Skip to main content
Access every election story that matters
Enjoy unlimited digital access
$1.99
per week for 24 weeks
Access every election story that matters
Enjoy unlimited digital access
$1.99
per week
for 24 weeks
// //

Governor General Julie Payette arrives at the Governor General's Literary Awards ceremony in Ottawa on Nov. 29, 2017.

PATRICK DOYLE/The Canadian Press

There was inevitable fallout from the resignation of governor-general Julie Payette, but honestly, who expected it to include a move by politicians to strip pensions from public office holders who are bad bosses, ill-suited for their role, or widely seen as diminishing their institutions?

There is a boatload of clichéd adages to warn against such a grandstand play by opposition MPs, starting with the one about glass houses and stones and including the tactical advice attributed to Napoleon: Never interfere with your enemy when he is destroying himself.

Yet for some reason Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole decided to back the dumb and unworkable idea of stripping Ms. Payette’s pension.

Story continues below advertisement

Justin Trudeau was suffering through days of blame for appointing Ms. Payette – who resigned after an internal review that found she made Rideau Hall into a toxic workplace – without proper prior vetting and after he disbanded an advisory board tasked with reviewing candidates.

The Prime Minister could do nothing but take his lumps. Mr. O’Toole didn’t have to do much other than frown at the poor vetting and disbanded committee, as he did, and ask Mr. Trudeau how he can defend the indefensible.

Instead he created a diversion by calling for Ms. Payette’s annual pension – an annuity set by legislation – be stripped. After all, she had resigned. And she brought disrepute to her office.

As it turns out, Mr. O’Toole got a bit of bad luck, or bad timing, too: Senator Lynn Beyak, a former Conservative appointed by Stephen Harper, decided to announced she was resigning, after years of controversy over her defence of residential schools.

It was not only a reminder that the Conservatives had some of their own badly chosen disaster appointees, notably Mr. Harper’s senatorial fails, but also that the pension-stripping business can go on and on, in many cases – especially if we don’t recognize the problem is PMs casually appointing bad candidates in the first place.

Ms. Beyak had just resigned, and was obviously someone who brought her office into disrepute in the eyes of many of her colleagues – who had launched a process to expel her from the Red Chamber. It’s a good bet that many folks would want to strip her of her Senate pension, too.

There were calls to strip former senator Don Meredith, who resigned in controversy after the Senate ethics officer reported he started a relationship with a 16-year-old girl.

Story continues below advertisement

Mr. Harper’s government actually changed laws to stop pension accruals from adding up for three suspended senators accused of excessive expense-claiming, including Mike Duffy, but they got that back later – after Mr. Duffy was acquitted of fraud charges, and a judge found Mr. Harper’s Prime Minister’s Office was using him for damage control.

Let’s skip the pandering impulse to put people in stocks in the town square by taking away their pensions. Retirement benefits are supposed to be protected from most legal claims.

Ms. Payette is reported to have created a toxic workplace, not sold secrets to the Russians. The remedy is her departure. The government doesn’t have to finance her post-GG projects, or fund an office for her. And if anyone in the House of Commons wants to take a close look at the benefits allotted to future governors-general, senators – or MPs – fine.

But having Parliament consider a new law solely to remove Ms. Payette’s pension? That would be an improper targeting of an individual out of excessive political pandering.

It gets in the way of the real issue: Mr. Trudeau’s mistake was rushing to appoint a star, without proper vetting, or consultations. The whole point is that it is too late to really fix that now. That’s all the more reason to expect prime ministers to do a serious job of picking governors-general, or senators for that matter, in the first place.

Mr. Trudeau’s mistake with Ms. Payette is one that should make him squirm for a little while. Once you name a governor-general, it’s too late to call a mulligan. Mr. O’Toole’s proposal to find unprecedented ways to punish Ms. Payette only distracts from that.

Story continues below advertisement

Keep your Opinions sharp and informed. Get the Opinion newsletter. Sign up today.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow the author of this article:

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies