Gov. Gen. Julie Payette (The Canadian Press)

Freeland urges restraint with expenses following Rideau Hall renovations

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland would not say whether she believes the expenditures were appropriate

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland says public office holders should be mindful of how they spend taxpayer dollars, following a report on Rideau Hall renovations.

The CBC reported Thursday that hundreds of thousands of dollars have been spent on designs and renovations to the official residence of Gov. Gen. Julie Payette, some allegedly at her personal request, for privacy, accessibility and security reasons.

Freeland would not say whether she believes the expenditures were appropriate, but she did say she thinks questions about the Rideau Hall expenses are legitimate.

“Canadian journalists and Canadians absolutely have the right to look carefully about how we spend Canadians’ money,” she told reporters Friday in Toronto.

“I do think that all of us who have the privilege of serving Canadians have to really be mindful that when we spend money, we are spending the money of Canadians and we have to be very, very thoughtful about that, very careful about that.”

The Office of the Secretary to the Governor General was unavailable for comment Friday.

Freeland expressed respect for the office and constitutional role of the Governor General, without directly answering a question about her confidence in Payette.

“I think Canadians understand and appreciate the way our system of government, our constitutional system works,” she said.

“The office of the Governor General plays a very important role in that system and I think, like the overwhelming majority of Canadians, I have a great deal of respect for that office and for that role.”

Payette has faced significant scrutiny following reports that she mistreated past and current employees at Rideau Hall — allegations that are now under review.

The CBC reported last month, citing anonymous sources, that Payette had yelled at, belittled and publicly humiliated employees, reducing some to tears or prompting them to quit.

The Privy Council Office, a bureaucratic operation that supports the prime minister and cabinet, said it would launch an independent review of allegations.

Payette issued a statement at the time that said she “deeply concerned” with the media reports and welcomes the probe.

Teresa Wright, The Canadian Press

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