Last October, one week before the anniversary of Julie Payette’s swearing in as governor general, her Twitter account published a three-minute video showing footage of the former astronaut performing her duties, soundtracked by electronic music.
“A review of my first year as governor general that we are putting online a little earlier than planned!” said the tweet, which included a winking emoji.
“Thank you, fellow Canadians. It was quite a ride. But you know me. I like rides,” said Payette, addressing the camera at the end of the video. “Now, there is still a lot to do. Things to improve. People to see. So, on to the next.”
The rushed release of the video was the first salvo in what would become a months-long public relations push, launched in response to a flood of coverage from the National Post and other media in the preceding weeks that had made public some of the criticisms and concerns over Payette’s first year in office.
A review of my first year as Governor General that we are putting online a little earlier than planned! 😉 pic.twitter.com/Eq3TqiKafY
— GGJuliePayette (@GGJuliePayette) September 26, 2018
Based on extensive conversations with a dozen sources with direct knowledge of Rideau Hall during Payette’s first year, the Post had reported that when the Prime Minister’s Office had become enamoured with the idea of making a female astronaut governor general, it failed to fully vet and prepare Payette for the role. The job had proven a poor fit for someone so fiercely protective of her privacy and personal time, and Payette was engaged in a constant struggle against the confines and expectations of the office.
Through that PR push, which played out in public appearances, on social media and in a series of media interviews, Rideau Hall tried to establish that Payette was not as unhappy in the job as sources had described, that she respected the traditions and protocols that come with the office and that accounts of the slow pace of work under Payette were just a result of poor communication.
However, among the sources who spoke with the Post — who have been granted anonymity in order to discuss matters about which they are not authorized to speak publicly — there are mixed views about whether the situation has in fact improved.
The onslaught of negative coverage in the Post and other media outlets was difficult on Rideau Hall staff, sources said. Other governors general have seen their share of controversies, but none had seen a first year as rocky as Payette’s.
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Two sources with knowledge of Rideau Hall independently used the phrase “witch hunt” to describe an effort carried out at Rideau Hall in the wake of the Post’s reporting to try to figure out who had been talking …read more