Trudeau's speaking fees low on the list of concerns
The Examiner’s Lance Holdforth conducts a one-on-one interview with Justin Trudeau during his visit to Barrie last fall where he met with supporters. (Mark Wanzel Photo)
It’s disappointing that everything but governing this country continues to be the priority in Ottawa.
The latest ‘scandal’ is an attack on Liberal leader Justin Trudeau and the money he has received as a public speaker.
During his first four years as an MP, 2008 until 2012, Trudeau earned $277,000 in speaker’s fees; this is a source of income
Trudeau says he cleared with the ethics commissioner and he voluntarily disclosed it earlier this year.
As he was mounting his leadership campaign in 2012, Trudeau stopped doing paid speaking gigs. This really wasn’t an issue until last week.
That’s when Grace Foundation board member Susan Buck complained it had lost $21,000 at a New Brunswick event last June that Trudeau was paid $20,000 to speak at.
She said Trudeau should return the money to the charity foundation; it was trying to raise money for seniors’ residence furniture.
Naturally, the Opposition has used this situation to go after Trudeau.
First he was accused of using his speaking revenues to finance his leadership campaign, which would have been illegal. That accusation was withdrawn.
Then Trudeau’s leadership was questioned and it was loudly suggested he should return all of the money.
Trudeau first noted he hadn’t used any of his MP travel expenses for his speaking engagements, and that he’d kept his work an an elected official and his speaking engagements separate.
On the weekend, Trudeau offered to compensate all the groups he did paid public speaking engagements for, as an MP.
“I’m willing to pay all of it back if that’s what it comes to,” Trudeau said to Kevin Newman on CTV’s Question Period. “I’m going to fix this.”
He’s offered to sit down with all organizations which he billed for speaking gigs and iron out any problems – either refund the money and speak free at group fundraisers.
That was on Sunday.
Early Monday afternoon, the Prime Minister’s Office sent the Examiner a local angle on the Trudeau story.
It detailed a Trudeau speaking engagement at Georgian College that resulted in a financial loss of more than $4,000. The PMO wondered aloud if Trudeau would pay that money back — pointing out that Ontario colleges are publicly funded.
But nobody held a gun to Georgian College’s head and made it book Trudeau.
Somebody there obviously thought funds could better be raised if Trudeau attended.
The PMO also noted that Barrie MP Patrick Brown doesn’t charge a fee to host fundraisers, such as Hockey Night in Barrie, or when speaking to charitable organizations. True enough. Could Brown charge a fee to speak publicly? Trudeau could, and did.
This issue isn’t about 2008 to 2012, however.
It’s about 2015.
That’s when the next federal election will be held, and the time between now and then is how long the Conservatives and New Democrats, and possibly the Bloc Quebecois, have to attack Trudeau’s character.
Their message is he isn’t a capable leader, doesn’t have the experience, is just riding on his famous father’s coattails and is the wrong politician at the wrong time to lead Canada.
The other message, which should be clear by now, is that the other political parties in this country are sufficiently scared of Trudeau and will do whatever they can to destroy his image before 2015.
Again, is this what we want our politicians doing in Ottawa?
Sniping at each other while average Canadians struggle to pay their taxes, pay their bills, find a job, send their kids to college and university, etc.?
Justin Trudeau’s public speaking revenues should be among the least of their concerns.