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Governor-General designate David Johnston makes brief remarks outside the Senate on Parliament Hill in Ottawa. (Adrian Wyld/Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)
Governor-General designate David Johnston makes brief remarks outside the Senate on Parliament Hill in Ottawa. (Adrian Wyld/Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

Norman Spector

David Johnston is no partisan appointee Add to ...

Perusing the front page of my morning read, I find news below the World Cup of an extraordinary e-mail Dmitri Soudas sent out yesterday concerning the appointment of David Johnston as our next Governor-General.

Frankly, I didn't read the Sunday missive after coming across it in my inbox, thinking it must be a late delivery of a message sent out last week when the appointment was announced. Now that I've read it, however, it would appear that the PMO is concerned about the perception - expressed most clearly in columns by the Globe's Rick Salutin and the Star's James Travers - that David Johnston is a partisan appointee who might tend in future to do Stephen Harper's bidding in a constitutional tight spot. As he did in drafting the mandate of the Commission set up to look into the dealings between Karlheinz Schreiber and Brian Mulroney.

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It's true that Mr. Johnston has yet to explain why he helped prevent the Oliphant Commission from chasing down the $20-million in commissions Airbus paid Mr. Schreiber - some of which ended up in the cash-stuffed envelopes handed to Brian Mulroney. (There is no evidence that Mr. Mulroney knew about the source of the funds.)

However, Mr. Harper was only able to get away with excluding Airbus from the mandate because the Official Opposition had enthusiastically welcomed Mr. Johnston's appointment to draft the terms of reference - as it welcomed the announcement of his appointment as Governor-General.. That enthusiasm explains Mr. Harper's statement, reported by the Globe on Friday, "Whatever we paid him for this, it wasn't enough." And it's precisely that enthusiasm for burying a matter as serious as the Airbus scandal that made him, in Stephen Harper's eyes, the perfect non-partisan to deal with the knotty constitutional issues that our next Governor-General may be called upon to adjudicate.

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