Politics
As an MP, Trudeau pocketed thousands in speaking fees

Liberal MP Justin Trudeau speaks to several hundred Western University students at The Spoke during a leadership campaign stop in London on Wednesday February 6, 2013.

Credits: CRAIG GLOVER/QMI AGENCY

DAVID AKIN | PARLIAMENTARY BUREAU CHIEF

OTTAWA - Justin Trudeau has charged school boards and other publicly funded organizations tens of thousands of dollars for speeches he's given since becoming an MP, a practice that, while legal, has brought him censure from some of his Commons colleagues and Liberal leadership rivals.

In May 2010, for example, the Algonquin and Lakeshore Catholic School Board in Kingston, Ont., paid Trudeau $15,000 for a 30-minute speech and 45-minute question-and-answer session, QMI Agency has learned.

Trudeau, a former teacher, also billed the school board $780 for a limousine service to take him from Ottawa to Kingston and return him to Montreal.

Trudeau provided the Ottawa Citizen with a full list of his speaking engagements since he became an MP in 2008 and the total since then adds up to $277,000 in speaking engagements.

Though Trudeau provided details of his speaking engagements to the Citizen, he would not release them to QMI Agency.

"It is very clear that MPs can have supplementary sources of income in things they do," Trudeau said Thursday during a campaign stop in Peterborough, Ont. "In my disclosure I've been more transparent than any politician ever has and I stand by what I said. I have set a new level of transparency."

Still, many MPs balked at the idea of their colleagues accepting speaking fees.

"I can't believe MPs would be taking substantial speaking fees when it's part of the job," Immigration Minister Jason Kenney said. Kenney said when he was an opposition MP, he gave many speeches and was sometimes offered an honorarium for his time, but said he refused even a $100 honorarium.

NDP MP Charlie Angus said he'll accept sandwiches and a pint of beer from a group that invites him to speak, but would not charge fees.

"I speak at numerous events," Angus said. "I believe it's part of my job as an MP."

Angus' caucus colleague Pat Martin denounced the practice.

"It is absolutely untoward and inappropriate for MPs or senators to charge a speaker's fee," Martin said. "I'm paid handsomely to be a member of Parliament and if I'm invited to speak ... that's one of my duties to share that with civil society, free of charge, gratis."

MPs earning income beyond their $158,000-a-year salary must disclose sources of income to the ethics commissioner and Trudeau did that. But while the ethics commissioner publishes a registry detailing the sources of additional income, it does not provide the amounts.

The office of the ethics commissioner was not immediately able to provide additional information on Trudeau's disclosure statements.

Trudeau told the Ottawa Citizen that in 2007 - the year before he became an MP - he received $462,000 in speaking fees and, upon becoming an MP, received advice from the ethics commissioner in order to continue to receive those fees.

Ethical or not, the practice did not pass muster with two of his leadership rivals.
"MPs shouldn't get paid extra for public speaking, it's part of their job description," leadership rival George Takach said.

Leadership rival David Bertschi told the London Free Press Thursday that he is uncomfortable with the idea of MPs receiving speaking fees.

"I certainly wouldn't be, as a member of Parliament, receiving money for speaking out on matters of public interest," he said, noting that it is part of the job of an MP to make speeches.

"It's critically important for members of Parliament to speak out and assist in creating sound policy across the country."

A spokesperson for Marc Garneau, seen as Trudeau's biggest rival for the leadership, said he earned a fee of $10,000 from one speaking engagement since becoming an MP and that that engagement was booked before he became an MP.

MP Joyce Murray, also one of Trudeau's leadership rivals, said, through a spokesperson, that she "feels that members of Parliament are entitled to make their own decisions on whether to accept paid speaking engagements."

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