PMO spread letter requesting speaking fee return
by Samantha Bayard
OTTAWA, June 17, 2013 (Straight Goods News) — The five-figure speaking fees Justin Trudeau took after becoming MP and before becoming leader came back to haunt him this week, with charges that his fees beggared the charities he spoke to.
Grace Foundation, a New Brunswick charity that supports a nursing home, requested last week that Trudeau return the $20,000 paid to him as a speaker at a fund-raising event that lost money. On Friday, the Prime Minister's Office circulated a letter from a director of the foundation to the media. Later, a Twitter tweet showed a picture of Grace Foundation board member Judith Baxter in the PMO, suggesting the letter was intended to help the Conservatives, badly in need of a distraction from the Senate and other scandals.
Other charities that had paid Trudeau to speak — as well as prominent Conservative allies like Saskatchewan's premier Brad Wall — then logged into the controversy. Today, Trudeau realeased a statement today saying he will repay some speaking fees, if called upon to do so.
Trudeau has never denied taking the fees and even posted them publicly online when running for leader. In a scrum today, though, he said he will be in contact with all the organizations that paid him for speaking engagements to ensure they are satisfied.
"Every single group of the 17 groups that I spoke to as an MP we are getting in touch with this week to find out if they feel like they didn’t get their money’s worth, that they didn’t get what they wanted that they were hoping to get out of the speaking engagement that I did for them which was a professional speaking engagement but also in many cases was working as a professional fundraiser.
"I would draw in people to these events and I’m proud of the work that I did. And I will be happy to pay them back personally if they are dissatisfied," said Trudeau.
The NDP's Tom Mulcair found Trudeau's statement unclear and said he personally never took money from charitable organizations, NGOs, non-profits, and similar groups for speaking engagements as MP prior to being leader.
"I read that statement carefully and I’m waiting to find out what that means because what we do know is he took hundreds of thousands of dollars from charities. When you’ve got school boards where kids are being forced to sell chocolate bars to be able to buy books for the school library, how in heaven’s name can you justify taking tens of thousands of dollars in speaking fees from such a school board?
"He says he’s going to make it right. Let’s see what that means because I parsed that statement carefully. There were internal references to what the boards or the charities themselves were going to be asking him. We have to wait and see what that actually means. I can only tell you this. Since I’ve been a Member of Parliament, I’ve given hundreds of speeches across Canada. I have never sought nor would I have ever accepted and I have never accepted a speaking fee. I consider that to be part of my job."© Copyright 2013 Samantha Bayard, All rights Reserved. Written For: StraightGoods.ca