No take up so far on Trudeau's offer to refund public speaking fees

OTTAWA – Justin Trudeau has yet to pay back a dime of the public-speaking fees he earned while sitting as an MP.

The Liberal leader promised 10 days ago to reimburse any group that feels it didn’t get its money’s worth.

But a spokeswoman says no group has sought repayment — other than the Grace Foundation, a New Brunswick charity that first sparked the controversy over Trudeau’s past moonlighting on the public-speaking circuit.

And it’s not entirely clear whether even the foundation still wants its $20,000 back.

Kate Monfette says Trudeau last week asked the foundation to specify whether it wants its money back in cash or “some other arrangement,” such as having him headline another fundraising event — for free, this time.

She says the foundation has yet to respond.

Foundation board member Susan Buck first wrote in March to the Speakers’ Spotlight, the agency through which Trudeau was hired for a June 2012 fundraising event, to seek a refund on the grounds that the event actually lost money.

The letter wound up being circulated by Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s office earlier this month and became fodder for a concerted Conservative offensive against Trudeau for taking money from charities rather than donating to them.

In a public statement last week, the foundation’s board said it got no response to its request for a refund from the Speakers’ Spotlight and, thus, decided in May to drop the matter. The board said it was “deeply distressed” that the matter had since become a political football.

Speakers’ Spotlight president Martin Perelmuter says his agency did respond on April 9 to the request for a refund, indicating in an email to Buck that “we were confused by the request for a refund since we had followed up after the event, nine months prior to receiving the letter, and were told that the Grace Foundation was pleased with the outcome and Justin’s presentation.”

Trudeau voluntarily disclosed last February that he’s earned more than $1.3 million on the public-speaking circuit since 2006, including $277,000 from 17 groups since he was first elected in 2008.

Some of those groups are charities and non-profit entities such as school boards, municipalities and universities.

“We have made initial contact with all 17 organizations,” Monfette said Wednesday. “So far there has been no request for a refund.”