. Potts’ sis­ter told an of­fi­cer the in­ci­dent was “such a tragic ac­ci­dent.”


Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau shares a laugh with for­mer astro­naut, and Gov­er­nor Gen­eral des­ig­nate, Julie Payette, on Par­lia­ment Hill in Ot­tawa July 13.

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