Outgoing Gov. Gen. Adrienne Clarkson reflects on her mandate during her farewell address.

Former Governor General Adrienne Clarkson reflects on her mandate during her farewell address last month.

Former GG Clarkson criticizes federal government

Updated Mon. Oct. 10 2005 9:34 AM ET

CTV.ca News Staff

Less than two weeks after stepping down as Governor General, Adrienne Clarkson has taken a shot at the federal government.

In an interview with the Toronto Star, Clarkson criticized Ottawa for not defending her when she made a controversial visit to Russia, Finland, and Iceland in the fall of 2003.

Around 50 prominent Canadians accompanied her on the trip, which cost $5.3 million and led to accusations that Clarkson was living lavishly at the taxpayer's expense.

Clarkson said it was the government's duty to defend the office of the Governor General, but the Chrétien government neglected her at the most difficult time of her six-year mandate.

"The office needs defending because it is the office," she told the Toronto Star. "When the office is attacked, it should be the government that defends it."

Not a single member of the Liberal government stood up and publicly defended Clarkson, her budget, which they had approved, or the trip, which Foreign Affairs had asked her to take.

"I don't blame anybody," she said, "I just think that a lot of people, including people in government, don't understand what exactly the role is that the Governor General plays and that the government plays."

Clarkson said the government forgot that under Canada's constitutional monarchy, the Governor General is the ultimate, apolitical guarantor of responsible government.

"Every reserve power, everything that is to be done, reams of Orders in Council signed, all of that gives legitimacy to our political process, and it has meaning," she said. "In our constitution, the Governor General is right there at the head of it."

Clarkson, who defended herself by stating she was "above politics" in an interview with CBC Newsworld two years ago, now says she "shouldn't have done that."

"I think I let the office down in that sense," she told the Toronto Star.

"The government should have done it in the House. That's where the defence should happen ..."

However such attacks would only have troubled her personally, she added, if they'd been legitimate.

"When they attack you and they simply do it out of malice, ignorance and a certain kind of tall-poppy syndrome, then it doesn't really touch you personally," she said.

Clarkson's interview offers perhaps the first glimpse of what readers can expect a year from now when Penguin Canada publishes Heart Matters, the first of two books the former Governor General is about to write.


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