November 14, 2019

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Julie Payette off to Africa; still no trip to Manitoba

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 12/10/2018 (397 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 12/10/2018 (397 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

OTTAWA — A year after becoming Governor General, Julie Payette will head to Africa this month, but still has no visit to Manitoba planned.

Payette will make state visits to Burkina Faso, the Ivory Coast and Nigeria, from Oct. 23 to 30, after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau asked her to visit those countries.

Governor General Julie Payette takes part in the annual Inspection of the Ceremonial Guard at Rideau Hall in Ottawa in August.

SEAN KILPATRICK / THE CANADIAN PRESS FILES

Governor General Julie Payette takes part in the annual Inspection of the Ceremonial Guard at Rideau Hall in Ottawa in August.

It will be the vice-regal's first trip to Africa. Despite being commander of the Canadian Armed Forces, Payette isn’t scheduled to visit Mali, where Canadian troops are taking part in a United Nations mission.

"It is already a busy visit. As such, we are planning to visit deployed troops in the coming months," wrote spokeswoman Marie-Ève Létourneau, who noted that Payette visited Canadian troops in Ukraine and Latvia in January.

Next week, Payette heads to Saskatchewan. In an Angus Reid survey that was released Friday, 34 per cent of Saskatchewan residents said they felt Payette had done a "bad job" in her role. That opinion was shared by 21 per cent of respondents nationwide, with almost as many saying she had done a "good job" — Manitoba echoed those trends.

Payette hasn't visited Manitoba during her first 12 months in office, a break with a tradition in which the governor general visits every province and most territories roughly within their first year.

Rideau Hall has said it is arranging a visit to Manitoba in early 2019. "Her goal is to conduct this visit as soon as possible," wrote Létourneau, adding it requires finding a time outside state visits, elections and budgets, when both the premier and lieutenant governor are available.

Létourneau has noted that former governor general Michaëlle Jean didn’t visit two provinces and the Yukon until three months past her first year.

There have been numerous media reports highlighting complaints about Payette’s work ethic. It has come to light that the Liberal party vetted Payette’s appointment, rather than an arm's-length advisory board; and Payette has an unusual arrangement in which she lives with a longtime friend, whom she has hired as her chief of staff.

Angus Reid polled 1,500 respondents online last week, including 100 Manitobans. The poll found that support for Payette tends to split along partisan lines, with Liberals rallying around her and Tories opposing her.

Manitoba echoed national response about whether Payette is "poorly suited" for the job (29 per cent) versus those who felt she "will eventually settle" into it (29 per cent). In Saskatchewan, 44 per cent said she isn’t a good pick.

Payette will visit Saskatchewan next week, including the town of Humboldt, whose hockey team was involved in a horrific bus crash last April in which 16 people died. Sources have told the Free Press that Payette’s staff had urged her to visit the town immediately after the bus tragedy.

Among the 25 per cent of Angus Reid respondents who said they had followed media coverage of Payette, 53 per cent said it was "a significant issue worthy of public discussion," while 29 per cent said the topic "has been overblown by the media."

dylan.robertson@freepress.mb.ca

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