Politics
Trudeau missed House business while earning thousands on speakers circuit

Federal Liberal Leadership front-runner Justin Trudeau responds to questions from reporters after speaking to students.

Credits: Clifford Skarstedt/Peterborough Examiner/QMI AGENCY

DAVID AKIN | PARLIAMENTARY BUREAU CHIEF

OTTAWA -- Justin Trudeau is one of just three MPs - all of them Liberals - to report extra income from speaking engagements in the last five years.

And, in Trudeau's case, it appears he missed debates, votes and possibly one of his party's caucus meetings so he could earn tens of thousands on the speaking circuit.

Trudeau, speaking to supporters in Bracebrige, Ont., Friday, declined to provide any more details about the issue.

But in documents he provided to the Ottawa Citizen, he said he had been paid $277,000 for 17 speaking engagements since becoming an MP in the 2008 general election.

A QMI agency examination of those engagements founds that nine events for which he earned $147,000 were held on days the House of Commons was sitting.

Hansard, the official record of House of Common proceedings shows no evidence Trudeau was in the House on the dates of those nine events.

On April 20, 2012, for example, Trudeau earned $20,000 for a speech he gave to Literacy for Life in Saskatoon. In the House of Commons, other MPs were debating and voting on a pension reform initiative.

On Jan. 31, 2009, MPs debated and voted on changes to employment insurance benefits. There is no record Trudeau voted on that initiative or participated in the day's proceedings. But he did give a speech that day to the Toronto-based group, The Learning Partnership, for which he was paid $10,000.

The other two Liberal MPs to earn speaking fees are Trudeau's Liberal leadership rival, Marc Garneau, and Toronto-area MP Kirsty Duncan.

All three followed House of Commons guidelines for this activity, reporting their income from speaking fees to the House of Commons ethics commissioner.

Nonetheless, two other Liberal leadership rivals, David Bertschi and George Takach, said they would not accept such fees should they become MPs. (Neither has ever been an MP).

Both Conservative and NDP MPs also said MPs should forgo speaking fees.

A Garneau campaign spokesperson said he earned $10,000 from one speech which he gave shortly after becoming MP.

Garneau was contracted to give that speech, the spokesperson said, before he became an MP.

Duncan was unable to provide details Friday about her speaking engagements as she was undergoing dental surgery.

Her speaker agency indicates at its website she charges between $10,000 and $20,000 per speech.

Duncan has declared income from speaking engagements to the ethics commissioner in each of 2009, 2010, and 2011.

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