Julie Payette is a remarkably gifted and successful Canadian. The now-exited governor general and former astronaut is appropriately feted for having brought honour to Canada and motivating a generation of youth to believe their dreams, when accompanied by dedication and commitment, are within reach.
That would be the public file concerning Payette, and the resume that so won over this nation’s prime minister that he chose to overlook, or perhaps only peripherally scan, significant events in her life that cast a negative shadow on Payette’s human interaction skillset.
At both the Montreal Science Centre, where she was chief operating officer until her resignation in 2016, and the Canadian Olympic Committee, where Payette in the same year was appointed to the board, complaints about her treatment of staff were brought forward, and in the case of the COC, twice investigated.
As the result of inadequate vetting, the monarch, prime minister, opposition political parties and the Canadian people have all been hauled into the coliseum of critical public discourse.
Stories surrounding the third-party report of toxicity at Rideau Hall dominate the news cycle.
Given the circumstances of Payette’s exit, parliamentary opposition parties are challenging whether she should receive yearly payments of $150,000 as stipulated in the Governor General’s Act.
A public debate has ensued. Is the annual pension amount appropriate, given the nature of Payette’s clouded resignation?
If my listener emails may serve as a barometer, the answer is a firm no/non.
However, while la cause Payette is of national and constitutional significance, it is hardly the sole example of misfires in our nation’s offices of highest responsibility.
Indeed, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s ethical and professional luggage is scarred.
He has two confirmed violations of parliamentary conflict of interest legislation on record. The first was when Trudeau and his family accepted two 2016 vacations at the private Bahamas island of the Agha Khan, whose Agha Khan Foundation is registered as a federal government lobbyist. The second dates from 2019, when Trudeau attempted to influence then-federal minister of justice Jody Wilson-Raybould in the criminal case involving Quebec engineering firm SNC-Lavalin.
“The authority of the prime minister and his office was used to circumvent, undermine and ultimately attempt to discredit the decision of the director of public prosecutions as well as the authority of Ms. Wilson‑Raybould as the Crown’s chief law officer,” ethics commissioner Mario Dion wrote in the SNC-Lavalin decision.
A third investigation involving Trudeau continues as Dion reviews the PM’s actions in the WE Charity scandal.
On the issue of personal interaction, there also remains the complaint by Celina Caesar-Chavannes, elected as an Ontario Liberal MP in 2015 and named parliamentary secretary to the prime minister. She said that when she informed Trudeau of her intent to not seek re-election, she was met with “hostility and anger.”
Meanwhile, the private sector is not without its miscreants.
Steve Easterbrook resigned as CEO of McDonald’s in 2019 after confirming a company policy violation by engaging in a consensual relationship with an employee.
Forbes.com would in 2020 report additional Easterbrook sexual relationships with other McDonald’s employees and covering up of his actions. According to Forbes “the allegations included dozens of explicit photographs and videos of different women, including some McDonald’s employees. Easterbrook allegedly sent these images as attachments to his personal email account from his work account.”
Film producer Harvey Weinstein was sentenced to 23 years imprisonment for rape and sexual abuse. Roger Ailes, chairman and CEO of U.S. cable powerhouse Fox News, resigned after numerous accusations of sexual harassment by employees.
In Canada, L’affaire Payette is not yet over and not nearly off the public radar. Nor should it be.
What remains encouraging is that neither high office, nor significant personal influence, appear any longer to be above reaping sanction for bullying, belittling and disrespect.
Roy Green is the host of the Roy Green Show on the Global News Radio network.