Rideau Hall takes second look at hundreds of events in sweeping review
Governor General Julie Payette and CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie welcome the Grey Cup as it arrives at Rideau Hall in Ottawa on Tuesday, Nov. 21, 2017., as youth from Encounters With Canada look on. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Jordan Press and Terry Pedwell, The Canadian Press
Published Friday, May 4, 2018 1:11PM EDT
OTTAWA -- Rideau Hall is conducting a sweeping review of the schedule and honorary posts connected annually to the Governor General, to determine which will stay, which will go and which will be done differently.
A typical year for the Governor General involves more than 500 events, visits to dozens of communities, trips abroad, meetings on major national issues -- a pace that is blistering for the Queen's representative and the 150-strong support staff.
New governors general have reviewed those events to see what if any changes can be made. This time around, there are also many new support staff, including the top aide to Gov.-Gen. Julie Payette.
"When a new governor general takes office, it is a normal process for the office of the secretary to the governor general to define objectives for the new mandate and review the different events and activities," Rideau Hall spokeswoman Marie-Eve Letourneau said.
"The Governor General receives thousands of event invitations on an annual basis; each of these events is assessed individually, taking into account logistical and scheduling considerations."
But sources close to Rideau Hall are privately expressing concern the delays in finalizing details for events and patronage positions go beyond the normal hiccups that occur when there is a new viceregal and staff.
The delays have left groups waiting to see if Governor General will remain a patron of their organizations, and put in limbo planning for some events that take place annually at Rideau Hall, including a journalism award event created by a former head of state.
The Michener Award for public service journalism was created in 1970 by then-governor general Roland Michener and has been handed out annually for more than 10 years at a gala event at Rideau Hall.
Typically, the foundation that runs the event has a planning meeting at Rideau Hall in late April, announces the nominees and award date around now and then hands out the award in early June.
But this year a date has yet to be set because of the review. In a release announcing fellowship winners, the foundation said the award winner "will be announced during at ceremony held at a later time."
Foundation president Alan Allnutt said Rideau Hall informed the Michener award group that the Governor General was reviewing all awards ceremonies to see if events would be done differently.
Allnutt said organizers aren't panicking about the delay yet.
Longtime members of the foundation recall similar delays in the past, particularly when there was a new governor general, he said. And there have been years that the event wasn't held at Rideau Hall at all.
If anything changes, the foundation would likely need to know in two weeks, given it takes about three weeks to organize the award gala.
Payette has yet to move in to the official residence at Rideau Hall, which underwent a $1.7 million renovation to update heating and air conditioning systems, replace lights, make a washroom accessible, update furniture and install cabinets, according to the National Capital Commission, which oversees maintenance for the six official residences in and around Ottawa.
The work started in September and is expected to be done this spring. Payette's office couldn't confirm a date for when she will move in.
In the meantime, a federally funded agency is finalizing plans for the future of the prime minister's official residence.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his family now live at Rideau Cottage, a heritage home on the Rideau Hall grounds, on account of the well-documented repair needs at 24 Sussex Drive.
A spokesman for the National Capital Commission said officials are updating surveys of 24 Sussex, including the main home and four ancillary buildings, and testing for asbestos among other work "to ensure the federal government is able to make a prudent and informed decision" about what should happen to house.