Shooting the Messenger

Till Death Do Us Part

Ambassador Chrétien

It was in my nature, if things got rough, to seek the coward’s exit. Why did I not take that way out this time? I quit the government when they wanted me to stay; now that they wanted me to go, I decided to stay. Why? One reason was that I loved my job. I thought they would come to their senses and give me back my access to the mainframe computer so that I could do the Currency Fluctuation Report; tens of millions of dollars were at stake—or so I thought. My concern for the taxpayer was valid, even if later I would learn they were not risking a penny.

I would decide to write to the Deputy Minister, Marcel Massé. Under ordinarily circumstances I would have written to Gordon's boss, the Director General of Finance and Management Services Bureau, Dan Bresnahan, but not this time. There was no point. I had filed a number of formal complaints (grievances) about my changed working condition, including my first reprimand for failure to produce the impossible report and a reprimand for having been seen allegedly reading a newspaper on government time. Bresnahan had batted them all back, all stamped GRIEVANCE DENIED with no explanation. He obviously approved of what his underlings were up to.

In my letter to Massé dated October 19, 1984, it was obvious that I had lost some of my perspective despite protests to the contrary. My letter contained a litany of lesser evils such as questioning the lack of tender for large purchases when regulations at Foreign Affairs allowed managers to do this. After receiving what was really a cry for help, Massé arranged for me to meet with Ambassador Raymond Chrétien. Ambassador Chrétien was the first of a handful of high-ranking diplomats on temporary assignment in Ottawa who would become actively involved and, except for perhaps Chrétien, not for the better, in what was happening to me.

Why Ambassador Chrétien? Raymond Chrétien, the nephew of former Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, was Canada's Ambassador Extraordinaire. His assignments included Ambassador to Zaire, Ambassador to Mexico, Ambassador to Belgium and Luxemburg, and Ambassador to the United States of America. Raymond Chrétien capped a stellar career in the Canadian Foreign Service as Canada's Ambassador to France.

When I met Raymond Chrétien he was between ambassadorial assignments and was keeping busy as Director General of the Management Review and Audit Bureau. Every department of the Federal Government, like large corporations, has someone in charge of ensuring that the keepers of the public purse are not tempted to help themselves. Between 1983 and 1985 Chrétien was that someone.

I met with Chrétien and his Director of Internal Audit, a Mr. M. G. MacDonald, on November 30, 1984 in Chrétien's office. After telling Chrétien about the misappropriation of funds, he turned to his Director of Internal Audit:

Chrétien: Is this true?

MacDonald: Yes!

Chrétien: Are they allowed to do this?

MacDonald: No!

Chrétien: Are they still doing it?

MacDonald: Correct!

I thought I was starting to lose it, but that was not Chrétien’s impression. In his report to Massé, the ambassador writes:

During the interview, Mr. Payeur came across as an intelligent, self-possessed and articulate young man. He gave a clear, objective and cogent presentation of his views on the issues without in any way personalizing them or criticising his superiors (italics mine).

In the Federal Court of Appeal, Court No: A-399-86, page 139.

Toward the end of our meeting, MacDonald had asked me: “Do you think that what is happening here simply has to do with a director wanting to get promoted to Director General?" I declined to speculate about Gordon’s motivation. The reason for MacDonald's question may have had something to do with Gordon's refusal to cooperate with Internal Audit. Gordon had once bragged that he had given one of MacDonald's auditors the "bum's rush."

The meeting with Chrétien and MacDonald ended with the ambassador warmly shaking my hand (grabbing it with both of his) while thanking me profusely for bringing these matters to his attention.

Chrétien, a gifted diplomat, understood instinctively that all that was needed to diffuse this potentially explosive situation was to treat the person before him like a human being, and provide some assurances that something would be done. It might have worked had he not asked the Director of Non-Rotational Personnel Division, a S. M. McGahey, to see what could be done about my rapidly deteriorating situation. McGahey would promptly relight the fuse.