In space, it has been suggested, no one can hear you scream.
Perhaps that’s why Julie Payette was more suited to work as an astronaut than as Canada’s Governor General, a largely ceremonial role that demands restraint and tact and grace and civility but seeks very little in the way of raised voices or belligerent histrionics.
Owing to her accomplishments beyond the stratosphere, as a Canadian astronaut who flew two missions in space, Ms. Payette gained legitimate celebrity and was viewed by many in this country as a hero and an inspiration. That fame was enough, it seems, to convince Prime Minister Justin Trudeau she was the right person to appoint to the position of Governor General in 2017.
Had he not abandoned the previously entrenched process that saw a panel of experts recommend suitable candidates for the vice-regal position, opting instead to hand-pick the successor to David Johnston himself, Mr. Trudeau might have been apprised of numerous terrestrial failings — most notably allegations of abusive behaviour at her previous jobs at the Montreal Science Centre and the Canadian Olympic Committee — that made Ms. Payette a less than ideal choice to be the Queen’s representative in Canada.
History will now show the choice to have been a disastrous one from the outset. Early on, and throughout her abbreviated tenure as Governor General, it was clear that Ms. Payette, despite having accepted the job, had very little interest in actually doing the job.
She initially refused to live at Rideau Hall, the governor general’s official residence. She was slow to embrace many of the ceremonial aspects of the position. She seemed uncomfortable with the public demands, attention and security requirements that are part of the vice-regal existence.
Much worse than all of that, however, were the reports that surfaced describing a toxic workplace that had been created by Ms. Payette and her close friend and second in command, Assunta Di Lorenzo. Media reports last year described more than a dozen public servants and former staffers who had complained of bullying, insults and public humiliation at the hands of Ms. Payette.
An outside consulting firm was hired to investigate, and its report — apparently a scathing assessment — was submitted to the federal government this week, prompting the chain of events that led to her resignation.
Here on Earth, it seems, far too many people heard Ms. Payette scream. While the report in its entirety will likely never be made public, there was clearly enough damning information in its conclusions to prompt the prime minister to meet with Ms. Payette on Wednesday.
Mr. Trudeau reportedly asked for the Governor General’s resignation; shortly afterward, Ms. Payette confirmed that was her immediate intention. That her statement, including a vaguely worded apology for "tensions (that) have arisen at Rideau Hall," fell far short of an admission of wrongdoing or an acceptance of the report’s conclusions — "We all experience things differently, but we should always strive to do better" was about as much acknowledgement as Ms. Payette could muster — will be of only minor significance moving forward. She has left a job for which she was decidedly ill-suited, and an more appropriate figure will be identified and — hopefully — properly vetted to replace her.
The fault in this imperial ignominy belongs squarely to Ms. Payette, but blame for setting it in motion falls to Mr. Trudeau. His pompous disregard for the conventions of choosing governors general created a crisis that put the institution at risk. Any further shouting should rightly be directed his way.