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Julie Payette Debacle Shows Need For Better Vetting Process: Minister

Julie Payette Debacle Shows Need For Better Vetting Process: Minister
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OTTAWA Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc concedes Julie Payettes 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 Payettes tenure shows that the vetting system for such appointments needs to be strengthened.

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

Julie Payette, then governor general, takes part in the Remembrance Day ceremony at the National War Memorial in Ottawa on Nov. 11, 2019.

Trudeau can expect to be pummelled with questions about his judgment and his governments failure to check with Payettes 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 Payettes 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 hasnt had time yet to reflect on the best way to choose Payettes successor. The government will have more to say on that likely next week, he said.

Trudeaus 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 OToole a chance to see if he can command the confidence of the House of Commons.

Julie Payette, then governor general, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau look on during a swearing in ceremony in Ottawa on Aug. 18, 2020.

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. Still, LeBlanc said the government intends to move quickly to find a successor.

We recognize also the need to be expeditious, not to have the chief justice acting in this role for a period of months. I dont think that would be appropriate.

The government does not intend to release the report just yet due to privacy issues and the promises of confidentiality made to all complainants, LeBlanc said. But it will eventually release a redacted version of the report in response to requests made under the Access to Information Act.

While he wouldnt go into details, LeBlanc said the report found Rideau Hall was obviously an unacceptable workplace.

Public servants who work for the government of Canada have the right to a secure, safe and healthy workplace and we are adamant ... that that standard be upheld at every institution of the government of Canada.

He said the report painted a picture that was not consistent with that standard.

The Senate recently agreed to pay $498,000 in compensation to nine former employees of ex-senator Don Meredith, who was accused of sexually harassing, belittling and humiliating his staff.

He said such questions will be handled by senior PCO officials, who are planning to talk with all employees at Rideau Hall to plan next steps forward.

A Buckingham Palace spokesperson said Friday that The Queen is being kept informed and will leave the matter in the hands of the Canadian government.
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