Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has officially announced former astronaut Julie Payette as the next Governor General of Canada.
Payette was alongside Trudeau in front of the Senate as the announcement was made. The appointment was leaked yesterday by CBC.
Payette, who speaks 6 languages and was the first Canadian to go aboard the International Space Station, will take office in September, succeeding David Johnston. She will first meet with the Queen, where she will be formally asked to be her representative in Canada.
Trudeau said Payette “stood out,” and called her a “champion of science,” and a leader “in the Canadian Space Agency.” He also referred to her tenure as the Chief Astronaut of the Canadian Space Agency. He said Payette’s life was dedicated to “dreaming big, and what matters most.” He also said that she was “unquestionably qualified,” and “would be an excellent Governor General.”
Trudeau also paid his respects to David Johnston and his wife, Sharon Johnston, saying they were “exceptional and graceful” in their service to Canada.
Payette called the appointment a “great honour,” and expressed her thanks to the Queen and the Prime Minister for their choice. She called Canada from Outer Space a “breathtaking beauty,” but you do not see Canada’s internal divisions and borders,” only the “details, glorious and free.” She went on to say she would bring all her “enthusiasm and humility to the job.” Payette also paid a tribute to Johnston, calling him a “giant in the field,” and “difficult to replace.”
As the Governor General of Canada, Payette will have the power to prorogue as well as summon and dissolve parliament, with her main duty being to ensure that Canada has a Prime Minister. In the event of a minority government or hung parliament, it will be Payette’s choice which party she will call on to form government or if to call for another election. In addition, Payette will grant royal assent to bills and attend ceremonial events across the country. The Governor General is also the Commander in Chief of Canada.
Payette served as the Director of the Montreal Science Centre as well as on the board of the National Bank of Canada. She left the Canadian Space Agency four years ago, having joined it in 1992. She is a licensed pilot.
Previous Governors General have taken up philanthropic causes, which Payette is also expected to do.
Speaking following the announcement, Trudeau faced questions over the appointment process. Former Prime Minister Stephen Harper created a non-partisan panel to select David Johnston, which prompted questions over the appointment of Payette behind closed doors. Trudeau said that he met with Canadians “across the country,” and it was apparent to him that she would make “an excellent servant to the country.”
In response to questions about expectations that the Governor General would be Indigenous, Payette said that she would be dedicated to Canada’s core value, “tolerance,” and was excited to meet Canadians across the country. She also hinted at the focus for her tenure, saying it would likely do with the sciences and innovation.
Trudeau said the two talked about “their hopes for Canada” in the weeks before the appointment, and it became clear they “shared values and techniques.”
Trudeau also faced questions about the inclusion of Indigenous peoples in the selection process, saying that reconciliation also had to involve non-Indigenous peoples along with Indigenous peoples. He did not answer whether or not there were Indigenous candidates on the shortlist.
(Image: The Toronto Star)