Academic David Johnston named as governer general

Thu Jul 8, 2010 11:56am EDT
 
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OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada named a respected academic on Thursday to become the country's next acting head of state, who will have the final say in settling constitutional disputes.

David Johnston, president of the University of Waterloo, is due to take up the job as governor general on October 1. He will be the personal representative of Queen Elizabeth, Canada's head of state.

Johnston replaces former television journalist Michaelle Jean, who twice agreed to suspend Parliament at the request of Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Opposition critics said Harper's moves undermined democracy.

A governor general is in theory supposed to bow to the wishes of the sitting prime minister but has the power to take his or her own decisions, which are binding.

"(Johnston) has extensive legal expertise, a comprehensive understanding of government and a deep appreciation of the duties and tasks now before him," Harper said in a statement.

Johnston, 69, told reporters that he was deeply moved by the appointment.

Governors general have to speak English and French -- Canada's two official languages -- and usually serve a term of around five years.

(Reporting by David Ljunggren; editing by Rob Wilson)