LEVANT

To be charitable, this is wrong

By Ezra Levant, QMI Agency

Liberal MP Justin Trudeau walks past the media before the Liberal Caucus at Parliament Hill September 26, 2012, in Ottawa, Ontario. (QMI Agency/ANDRE FORGET)

Liberal MP Justin Trudeau walks past the media before the Liberal Caucus at Parliament Hill September 26, 2012, in Ottawa, Ontario. (QMI Agency/ANDRE FORGET)

Last June, Justin Trudeau gave a speech at a charity dinner in Saint John, New Brunswick. The Grace Foundation was trying to raise money for a seniors’ home.

The event flopped. It actually lost $21,000. But it would have broken even and then some if Trudeau hadn’t insisted on collecting a speaking fee — a whopping $20,000, plus HST, plus business class travel. For a speech from a sitting MP.

Months later, the charity wrote to Trudeau and asked if he’d refund his fee. He refused. And when news of the charity’s request broke last Friday, Trudeau dispatched a stern spokesman with a cold answer: “With regards to this event, Mr. Trudeau fulfilled all obligations within his contract.”

No doubt that is legally true. It is also obscene. Since when does an MP ­— paid $157,000 a year by taxpayers, plus travel and expenses — charge charities $20,000 to give a speech? Is that the act of a public servant? All the more mind-boggling is that Trudeau is a rich kid, who inherited a trust fund worth millions from his late father.

But Trudeau was adamant. Charging for speeches, even as an MP, is his “profession,” he says. In fact, from the day he first announced his intention to run for Parliament, till that Saint John dinner, he billed $966,500 in fees for speeches. That’s more than he earned as an MP.

But as the Grace Foundation story went viral, Trudeau’s political base — the Parliamentary Press Gallery — started to turn on him. His carefully crafted image as a champion of the “middle class” was melting. So on Sunday morning, Trudeau went on CTV to make an announcement.

“I’ve decided that it is the right thing to do to offer to help the Grace Foundation and any other organization I spoke for as an MP, to either give them an equivalent donation or work with them to try to fix it and make it right,” he said. That’s refreshing ­— a politician who acknowledges he did something wrong and wants to fix it! But wait a moment. He also said, “I’m doing this not because I’m worried that I did something wrong, because I didn’t.”

Well, if it’s not wrong, why does he have to make it right? Why was the right response on Friday to tell the Grace Foundation that a contract’s a contract, but the right response on Sunday was to offer to pay them back, or “work with them,” or whatever vague promise they’ll try to hold him to?

Billing charities $650 a minute for a speech is bizarre. It shows an entitlement mentality and a disconnect from normal people. But even more troubling is the money Trudeau took from people who can afford it.

Like union bosses. Under Canadian laws, unions (and corporations) are banned from donating to parties or candidates. But in the four years ending 2010, Trudeau pocketed $112,500 from unions, including the Ontario Public Service Employees’ Union and a multitude of teachers’ unions, for giving speeches. Does that explain why he’s been such a ferocious critic of the Conservative bill to reform labour laws?

Gilles Vaillancourt, the Mayor of Laval, resigned in disgrace and faces charges of corruption for allegedly taking illegal bribes for years.

See, he’s not as smart as Trudeau. If Vaillancourt had just given his benefactors a speech and an invoice, he never would have been charged and he’d still be mayor right now.



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