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University of Waterloo president David Johnston is seen in an April 2006 file photo.

Jim Ross/Jim Ross/The Globe and Mail

The new governor-general of Canada will be David Johnston, the current president of the University of Waterloo, The Globe and Mail has learned.

The academic, known and respected for his legal expertise, will replace Michaëlle Jean when her term ends in September.

An official announcement is expected Thursday, two days after the Queen - who must give her blessing before a new governor-general is chosen - finished her tour of Canada.

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Mr. Johnston had long been rumoured to be a top candidate for the position, which has been held by two female broadcast journalists for the most recent terms. Prime Minister Stephen Harper wanted a man in the role this time, but insisted the candidate be bilingual, which ruled out several prominent aboriginal candidates.

The 69-year-old was chosen by a special committee appointed by Mr. Harper and led by Kevin MacLeod, the Canadian Secretary to the Queen and Usher of the Black Rod for the Senate - considered to be Parliament's top protocol posting.

Mr. Johnston was likely chosen for his constitutional knowledge and level-headedness, observers say. The committee reportedly nixed candidates from the sports, entertainment and art worlds, preferring someone who is well-versed in the inner workings of federal government.

The Sudbury, Ont., native became a highly respected legal expert after studying at Harvard, Cambridge and Queen's University. He captained the hockey team at Harvard, nabbing a spot as a minor character in a novel his dorm mate was writing at the time. Eric Segal's Love Story became a pop-culture icon in the early 1970s.

Before becoming president of the University of Waterloo, Mr. Johnston spent 15 years as the principal and vice-chancellor of McGill University.

His legal work dipped into the political realms, and he was lauded for being non-partisan, having worked for both Liberal and Conservative governments.

He has worked with the Conservative government most recently, when Mr. Harper asked to help write the terms of reference for the Oliphant inquiry, which probed the business transactions between former prime minister Brian Mulroney and German-Canadian businessman Karlheinz Schreiber.

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His accomplishments and public service have been acknowledged with his being named an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1988. He was promoted to a Companion in 1997.

He will be officially sworn in as Governor-General in September when Ms. Jean leaves to become the United Nations' special envoy to Haiti.

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