'Unquestionably qualified': Ex-astronaut Julie Payette formally introduced as Canada's next GG

Former astronaut Julie Payette says she is embracing her new role as Canada's next governor general with humility, love of country and a promise to work for Canadians from all walks of life.

Trudeau says Montrealer embodies 'truly Canadian traits': love of discovery and dreaming big

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau looks on as former astronaut, and Governor General designate, Julie Payette,talks to reporters, on Parliament Hill, in Ottawa, Thursday July 13, 2017. (Fred Chartrand/The Canadian Press)

Former astronaut Julie Payette says she is embracing her new role as Canada's next governor general with humility, love of country and a promise to work for all Canadians.

"I'm here to serve all Canadians of all backgrounds, of all walks of life, whether new or not so new," she said.

Payette expressed gratitude for having a second chance to serve her country, and said it will be a pleasure to meet and interact with Canadians from coast to coast to coast.

"What a great day," she said during a news conference with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Trudeau said Payette has dedicated her life to discovery, dreaming big and staying focused on the things that matter most.

"These truly Canadian traits, along with her years of public service, make her unquestionably qualified for this high office," he said.

The 53-year-old Montrealer, who speaks six languages, will become Canada's 29th governor general.

Payette, who is also an accomplished athlete, pianist and choral singer, will succeed outgoing Gov. Gen. David Johnston.

Trudeau said Payette will make an "extraordinary" governor general who will serve her country with dedication and inclusion and work for the cause of reconciliation with Indigenous people.

As a 12th-generation Canadian, Payette said she embraces the core values of Canada: tolerance, openness and working together. She vowed to serve all Canadians, and as part of that will promote science, technology and the pursuit of knowledge.

As to the required knowledge of constitutional matters, Payette said she will learn on the job with the help of experts.

'Great humility'

"I will do it with great humility," she said.

A computer engineer with a commercial pilot licence, Payette was picked from among 5,330 applicants in 1992 to be one of four new astronauts with the Canadian Space Agency (CSA).

Trudeau and Payette speak about her new role as GG

6 years ago
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Featured VideoThe Prime Minister and Governor General-Designate Julie Payette speak to reporters in the Senate Foyer

She participated in two space flights to the International Space Station and served as the CSA's chief astronaut between 2000 and 2007.

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer issued a statement offering a "warm welcome and congratulations."

"Ms. Payette's accomplishments are well known to Canadians of all ages," he said. "She was a pioneer during a long career in the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), most notably becoming one of the first women in the Canadian astronaut corps, and the first Canadian on board the International Space Station."

"As a scientist, a former chief astronaut for the CSA, and a leading advocate for Canadian ingenuity around the world, Ms. Payette will be well-suited to play a leadership role in Canada as the next governor general."

NDP Leader Tom Mulcair also issued a statement, calling Payette a "superb choice" because of her vast accomplishments and because she embodies some of the best qualities of Canada.

"Ms. Payette has excelled in competitive industries and succeeded to great heights in traditionally male-dominated fields," he said.

'Amazing woman'

Labour Minister Patty Hajdu called Payette "an amazing woman."

"It's a really exciting message, and of course her vast experience will show other young women that there are multiple opportunities for us," she said.

"And I think just the fact that she's had that diversity of experience is something that's amazing as well."

While some people were hoping to see an Indigenous person named to the post, the Liberal Indigenous caucus issued a statement welcoming the appointment and calling her a "beacon of hard work and innovation in Canada."

"Ms. Payette has been an excellent representative of our country in the past, and her experience will bring a unique perspective of Canada and the world to the position of governor general," the statement reads.

Julie Payette waves before boarding the astronaut van before a planned liftoff onboard the space shuttle Endeavour in 2009. (Chris O'Meara/Associated Press)

"As governor general, Ms. Payette will play a very important role within the Canadian government. We look forward to working with her to advance our shared agenda of healing, reconciliation and progress for Canadians."

Active for causes

Payette is active on a number of causes and has served as a board member for Drug Free Kids Canada as well as being listed as a National Champion of the Trans Canada Trail.

The governor general is appointed by the Queen on the advice of the prime minister. Trudeau visited the Queen during a visit to Scotland last week en route to the G20 summit in Germany.

The governor general's tenure is "at pleasure," but a term usually lasts about five years.

Johnston, who was appointed in 2010 on the advice of former prime minister Stephen Harper, had his term extended in 2015 until this coming September to cover events celebrating Canada's 150th anniversary of Confederation.

Payette, who has been married twice and is currently single, is the mother of a 14-year-old son.

She is expected to assume her new position, which comes with a $290,660 annual salary and an official residence at Rideau Hall, in the fall.

Governor General designate Julie Payette is expected to begin her duties in the fall. (Fred Chartrand/Canadian Press)