Gov. Gen. Julie Payette reads the speech from the throne in Ottawa on Dec. 5, 2019. (The Canadian Press)

BARKER: Payette’s departure a good opportunity to reexamine role of GG

Recent issues at Rideau Hall should give us reason to reflect on what we want from the office

She seemed like such a good choice.

Astronauts, in general, I think are eminently qualified for high public office. The dedication, perseverence, intelligence, skill and patriotism it takes just to actually achieve something that millions of children dream of, few wind up actually aspiring to, fewer still seriously contend for and only a tiny percentage of those even come close to, is truly remarkable.

And those who do achieve it don’t just become space travellers, they are ambassadors not just for their nations, but for humanity in general.

So, for someone like Julie Payette, governer general appeared to be a good fit, so good, in fact, the prime minister decided to forgo due dilgence. Oops.

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Of course, the kind of driven personality it takes to become an astronaut, can also translate into toxic, which it apparently did in this case.

I imagine her former staff are feeling incredibly relieved right now.

I know of what I speak. I had the misfortune of working for someone like that. It is, to say the least, traumatic.

I clung to that job way longer than I ever should have. In fact, in retrospect, the red flags were there from the very beginning. I never should have taken the job in the first place, but it paid really well and it kept me in the profession I love at a time I was facing another potential career change.

When he fired me for the sixth time and it actually stuck, despite not having a job also being a traumatic experience, it was like a huge weight had been lifted from my shoulders.

I never saw eye to eye with Stephen Harper on many things, but he did have some good ideas. One of those was having an independent panel to vet and select governers general.

If we are going to have a governor general, that should be reinstated, for sure.

But now that we are temporarily without one, maybe it is a good opportunity to reexamine whether we need one or what the office’s role should be.

On the one hand, the position is a vestige of our colonial past, the representative of a monarch we no longer bow to, a more or less powerless figurehead.

On the other hand, I don’t think it’s a bad idea to have an apolitical head of state, even if it is largely ceremonial. Not that any person is ever truly apolitical, but the office is. The GG is basically our top diplomat and for the right person, being apolitical in the role is not a state of being but a skill.

The governor general is also the manager of Rideau Hall, one of two official royal residences maintained by the federal government.

But it is not just that, it is also the location for official state affairs, such as receiving foreign heads of state.

Rideau Hall and the beautiful grounds are also ours, the Canadian people’s. As an aside, I’ve always said every Canadian should at some point in their lives visit Ottawa, it is a beautiful city and it is a beautiful city because we are all paying for it to be so.

In any event, this latest fiasco with the former GG should give us pause to reflect. Nothing should be sacrosanct.

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