Astronaut. Engineer. Knows 6 languages. Order of Canada winner. Charity work. Francophone. Woman. Canadian.
This fall, Julie Payette will transition into being the 29th Governor General, succeeding David Johnston.
Payette, the second Canadian woman in space, has logged 611 hours in orbit with NASA flights on the Space Shuttle Discovery (1999) and the Space Shuttle Endeavour (2009). Payette operated the iconic Canadarm. She also was the first Canadian aboard the International Space Station.
Johnston's original 5-year term was extended by then-Prime Minister Stephen Harper extended Johnston’s term by an extra 2 years in 2015 just before the election cycle.
Payette will be the 4th woman to serve as Governor General. Before Payette, 3 of the last 6 Governors General have been women: Jeanne Sauve, Adrienne Clarkson, and Michaëlle Jean. All 3 female Governors General were selected under Liberal prime ministers.
Since 1959, the trend is for anglophones and francophones to alternate in the role. Payette is a francophone, succeeding the anglophone Johnston (seen here after presenting Payette with the Order of Canada).
Payette learned English as her second language. She also speaks Spanish, Italian, Russian, and German.
Payette is also the first Governor General born as late as the 1960s.
Formality calls for the prime minister to consult the head of English royalty on the selection of the Governor General. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau did visit Queen Elizabeth II in Scotland last week. The Governor General is the Queen's representative in Canada.
You might recall in our British Columbia election coverage that the lieutenant governor in the provinces acts in a similar role.
Roland Michener was the last Governor General to serve as many as 7 years (1967-1974). Extending Johnston by a couple of years calls to mind that most Governors General have been selected by Liberal prime ministers.
Conservatives have had few chances to select a Governor General since Canadians started serving in that role. Before David Johnston (2010-2017), Brian Mulroney selected Ray Hnatyshyn (1990-1995). John Diefenbaker picked Georges Vanier (1959-1967) even though he was a Liberal because Canada needed a francophone in the role.
Payette will take over in October.
photos credit: CBC News; Christopher Pike/Reuters