Canada's Immigration Minister Jason Kenney
OTTAWA - The feud between Jason Kenney and Justin Trudeau escalated Friday with the immigration minister accusing the Grit MP of ignoring his parliamentary duties to pad his bank account by moonlighting as a professional speaker.
"I think it's really strange," Kenney said in Calgary.
"He has apparently missed a number of votes in the House, missed caucus meetings. He's getting paid by taxpayers."
The Liberal leadership contender has faced criticism for earning hundreds of thousands of dollars in fees at the same time he pulls in $158,000 annually representing his Montreal riding, plus other perks and benefits.
From schools to unions, the millionaire politician rakes in as much as $20,000 a pop speaking to audiences across the country, including on days when Parliament is in session because ethics rules permit MPs to do so on the public dime.
Trudeau was asked earlier this week whether he would return his salary for those days he skipped his parliamentary obligations, but refused to respond to the Canadian Taxpayers Federation proposal that he and other double-dipping MPs reimburse the treasury.
Kenney said he never accepted fees when he was an opposition MP and rules prevent cabinet ministers from freelancing to line their pockets.
"MPs speak at hundreds of events around the country, around their ridings for free and I think it's bizarre that someone would be charging charities and government organizations like school boards $10,000 to $15,000 to speak.
"I think it's a serious ethical problem quite frankly," he said.
Trudeau maintains he has permission from the ethics commissioner to roam the circuit as a public speaker and has abided by the rules, including elections laws which prohibit contributions from unions and corporations.
The Ontario Public Service Employees Union coughed up $20,000 in 2010 to have Trudeau talk at a union event.
Kenney and Trudeau have sparred many times before, including last week when the minister - considered a possible leadership contender when Prime Minister Stephen Harper steps down - called Trudeau a "zero."
"If I were a Liberal, as I used to be, I wouldn't be inclined to vote for a guy who has zero executive experience, zero governing experience and a zero record of putting forward substantive ideas to address the tough issues of the day."
In 2011, Trudeau complained to Elections Canada that Kenney wrongfully used his ministerial powers to woo ethnic Canadians to vote Conservative.