Conservative leader Erin O’Toole says former governor general Julie Payette should not get access to the expense account traditionally granted to those who held the post for full terms, given she resigned early.
In a press conference Monday morning, O’Toole was asked directly about whether Payette deserves access to the expenses, which are not required to be fully disclosed to the public and which have come under increasing scrutiny over recent years after high claims from former governors general.
“She resigned her role. She should not be able to access the normal courtesies provided to governor generals,” said O’Toole, before questioning whether the topic of expenses might be one that was raised in the meetings where Payette was urged to resign.
“The office, sadly, has been sullied. We are in a minority parliament. We had a very non-partisan committee that looked at vice-regal appointments. (Prime Minister Trudeau) should go back to that, but at the bare minimum he should consult other parties and he should tell Canadians whether he guaranteed, as part of the deal for her to resign, whether he guaranteed her these funds and benefits.”
The standard term for a governor general is five years.
Payette resigned late last week after just three-and-a-half, amid what sources describe as a “scathing” review into allegations of bullying and “toxic” workplace behaviour at the governor general’s residence, Rideau Hall.
Global News asked Prime Minister Justin Trudeau last week whether he plans to change any of the rules around the expense program in light of Payette’s conduct and early resignation.
He gave no clear answer.
“This country has very clear rules and regulations and processes and procedures in place to follow in these cases of reporting expenses or indeed on annuities for governor generals,” Trudeau said.
“Those processes will be followed but obviously we’re always open to having discussions on changes that need to be made moving forward.”
Trudeau also would not offer an apology to the staffers at Rideau Hall when pressed to do so.
NDP leader Jagmeet Singh called on Trudeau to apologize on Monday given Payette was appointed on his recommendation, and after a vetting process that failed to identify multiple red flags including past allegations of workplace bullying which were later uncovered by journalists.
Singh said giving Payette an expense account and the annual annuity she is set to receive amount to “rewarding” bad behaviour, and said Canadians are concerned about the example it sets.
In addition to getting an annuity as laid out in the Governor General Act, former governors general also get access to a program that reimburses the expenses they incur after leaving office.
The rough outline of the program is clear, but the details are not.
A spokesperson for the Office of the Secretary for the Governor General said the expense program has been around since 1979, when the Treasury Board permitted the government to “provide administrative support to former governors general for their activities related to their former role.”
“Once governors general end their mandate, there remains an expectation that they continue to serve as Canadian leading figures,” said Rob McKinnon, spokesperson for the office.
“This expectation of continued public life means that they are regularly solicited to support various causes, take part in important events and undertake official activities. Administrative support is necessary to coordinate the public engagements and continued work expected by Canadians.”
The expenses program covers “reasonable and justified administrative expenses” through the budget allotted to the Office of the Secretary of the Governor General, which McKinnon said typically range from “administrative support, office space and furniture, to professional services, travel and accommodation.”
Receipts and invoices must be provided — but the specifics of what can be claimed and whether there are any limits on how much can be claimed are unclear.