Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Saturday August 8, 2020
More than $250K spent on Gov. Gen. Julie Payette’s demands for privacy at Rideau Hall
Hundreds of thousands of dollars have been spent to satisfy Gov. Gen. Julie Payette’s need for privacy at Rideau Hall, but she still hasn’t moved into her official residence almost three years into her five-year mandate.
CBC News has learned new details about costs the public is incurring to meet Payette’s requirements before she agrees to move in.
They include almost $140,000, spent studying and designing a private staircase that was never built, and more than $117,500 on a gate and series of doors to keep people away from Payette’s office, according to the National Capital Commission (NCC), which manages the official vice-regal residence.
Those costs go well beyond the usual transition expenses, which normally involve some fresh paint and new furniture, according to multiple sources with knowledge of the project. Those sources asked for confidentiality because they are not authorized to publicly discuss Rideau Hall’s requests.
They paint a portrait of a Governor General who is uncomfortable with being in the constant presence of staff, RCMP security and, to some extent, the public.
Governors general have to accept a degree of privacy loss when they take on the vice-regal role.
Much of the verdant grounds of Rideau Hall are open to the public, who wander freely around what is seen in the national capital as a public park. Family picnics and pick-up football games abound on any particular summer day.
But Payette “wanted to come and go without anyone seeing her,” said one source with knowledge of the project.
According to multiple sources, Payette doesn’t like maintenance workers in her line of sight. Even RCMP paid to protect Payette are no longer allowed to stand directly outside her office door and must hide in a room down the hallway, according to a source with direct knowledge of the matter. Only some select staff currently have access to the restricted area by her office. (CBC)
Meanwhile, The Privy Council Office (PCO) has launched what it says will be a “thorough, independent and impartial” workplace probe into claims of harassment and verbal abuse in the office of Gov. Gen. Julie Payette.
The investigation follows a CBC News report that quoted unnamed sources saying Payette has created a toxic environment at Rideau Hall by verbally harassing employees to the point where some have been reduced to tears or have left the office altogether.
A dozen sources with direct knowledge of the office during Payette’s mandate told CBC News the Governor General has yelled at, belittled and publicly humiliated employees. They accuse her of throwing tantrums in the office and, on one occasion, tossing an employee’s work aside and calling it “shit.”
Sources also accused Payette’s secretary and longtime friend, Assunta Di Lorenzo, of harassing employees — calling some “lazy” and “incompetent.” (CBC)