OTTAWA — Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole says it's not appropriate for former governor general Julie Payette to receive the customary benefits afforded to those who've left the post.
Payette resigned last week ahead of the release of a report concluding she oversaw a highly toxic work environment at Rideau Hall.
Former governors general are entitled to a pension and also get a regular income paid to them for the rest of their lives, and O'Toole demanded to know Monday whether Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had raised that subject with Payette when they last spoke.
Trudeau should be clear on what he promised her, O'Toole said.
"It's not appropriate in a case where there's a break in the assignment of the Governor General," O'Toole said Monday at a news conference ahead of the return of Parliament.
He accused Trudeau, who leads a minority government, of sullying the office, and also of being in a conflict of interest when it comes to choosing Payette's replacement, given the government could fall at any time.
"This is a small constitutional crisis caused by Mr. Trudeau's (office)," O'Toole said.
"He must consult the other parties to show Canadians that there's an assurance that there's no politicization of this important role."
How Trudeau handled Payette's appointment, subsequent problems and how he'll find her replacement will form part of the debate as Parliament resumes today.
Former #GovernorGeneral Julie Payette should not get the same benefits as other former GGs: #O'Toole #cdnpoli
O'Toole says his party will also press for an emergency debate the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines, saying that with major delays in the delivery of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine — no doses are coming this week — the Liberals need to lay out what they're doing in response.
"There are so many questions outstanding, despite the government claiming they had a plan," he said.
"We wish we could trust the prime minister, but this situation demands Parliament’s urgent attention."
O'Toole accused the Liberals of being more focused on pre-election posturing and "reimagining" the economy, as opposed to being seized entirely with the crisis called by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Green party Leader Annamie Paul said there should be no partisan or political bickering when it comes to Parliament solving the major crisis at hand.
“As this new sitting begins, we note the government is straying further and further from the prime minister’s promise to ‘keep doing whatever it takes, for as long as it takes,' to beat COVID-19 and protect Canadians through the crisis," she said.
Parliament returns from its winter break Monday as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to put intense pressure on Canadians.
Quebec remains under curfew, parts of Ontario are under stay-at-home orders, and new more contagious variants of the vaccine are now ripping through some of the most vulnerable segments of society.
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said his party will continue to push for more paid sick leave to ensure more of Canada's vulnerable populations, including residents of long-term care facilities and the people who care for them, are better protected from the spread of the virus.
"That's going to be a focus of our return to Parliament. How do we help Canadians? How do we support people in this difficult time and finally making sure everyone gets vaccinated?" he said.
At least 19,000 Canadians have died since the first cases of COVID-19 emerged in Canada exactly a year ago.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 25, 2021.