Former Canadian astronaut Julie Payette is to become Canada’s 29th Governor General, Her Majesty’s representative in the realm.
The 53-year-old is from Montreal, a former astronaut, and speaks six languages. She is set to move into the official residence of the Governor General, Rideau Hall, in September. The job comes with a salary of $290,660 (£176,510).
A CBC News journalist asked Payette about her new role outside an Ottawa hotel. She responded, “Oh my goodness, you know a lot more than I do,” before walking past without making any further comment.
Despite the fact that Payette has no background in constitutional law, her CV is impressive. The future Governor General is an accomplished athlete, pianist and choral singer, as well as a computer engineer with a commercial pilot licence.
In 1992, Payette was picked from among 5000 applicants to be one of four new astronauts with the Canadian Space Agency (CSA). She served as the CSA’s chief astronaut between 2000 and 2007, and has visited the International Space Station (ISS) twice.
She also actively campaigns on a number of issues, and is a keen supporter of Drug Free Kids Canada and is listed as a National Champion of the Trans Canada Trail. Her appointment has received praise from politicians and celebrities alike. Former Conservative minister James Moore tweeted that Payette was “a great choice to serve as Canada’s next governor general.” While Canadian MP, Lisa Raitt tweeted, “If @Astro_Payette is our next Governor General – I am beyond happy. Smart and accomplished. Trailblazer”
Canada’s first female astronaut Roberta Bondar said: “I think she’s really going to be a great asset. It will just be so interesting to see her bring her view of the world and of Canada, seeing [the world] from space provides one with a different type of insight. I’m really looking forward to it.”
“She was on the International Space Station as the first Canadian. She did two space shuttle flights in front of an international audience of television — I don’t think she is going to have a problem.”
The Governor General has been a position held since 1867, and was first occupied by The Viscount Monck. The Governor General is appointed by the Sovereign as Her Majesty’s representative in Canada, and is nominated by the the Canadian Prime Minister. The Governor General is the Commander-in-Chief of the Canadian Armed Forces, delivers the speech from the throne, which sets out the government’s legislative programme, meets the Prime Minister regularly, summons and dissolves parliament on behalf of The Queen, presides over the swearing-in of officials and is entitled to a vice-regal salute, which includes the first six bars of ‘God Save The Queen’, followed by ‘O Canada’.
The Governor General’s tenure is “at Her Majesty’s pleasure,” but a term normally lasts five years. The current Governor General, David Johnston, who was appointed in 2010 on the advice of then Prime Minister Stephen Harper, had his term extended in 2015 until September 2017. Harper said this would allow the same Governor General to oversee “many of the events celebrating Canada’s 150th anniversary of Confederation.”
Johnston is currently on an official visit to China, and is expected to have an audience with Her Majesty next week when he travels to the U.K. for Canada 150 events. It will likely be the final time, that he will sit down to report to the Monarch which he represents.
On Canada Day, the current Governor General gave a farewell speech, where he remarked: “These are challenging but exciting times, and together we can show the world what a great country looks like. To me it looks like Canada, a country that strives, always, to be smarter and more caring — to do better, together.”