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Despite resigning, Julie Payette still qualifies for perks such as a $149,484 annual pension for life

Former astronaut Julie Payette (R) and Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau take part in a news conference announcing Payette's appointment as Canada's next governor general, in the Senate foyer on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, July 13, 2017.
Former astronaut Julie Payette (R) and Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau take part in a news conference announcing Payette's appointment as Canada's next governor general, in the Senate foyer on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, July 13, 2017.

OTTAWA — Julie Payette submitted her resignation as Governor General on Thursday, but despite leaving early due to a workplace scandal she’ll still qualify for a lifetime pension of at least $149,484 per year.

The lifetime annuity is set out in legislation called the Governor General’s Act and it applies to anyone who has held the office, regardless of how they leave it. It rises slowly over time, currently standing at $149,484.

“An annuity payable under this section shall commence on the day the annuitant ceases to hold the office of Governor General and shall continue thereafter during his life,” the legislation says (using outmoded gendered language).

On top of that, former governors general are entitled to a lifetime expense program that gives them access to up to $206,000 per year from the budget of the Office of the Secretary to the Governor General.

Speaking to reporters, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the rules are clear around the entitlements for outgoing governors general.

“This country has very clear rules and regulations and processes and procedures in place to follow in these cases of reporting expenses, or indeed on annuities for governor generals,” Trudeau said. “Those processes will be followed, but obviously we’re always open to having discussions on changes that need to be made moving forward.”

The expense program was established in 1979 on the rationale that former governors general still carry out duties related to their role after they leave office, such as attending ceremonies and making speeches.

Details of the expenses are not mandated to be disclosed and are not subject to federal access-to-information legislation. The National Post has previously reported on them based on an accounting quirk that causes the expenses to show up in the federal government’s public accounts if one person claims more than $100,000 in a year. Only Adrienne Clarkson has repeatedly claimed this amount in recent years.

David Johnston, however, has started proactively disclosing his expense claims under the program, the only former governor general to do so. During his time as governor general, Johnston developed the first concrete guidelines around how the expenses can be claimed, implementing them in 2012.

The federal government also provides multi-million dollar grants to former governors general to start their own charitable foundation after leaving office. In the case of Clarkson, for example, the government provided $3 million in a start-up grant plus up to $7 million over 10 years to match donations from the private sector; Clarkson used this funding to start the Institute for Canadian Citizenship.

Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2021

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