Charity asks Justin Trudeau to return speaking fee after event bombs

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau speaks to the media outside of Parliament Hill in Ottawa June 5, 2013.



OTTAWA - An East Coast charity has asked Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau to return a $20,000 fee he was paid to speak at an event in 2012 that flopped.

Grace Foundation in Port City, N.B., needed $300,000 to furnish two local retirement homes. A bake sale wouldn't raise that kind of money, so the charity took a chance and decided on a speaker-led fundraiser.

Trudeau, they believed, would draw the crowd they'd need.

As it turned out, he didn't. And now Grace Foundation wants a refund.

It sent a letter to Trudeau's booking agency.

"The fundraising event we hired you for as a speaker was a huge disappointment and a financial loss for our organization," board member Susan Buck wrote. "A refund of the fees charged would meet our needs and would provide a positive public impression."

But speaking fees aren't generally returned just because the event isn't a success.

Trudeau's office said the fee was negotiated as part of a contract. The $20,000 covered Trudeau's travel and accommodation expenses as well as his fee for the speech.

It is unclear whether Trudeau intends to repay the charity, but regardless, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney seized on the episode to attack Trudeau's judgment.

"He was getting paid $160,000 as an MP, but he went and took a $20,000 cheque from a group of seniors," Kenney said. "Mr. Speaker, I'd like to know how many members here go to charity events where they give money...that's what most Canadians do."

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