Trudeau must look into complaints about Governor General, Singh says

Trudeau must look into complaints about Governor General, Singh says

Trudeau must look into complaints about Governor General, Singh says

OTTAWA — Allegations that Gov. Gen. Julie Payette mistreated staff members prompted calls for investigations of varying stripes on Wednesday, with one expert suggesting the matter should be dealt with quietly to preserve the integrity of the office.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh called on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to investigate the matter, while one Liberal cabinet minister said it was the job of Rideau Hall to probe the complaints.

Meanwhile, Philippe Lagasse, an expert of Westminster-style democracy, said it was in the interest of the country for Trudeau and Payette’s offices to resolve the matter behind closed doors to prevent more damage to the institution of the Governor General.

“Everybody’s best option right now is to try to deal with the issue decisively but discreetly,” said Lagasse, of the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs at Carleton University.

“You don’t want to turn this into a confrontation between the prime minister and the Governor General, nor do you want to be in a situation where the prime minister feels that he either needs to pressure the Governor General to resign or ultimately advise the Queen to dismiss her. It shouldn’t get there.”

The controversy erupted after a CBC News report that quoted anonymous sources as saying Payette has created a toxic environment at Rideau Hall.

The CBC reported Tuesday that Payette had yelled at, belittled and publicly humiliated employees, reducing some to tears or prompting them to quit.

Workplaces need to be safe, and employees must feel they are heard when they raise concerns, said Singh.

“I’m not being prescriptive about what the prime minister must do exactly. But there is no question there is an obligation, a responsibility of the prime minister in this case, with the Governor General and the complaints that we’ve seen, to do something, to follow up with those complaints,” he said.

“People should be able to feel safe to come forward. I think that’s always a struggle for people,” Singh added. “There needs to be some manner for someone independently to assess the complaints.”

Singh pressed Trudeau on the matter in the House of Commons but the prime minister did not specifically address it.

“Every Canadian has the right to a safe, secure workspace, free from harassment and that is extremely important,” Trudeau said.

“That’s why we moved forward on June 22 with announcements on strengthening the oversight in federally regulated agencies and environments, including the public service.”

Earlier Wednesday, Trudeau did not take questions as he entered the Commons. The Prime Minister’s Office declined Tuesday to answer questions about the report but said every Canadian has the right to work in a healthy, respectful and safe environment.

Lagasse said as long as new allegations don’t surface against Payette and other parties don’t pile on, the matter could be resolved without doing damage to the governor general’s office.

But if the office is undermined, that would have ramifications if Payette were called upon to decide a dispute on who should form a government in a continuing minority parliament scenario.

If the Trudeau government were defeated in a confidence motion and the prime minister asked Payette to call an election but the opposition wanted to form a government, it would be a reasonable for Payette to side with Trudeau because it has been more than six months since the last election, said Lagasse.

“So, let’s just imagine that in the subsequent election, the Conservatives had more seats, but the Liberals chose to stay in power,” he added. “If there’s any sense that somehow she’s been placed in a position where she has to side with the current prime minister or anything to that effect, any perception of that would make her decision more difficult.”

Economic Development Minister Melanie Joly, who used to oversee relations with Rideau Hall in her previous portfolio at Canadian Heritage, said she was surprised by the allegations, and she clung to the government’s line that all workplaces should be harassment-free.

“I value the work of the Governor General, and that’s Julie Payette,” Joly said. “Rideau Hall needs to look into this very, very carefully … Rideau Hall needs to address the issue and my understanding is that they went out with a statement today.”

The CBC reported that Payette’s secretary sent a memo to Rideau Hall employees on Wednesday promising to improve the working environment.

That followed a public statement Tuesday, which said Rideau Hall strongly believes in the importance of a healthy workplace, adding the CBC story stands in stark contrast to the reality of working at the Office of the Secretary to the Governor General.

“We deeply regret this reporting, which is in stark contrast to the reality of working at the OSGG, and obscures the important work done by our dedicated staff in honouring, representing, and showcasing Canadians,” said the Rideau Hall statement.

Rideau Hall said it has “stringent internal processes for our employees to voice concerns” through its human resources department, an independent ombudsman, and its “excellent relationships” with the unions that represent employees.

“Since the beginning of the mandate, no formal complaint regarding harassment has been made through any of these channels,” the statement said.

Rideau Hall said it has a lower turnover compared with other departments, and that one of the benefits of being in the public service is the ability to move to different departments.

The statement said that is “something that is personally encouraged by the Governor General, who believes that career growth and opportunity are vitally important.”

Adam Vaughan, a Toronto Liberal MP, said a thorough investigation needs to take place but he said it was “tricky one” to decide who should lead it.

“The allegations are serious, and they deserve a serious response and a serious investigation.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 22, 2020.

Mike Blanchfield and Stephanie Levitz, The Canadian Press

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

UCP MLA for Lacombe-Ponoka Ron Orr. (File photo)
MLA Ron Orr: Benchmarks were achieved but goalposts were moved

Orr responds to concerns, calls on province to fully open Step 2

Alberta's chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw says Albertans need to keep making safe choices to start bending the curve back down. (Photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
One new COVID-19 death in Red Deer, 257 additional cases province-wide

Red Deer sits at 459 active cases of the virus

(Black Press file photo)
Blackfalds continuing its fight for a registries office

The Town of Blackfalds has been fighting for a Registry Service outlet for roughly a decade

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said Thursday that the province may consider a regional approach to loosening COVID-19 restrictions if numbers continue to decline. (photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Province further easing health restrictions

Numbers of people hospitalized and in intensive care has dropped dramatically, says premier

A health-care worker looks at a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at the Palais de Congress site as Quebec begins mass vaccinations based on age across the province, Monday, March 1, 2021 in Montreal.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Nearly 1 million COVID-19 vaccine doses arriving in Canada this week: Anand

Anita Anand says she’s received assurances from the vaccine manufacturer

A vial of some of the first 500,000 of the two million AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine doses that Canada has secured through a deal with the Serum Institute of India in partnership with Verity Pharma at a facility in Milton, Ont., on Wednesday, March 3, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Carlos Osorio - POOL
Federal panel recommends 4-month gap between COVID vaccine doses due to limited supply

The recommendation applies to all COVID-19 vaccines currently approved in Canada

hands
The call is out in Rimbey to sign on with a group that is all about building connections

‘Already, we are building a network where we can rely on each other and help each other out’

FILE - Dolly Parton arrives at the 61st annual Grammy Awards on Feb. 10, 2019, in Los Angeles. The Grammy-winning singer, actor and humanitarian posted a video on Tuesday, March 2, 2021, of her singing just before getting her COVID-19 vaccine shot. Parton donated $1 million to Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee for coronavirus research. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP, File)
‘Vaccine, vaccine’: Dolly sings ‘Jolene’ rewrite before shot

The Grammy-winning legend turned 75 this year

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland speaks about the Fiscal update during a news conference in Ottawa, Monday November 30, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
COVID-19: Wage and rent subsidies, lockdown support to be extended until June

Chrystia Freeland says now is not time to lower levels of support

Many rural seniors are having to travel a long way to get vaccinated against COVID-19. Stettler residents are being told to go to Red Deer, Drumheller or Camrose. (Black Press file photo).
Rural central Alberta seniors have to travel far to get vaccines

Stettler residents are being directed to Red Deer, Drumheller or Camrose clinics

Samantha Sharpe, 25, was stabbed to death at Sunchild First Nation on Dec. 12, 2018. Chelsey Lagrelle was sentenced to 4.5 years in prison for manslaughter in a Red Deer courtroom on Tuesday. Photo contributed
Central Alberta woman sentenced to 4 1/2 years for stabbing friend to death in 2018

Chelsey Lagrelle earlier pleaded guilty to stabbing Samantha Sharpe during argument

Calgary police say they received 80 hate crime complaints between January and November 2020. (Pixabay)
‘Racism is a real problem:’ Muslim women fearful following attacks in Edmonton

So far in 2021, three of seven hate-crime-related investigations have involved Somali-Muslim women

Alberta Minister of Health Tyler Shandro speaks during a news conference in Calgary on May 29, 2020. Shandro says Alberta is considering whether to extend the time between COVID-19 vaccine shots to four months. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Alberta may follow B.C.’s lead on faster rollout of first COVID-19 dose

Tyler Shandro says a committee of COVID-19 experts is analyzing emerging data and a decision is coming

Most Read