Freeland sidesteps question about her confidence in GG Payette
OTTAWA -- Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland sidestepped a question on Friday about whether she has confidence in Governor General Julie Payette amid allegations of harassment and aggressive behaviour within her office.
Freeland instead said that she believes in the role that the Governor General plays within Canada’s constitution.
"I believe that function, having that function, having that role has served our country, very, very well over time. And I think Canadians have a great respect for the Office of the Governor General, and I have that respect, as well, " she said during a press conference.
Payette’s office has been under fire over the last several weeks after anonymous staffers at Rideau Hall told CBC News that Payette created a toxic atmosphere and yelled at employees, sometimes reducing them to tears and prompting them to quit. CBC News has also reported that more than $250,000 was spent on privacy and security upgrades at her official residence yet Payette still hasn't moved in.
When pressed again about whether she stands by Payette, Freeland took a pause and repeated her earlier statement.
"Canadians, understand and appreciate the way our system of government, our constitutional system works. The Governor General, the Office of the Governor General plays a very important role in that system and I think like the overwhelming majority of Canadians, I have a great deal of respect for that office and for that role."
Freeland also stated that generally, public officials should consider how they spend taxpayer dollars.
“All of us who have the privilege of serving Canadians have to really be mindful that when we spend money, we are spending the money of Canadians and we have to be very, very thoughtful about that, very careful about that,” Freeland said. “Canadians absolutely have the right to look carefully about how we spend Canadians’ money.”
Liberal MPs, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, have for the most part stayed mum regarding the allegations but have encouraged a wholesome investigation into the matter.
"Every Canadian has the right to a safe, secure workspace, free from harassment and that is extremely important," Trudeau said in the House of Commons in late July.
"That's why we moved forward on June 22 with announcements on strengthening the oversight in federally regulated agencies and environments, including the public service."
Opposition leaders have weighed in calling on the prime minister to take immediate action and launch an independent inquiry.
"The stories shared by the workers at Rideau Hall are so troubling that the prime minister has a role to play," NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said. "The prime minister can show leadership. Will the prime minister show leadership and launch an independent investigation?"
The Privy Council Office has since launched its own probe, which Payette has said she welcomes.
CTVNews.ca has reached out to Payette’s office for further comment.
With files from CTV News’ Ben Cousins and Rachel Aiello