Privy Council Office hires private firm to review harassment claims at Rideau Hall


The Privy Council Office has finalized the hiring of a private firm to conduct a workplace review into Rideau Hall more than a month after CBC News reported claims of a toxic environment and harassment in the office of Gov. Gen. Julie Payette. 

More than 20 sources including current public servants and former Rideau Hall employees have told CBC News Payette has created a toxic workplace and yelled at, belittled and publicly humiliated employees. Payette’s second-in-command and longtime friend Assunta Di Lorenzo also faces claims of bullying staff.

Quintet Consulting Corporation has now been mandated to “act independently” and confidentially contact and interview both current and former employees to voluntarily share any of their concerns about Rideau Hall, according to a statement by the Privy Council Office. Roughly 150 people work at the Governor General’s office.  

The president of the Queen’s Privy Council and Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs Dominic LeBlanc, himself the son of a former governor general, will oversee the review and receive the firm’s final report, which is expected to be completed later this fall. 

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, right, looks on as Payette bumps elbows with Dominic LeBlanc after he was sworn in as the minister of intergovernmental affairs during a cabinet shuffle at Rideau Hall in Ottawa on Aug. 18. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

Firm to speak with Governor General

The government’s terms for the probe include speaking with Payette and Di Lorenzo along with other Rideau Hall management to explain the process. 

“Management will have an opportunity to provide any relevant background and context,” according to a statement from the PCO.

Along with interviewing current and former staff, Quintet is tasked with speaking to employees at other departments that interact with the Governor General’s office or work on the grounds at Rideau Hall. 

CBC News has also reported that Payette confronted National Capital Commission (NCC) staff for working at Rideau Hall to the point where some have been seen visibly shaken. The office installed access doors and a gate at Rideau Hall to keep maintenance workers and others away from Payette. She’s also under fire for spending more than $250,000 on renovation projects for her desire for privacy, though after three years in office she still hasn’t moved into her official residence. 

Then there are claims Payette’s disregard for the Mounties paid to protect her has resulted in added security risks and unnecessary taxpayer costs. 

Report will detail if harassment or a toxic workplace exists

Quintet Consulting is also expected to meet with Rideau Hall’s human resources as part of its review and examine the workplace harassment laws and policies in place meant to protect employees. 

A camera operator works outside Rideau Hall following the cabinet shuffle to swear in a new finance minister and minister of intergovernmental affairs on Aug. 18. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

An executive summary will be completed stating if allegations of harassment or a toxic environment have been made, the nature of the incidents, and whether or not they meet the definition of harassment or a toxic work environment, according to the PCO. The full contents of the entire report will not be released publicly. 

Payette has said she takes “workplace harassment issues very seriously” and tweeted she “requested the conduct of an independent review.” But the PCO said it initiated the review.

“PCO, with the support of the OSGG, has initiated a thorough, independent, and impartial workplace review to examine the concerns raised by past and current employees,” Privy Council spokesperson Pierre-Alain Bujold wrote in a statement. 

One of Trudeau’s signature appointments

Payette was one of Justin Trudeau’s signature appointments during his first mandate as prime minister. Trudeau rejected Stephen Harper’s process of using an advisory board to suggest suitable candidates for the post and instead went with his personal choice.

Payette and Trudeau look on during a swearing-in ceremony following a cabinet shuffle at Rideau Hall on Aug. 18. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

The prime minister has done nothing to defend Payette since this recent wave of controversy started swirling around her office last month. Yet, Trudeau asked Payette last month to hit the reset button on his Liberal government that is now mired in an ethics controversy by proroguing Parliament until September. That move involves Payette playing a pivotal constitutional role.

Payette is expected to deliver the Liberal government’s speech from the throne on Sept. 23 to open a new session of Parliament.

Opposition said Trudeau has ‘terrible judgment’

Before the recent cabinet shuffle, Conservative finance critic Pierre Poilievre avoided commenting specifically on how Trudeau should handle the claims against Payette. Instead, Poilievre broadly criticized Trudeau’s judgment when asked to weigh in the prime minister’s decision to appoint Payette. 

“The prime minister’s got terrible judgment,” Poilievre said on Aug. 18. “We have a government of elites and self-serving snobs … I’m not sure if that’s true of the Governor General. But it’s certainly true of the people around the prime minister.

“And they believe that they have a god-given entitlement to rule over the country and use the treasury as their personal piggy bank. That is the attitude of entitlement that we have come to expect from Trudeau and everyone he’s put in positions of power.”

WATCH | Privy Council Office probes claims of workplace harassment at Rideau Hall:

An outside investigation has been launched into claims of bullying and harassment in the office of Gov. Gen. Julie Payette. 1:39



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