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Tory attacks on Trudeau boomerang, raise questions about PMO involvement


 

OTTAWA – Conservative attacks against Justin Trudeau’s paid public speaking career have boomeranged into questions about the propriety of using the Prime Minister’s Office to fire off purely partisan missiles.

The tables turned Tuesday after the Barrie Advance newspaper outed the PMO as the source of documents circulated to media Monday showing three fundraising events headlined by Trudeau in 2006 and 2007 — before he became an MP — lost money.

The prime minister’s staff were also busy last week handing out copies of a letter from the Grace Foundation, a New Brunswick charity that wanted Trudeau to reimburse his $20,000 fee for speaking at a money-losing event last year.

It has since been revealed that at least one member of the foundation’s board is a well-connected Conservative, whose husband is on the executive of local Tory MP Rob Moore’s riding association.

Questions about the propriety of using his taxpayer-funded office to launch strictly partisan attacks followed Prime Minister Stephen Harper all the way to Northern Ireland, where he held a wrap-up news conference Tuesday at the end of a G8 summit meeting.

Harper gave a somewhat rambling response which did not address the issue.

“Look, my view is, in terms of my own comportment, my view is that what is not appropriate, I, you know, as someone who is paid by the public, I get good remuneration from the taxpayers of Canada, as a public servant, I don’t think it’s appropriate for me to then take money from charities,” he said.

“I give money to charity, I don’t take money from charity. So that’s my view on what’s appropriate and not appropriate under those circumstances.”

A spokesperson for Harper later added that the prime minister intends to donate the proceeds from his long-awaited book on the history of hockey to the Military Families Fund.

Back in Ottawa, however, critics weren’t so reticent about addressing the issue.

“I see that as a very inappropriate use of taxpayers’ funds,” said Edmonton MP Brent Rathgeber, who quit the Conservative caucus last month in frustration in part over PMO muzzling and/or scripting of backbenchers.

Rathgeber likened the latest PMO-orchestrated attacks on Trudeau to the anti-Trudeau flyers that Tory MPs were encouraged in April to send out to their constituents — at taxpayers’ expense.

“If the party mechanism, you know, wants to come up with those types of products or engage in that type of purely partisan warfare, that should come from the party machinery, not from the taxpayers-funded PMO.”

He attributed the problem to the “young, really aggressive, really motivated, hyper-partisan” staffers in the PMO who believe “digging up dirt” on Trudeau is part of their job.

NDP ethics critic Charlie Angus chided Harper for allowing controversy over Trudeau’s “ethical misjudgment” to be turned into an issue about his own judgment.

“The issue I think that Canadians have to ask themselves (is): Doesn’t the prime minister have more important things to do in terms of serving our country than running a black ops operation against the Liberal leader?” Angus said.

“It’s not becoming of the prime minister.”

Angus said the Tories are blowing the political gift Trudeau handed his rivals when he chose to voluntarily disclose that he’s earned $277,000 making speeches to 17 different groups since becoming an MP in 2008.

“It was gift-wrapped for you … and just out of sheer stupidity, block-headedness and spite, you’re blowing it,” he said.

Trudeau announced Sunday that he will speak to all 17 groups and return the fees to any group that feels it didn’t get its money’s worth.

However, Harper’s office made no apologies for its role in fanning the flames of the controversy.

“News flash: the office of the leader of the Opposition, the Liberal leader’s office and the Prime Minister’s Office all engage in political communications,” said PMO spokesperson Julie Vaux in an email.

“Trudeau’s taxpayer-paid staff are currently calling all the charities (about returning the speaking fees) and that’s supposed to be his personal business.”

Vaux said Trudeau only agreed to reimburse the Grace Foundation after the media pounced on the story and “our caucus shamed him into doing so.”

Conservative MP Ben Lobb, meanwhile, told the House of Commons he intends to ask federal ethics watchdog Mary Dawson to investigate whether Trudeau broke conflict of interest rules by voting on a bill involving the rights of labour unions when he’s accepted “over $100,000 in personal payments from unions.”

Trudeau has said Dawson gave him the green light to continue his public speaking career after he was elected in 2008. According to the record of paid speaking engagements he’s voluntarily disclosed, he’s spoken to only one union, for a $20,000 fee, since he was elected,

The Conservatives maintain it was unethical of Trudeau to ever accept a fee for speaking to charitable organizations, either before or after becoming an MP. And they include municipalities, educational institutions, school boards and other non-profit entities in their definition of charity.

However, one of their own — former NHL coach Jacques Demers, whom Harper appointed to the Senate — admitted Tuesday that he too has accepted payment for speeches to literacy groups and others the Conservatives describe as charities.

“I’ve taken and I’ve given a lot,” Demers said.

“All I want is the people who have hired me have got more than their money back because they use your name. If not, there probably won’t be anybody in the room.”

Demers added that he doesn’t take money from charities, such as battered women’s shelters, that have personal meaning to him.


 
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Tory attacks on Trudeau boomerang, raise questions about PMO involvement

  1. “The Conservatives maintain it was unethical of Trudeau to ever accept a
    fee for speaking to charitable organizations, either before or after
    becoming an MP.”

    So is it unethical for the owner of a hall to charge a charity a rental fee? Is it unethical for a caterer to expect payment? What about the charity’s aid staff – should they give up their salaries? What about all those for-profit companies that fund-raise for charities? Should they be declared criminals and be run out of town?

    And then there are the charities themselves. Far too many of them these days (see e.g. the Grace Foundation – the charity looking for its money back) spend the bulk of their money on salaries and other expenses, with very little going to the causes they purportedly fund-raise for.

    If a charity loses money on an event where they knew the costs up front and agreed to them, how is it the fault of their vendors (which would include a paid speaker)? Should the blame not fall to the individuals whose poor planning skills led to the failure?

    And why is it wrong for Trudeau (or anyone) to accept a speaking engagement when those offering know the cost up front and have a budget for hiring speakers? Or is it only wrong if your name is Trudeau?

    • Yes. Of course. But it finally brought to light Justin’s money grubbing ways. Missing votes in the House while engaged in more motivational speechifying. Then a really really weak response to being exposed. A me-a cul-pa with very little mea and a begrudging amount of culpa.

      • Money-grubbing or corrupt and law-breaking. Not a great choice, but between the two, come election time I’d go with the former.

        • Justin Trudeau as Prime Minister of Canada? LOL. I mean really LOL. Well maybe when Hell freezes over, when pigs learn how to fly, plus Thomas Mulcair and Stephen Harper come out of the closet to declare that they’re in a serious relationship with each other. I’m a Liberal, but I hope that Canadians never do something so asinine, stupid, and counter productive, as to elect this clown into the highest political office in the country. We have too many of those up on Parliament hill already.

          • YOU are a Liberal?! Puh-leeze. I can take rancour and bitterness, but not falsely cloaked rancour and bitterness.

          • Buck up Patchouli. You’ve got a mental block and are having a hard time dealing with reality. But it’s high time that we called a spade a spade. This man-boy couldn’t field a serious political debate with a rabid racoon from an Etobicoke community center. Major Tom would carve him up in just a few minutes in a mano to mano.

          • So you’d rather have Harper… and all the corruption, lies and criminality that come with that?

          • Keith,
            Let me be perfectly clear now that we’re engaging each other in as many standard cliches, vague assertions, and bland generalities as we possibly can, when I say, “What you see is what you get.”

          • Do you really need the list? Convictions (party & individual); others under investigation; and on & on. With my typing speed I’d need at least an hour to list the specifics. What I see I definitely do not want.

          • Sure Keith,
            Whatever floats your boat. And, of course, the Liberals we’re a bunch of former choirboys who never did anything wrong all the time that they we’re in power.

          • And Harper went on and on about how bad they were; how he would bring honesty, openness and transparency. He purported to be better – yet in many ways he is worse.

            I measure him by the standard he himself set. And against that standard, he gets a big fail

  2. Have the Conservatives, and the PMO, nothing else to offer but blind; unethical attacks? This is beyond sad. Try fixing something in your own house.

  3. This is yet another example of how the CPC makes no distinction between party and government. If they want to attack Trudeau, it should be the party doing so, NOT the PMO. The function of the PMO is to help the PM run the government – NOT help him with his never-ending campaign.
    To Stephen Harper: PLEASE DO NOT USE PUBLIC FUNDS FOR PARTY PURPOSES. You corrupt SOB.

  4. Yet another media party headline that is just so much wishful thinking.

    • You obviously didn’t read the article.

  5. Every time I see a reporter making the case on behalf of “all Canadians” that such and such is happening, I have to look at the political affiliation of the reporter and the publisher. I question this article. For instance, the only reason this story would boomerang on the Tories is the incurious laziness of reporters. Why, for instance, is there no curiousity about the fact that Trudeau has picked up just shy of $1 million from unions and LIberal controlled charities? This is a staggering amount, considering the pedestrian oratory skills of the speaker – Mr Trudeau. Should one wonder that unions and charities can provide tax rebates for donations, and then give unlimited amounts from those donations – say $20K a pop? multiple times for a “speaking engagement” – to politicians who need money, who otherwise can only get $1200 per person through the Elections Canada and CRA controlled donation process. Is this a story? Laundering money through the donations system to support a politician and his Party? Think this should be an issue? What about a politician being paid $160K by taxpayers per year for 5 years, while picking up $1million at the exact same time for speaking fees when he should be working for the taxpayer? It should be embarrassing to the CP reporter to overlook the obvious questions about an ethically challenged, perhaps fraudulently operating leader of the Liberal Party.

    And what message is Trudeau sending to Canadians and to other MPs? He says this is perfectly legal, within the rules and acceptable for him to be speaking for big fees “not as an MP” to Canadians, while the whole time he is an MP. So is he advocating that it is acceptable for all MPs to be out on a second job while being paid by taxpayers for the first job? This is the quality, ethical message a pretender to being PM should make, and be proud of? Is the disdain for the honor of being an MP so strong from this MP that screwing the taxpayer is just a matter of course? How stupid are Canadian voters supposed to be for intellectually supine reporters to not report this stuff – to even think this is not at least worth considering as an issue…..Nah – much to easy to somehow conflate the Tories with the complete lack of moral perspective of the putative “leader” of a party. Shouldn’t we expect more than just expedience from our national figures? And from CP reporters, and Maclean’s? How pathetic.

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