New Brunswick RCMP are investigating a complaint of “financial irregularities” inside the New Brunswick lieutenant-governor’s office.
The Mounties declined to provide any more information beyond a brief statement issued on Thursday.
“RCMP did receive a complaint of financial irregularities and we’re looking into the matter,” said Sgt. Mario Maillet, a spokesperson for the RCMP.
Jocelyne Roy Vienneau, New Brunswick’s 31st lieutenant-governor, died after a battle with cancer. The position has remained empty since, reaching an unprecedented 20 days as of Thursday.
The office of the lieutenant-governor is funded by the provincial and federal governments.
It’s unclear if the delay in appointing a new lieutenant-governor is related to the investigation but the vacancy does have consequences for the New Brunswick government.
“What it means is that no senior executive decisions can be made by cabinet,” said Lyle Skinner, a parliamentary procedural expert.
“So anything that requires the signature of the lieutenant governor, so that can range from appointments to enacting regulations or orders in council, they can’t occur.”
Tyler Campbell, a spokesperson for the province, said there are no outstanding appointments that are awaiting the lieutenant-governor’s signature.
But Skinner points out that the Royal Gazette, the official newspaper for the Canadian Government, showed no regulations filed in New Brunswick. Skinner says that is unusual for a government that’s not in a caretaker mode, such as during an election.
WATCH: State funeral held for New Brunswick Lt.-Gov. Jocelyne Roy Vienneau
The position of lieutenant-governor has long been considered to be symbolic — a nod to Canada’s historical relationship with the British monarchy — but it still can affect the political process of a government.
“Over the last year we’ve had a great crash course on how our system of government works in New Brunswick with the transition of government between the former Gallant government to the Higgs government which required discretionary powers of the lieutenant governor,” Skinner said.
The appointment of the lieutenant-governor is the purview of the federal government and a spokesperson for the Prime Minister’s Office says they will make a decision as soon as possible.
“We recognize the importance of appointing a new Lieutenant-Governor for the people of New Brunswick. We will of course announce the nominee as soon as possible,” wrote Matt Pascuzzo in an email Wednesday.
Normally when a lieutenant-governor is unable to perform their duties a temporary administrator is brought in to pick up the slack. But the language of the constitution does not allow for that process when the position is empty.
“The administrator, that’s a person, normally a court of appeal judge who takes over if the lieutenant-governor is ill or unable to fulfill their duties, can’t in the event that the office is vacant. That’s a quirk of the constitution,” Skinner said.
“The only way to fix that would be to amend the constitution which would require the consent of all ten provinces and both houses of parliament.”
Roy Vienneau was previously the vice-president at the University of Moncton’s Shippagan campus, as well the assistant deputy minister of post-secondary education in New Brunswick’s Department of Education.
She also held several positions at the College Communautaire du Nouveau-Brunswick in Bathurst, including the director general and dean of education.
The office of Premier Blaine Higgs referred a request for comment on the RCMP investigation to the Mounties.