An editorial by Mel Rothenburger.
THERE’S A VACANCY in the Governor-General’s office after Julie Payette “resigned” over allegations she created a toxic work environment among her staff.
Working for Payette was, apparently, hell. An investigation has confirmed that as a fact, though details haven’t been released. She’s the first gov-gen in our history to be forced out of the job due to scandal, losing her annual salary of $290,000 and associated benefits like free laundry service.
Payette will land on her feet, though, thanks to an annual pension of $143,000 plus a generous expense allowance. A lot of us would love to have a pension like that.
Certain previous governors-general, including Adrienne Clarkson (who, by the way, once visited Kamloops after the terrible wildfires of 2003), have been notorious spendthrifts, racking up hundreds of thousands of dollars on the taxpayers’ dime.
For example, she billed a half million dollars for secretarial help over a relatively short period of time after she left the post. That tab eventually hit more than a million.
Payette hasn’t been stingy with our money, either, spending tens of thousands on travel and an astounding $649,000 on her swearing-in ceremony.
The free-spending ways of Clarkson are hard enough to stomach, but continuing to pay the shot for a gov-gen who was forced to quit, as is the case with Payette, is doubly tough to take. Supposedly, she didn’t even like the job.
After allegations first came to light, I suggested Canada needs a governor-general but not Payette, who squandered all the initial goodwill she enjoyed at the time of her appointment. Certainly, she, or he, plays a crucial role in times of political crisis, but other democratic systems survive without one.
Maybe it is time to take a hard look at whether the role is needed. At the very least, it’s high time the gov-gen gravy train was pulled into the station for a major overhaul.
Mel Rothenburger is a former mayor of Kamloops and a retired newspaper editor. He is a regular contributor to CFJC Today, publishes the ArmchairMayor.ca opinion website, and is a director on the Thompson-Nicola Regional District board. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.