Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland says Julie Payette’s access to a six-figure expense account is being reviewed in the wake of her resignation as governor general following a blistering outside report on the workplace environment at Rideau Hall.
Under the Governor General’s Act, former vice-regals are entitled to an annuity which, according to the 2020 Public Accounts, amounts to $149,484 per year.
They are also given access to a lifetime expense program for office and travel expenses — a program that grew out of a Treasury Board decision in 1979.
Documents obtained by the National Post in 2018 show that each former governor general is allowed to claim up to $206,000 per year under the program.
In an interview with CBC News’ Power & Politics host Vassy Kapelos, Freeland said that former governors general are legally entitled to the annuity.
“It is buttressed by laws and those laws include the pension to which all former governor generals are entitled. That’s just the law and I think we all agree we need to follow the law,” she said.
“In terms of the other aspects of the life of someone who has served as governor general after they are no longer serving as governor general, all of those issues are under careful consideration.”
When asked specifically about the expense account, Freeland said “everything is under careful consideration.”
“It is going to be important for our government, and what I can 100 per cent commit to Canadians is we’re going to follow the law here and the legal entitlements are entitlements we’re going to honour, because we believe in honouring Canada’s political institutions,” she said.
“The important thing at this point is not what I think. It is what the rules are, and that is something that is being looked into very carefully right now.”
Opposition questions Payette’s access to funds
A Rideau Hall spokesperson said the expense account is meant for former governor generals who continue to serve the public after they step down or retire.
“Once governors general end their mandate, there remains an expectation that they continue to serve as Canadian leading figures. 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,” said Rideau Hall spokesperson Rob McKinnon.
“When submitting claims for reimbursement, supporting documentation are provided, including original receipts and invoices. Reasonable expenses of secretarial and temporary help services are reimbursed to all former Governors General through the Office of the Secretary to the Governor General.”
In a shock move, Payette and her secretary, Assunta di Lorenzo, resigned Thursday after an outside workplace review of Rideau Hall probed claims that she had belittled, berated and publicly humiliated Rideau Hall staff.
Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole questioned Payette’s access to the fund, given the report’s findings.
“She resigned her role, she should not be able to access the normal courtesies provided to governors general,” he told reporters Monday morning ahead of Parliament resuming.
“The office, sadly, has been sullied.”
Both O’Toole and NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau needs to tell the public whether he and Payette came to an agreement before she resigned.
“There’s a couple things that people are really upset about,” Singh said today. “One is that the governor general resigned and, secondly, resigned in light of a report that shows some really troubling examples of harassment of staff and poor work conditions.
“Given those two elements, people are wondering why would someone receive what seems like a reward for this really bad behaviour.
“So really, this question has to be directed to Justin Trudeau. What was the agreement that he put in place that precipitated the resignation?”
CBC has requested comment from the Prime Minister’s Office.
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