Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Speaker-Gate

Justin Trudeau - The $20,000 speaker?

Image Source: Huffington Post Canada
Before I begin, let's note that I have some deep disagreements with Federal Liberal leader Justin Trudeau. For starters his position on fixing the Senate is breathtakingly naive - just appoint good guys! Any system that relies on people being Angels is doomed to fail.

He's also attacked Mulcair's Dutch Disease analysis as "divisive" despite Liberal Scott Brison using the same idea in a response to the Harper CONs' 2011 budget.

Additionally, Arthur Cramer has criticized the Liberal leader's trade policy - though I haven't looked at the deals thoroughly enough to come to a conclusion yet.

All this is to say that there are legitimate criticisms of Trudeau. The new manufactroversy - that he dared to accept money charities paid him - is not one of them.





To sum up this artificial scandal, a charity - the Grace Foundation - hired Trudeau to speak at an event. They paid him $20,000 and later claimed to have lost thousands on the event.

Grace Foundation Board member Judith Baxter
(left) in the Prime Minister's Office.

Image Source: Facebook 
So a charity made an unwise decision with donated money. In a world that prized accountability, what
should happen after that is some serious reflection, perhaps changes to the decision-making process or even board members at the charity. Instead, the Grace Foundation is gracelessly asking for a refund for their bad decision with donor funds.

It looks like Trudeau will comply, with Conservatives making much hay out've the whole affair.

There's a lot sickening about this ridiculous non-issue. For starters, this effective bailout of the Grace Foundation's dumb move may mean a lack of serious, structural change in the organization. In turn the Foundation might make more stupid decisions - perhaps paying $200,000 Weird Al Yankovic to hold what they think'll be "cool, hip" fundraiser next summer.

Then there's the sanctimony from Harper CON frontbenchers like James Moore over the non-issue. Rather than getting to the bottom of the $90,000 cheque written by Harper's Chief of Staff to avoid political embarrassment - a real issue completely under the Harper CONs scope of responsibility, these political clowns are berating someone over a legitimate transaction.

James Moore thinks that MPs, out've principle, shouldn't take money from charities. If Mr. Moore really is such a fan of pro bono public speaking why couldn't the Foundation just hire him? Maybe they thought going with CON MPs as speakers would be low budge and amateurish (looking at the quality of speech coming from Harper's frontbench, that might not be an unreasonable assessment).


James Moore furthers his sanctimony against Trudeau with this statement:

Moore condemned Trudeau for billing speaker's fees to charities, saying, "We look at the list of some of these charities, the whole business model seems to be built first around Justin Trudeau getting a paycheque." However, he said the only charity he's heard from is the Grace Foundation.

("MPs weigh in on Justin Trudeau charging speaking fees". Leslie MacKinnon (June 17, 2013). CBC)

CON MP James Moore was one of the
first Conservatives to receive a Grace
Foundation letter complaining about
there bust of an event where
Trudeau spoke.

The executive director of
his riding association is married
to a board member of the Grace
Foundation.

Image Source: Wikipedia
Which seems to be all the more reason for wisdom at the charity's end, so they don't waste donated money. As odd as this may sound, if a charity has to pay someone to speak it should be obvious that they aren't really doing it for the shake of charity. Therefore, it's up to the charity to make sure they're getting their end of the bargain.

Maybe this charity was mislead on the rates or arrangements. But, thus far, the only complaint seems to be that the Foundation's event wasn't the hit they wanted it to be:
Ceci Flanagan-Snow, who volunteered to photograph the Grace Foundation event, said, "He [Trudeau] was hired and paid to perform a service. And to me that's fine. That was the rate they negotiated. They paid it. And to come back a year later and say our event was unsuccessful and therefore we should have our money back ... I totally disagree."

("MPs weigh in on Justin Trudeau charging speaking fees". Leslie MacKinnon (June 17, 2013). CBC)


Meanwhile, the whole manufactroversy gets sicker when one discovers that Judith Baxter - the Foundation Board member who made Conservative MP Rob Moore aware of this case of buyer's remorse - is married to Glen Baxter. Glen Baxter is executive director of Rob Moore's Conservative riding association! Needless to say, the Foundation has kept quite as reporters question how their complaining letter got into CON circles.

Meanwhile, the Federal NDP's ethics critic Charlie Angus has made some valid points about problems with missing time representing constituents to do other jobs, but still repeats some of the CON's stupid "how dare he charge a charity for a service he's arranged to provide" talking points.

All in all, with serious ethical lapses and structural issues with the Canadian Senate, widening inequality, water and housing crises on First Nations and a youth job crisis, can't we focus on more important stuff than one charitable organization's dumb decision to overpay Trudeau?

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