Politics
Trudeau in damage control over charity fees scandal

Liberal leader Justin Trudeau

Credits: REUTERS/Chris Wattie

DANIEL PROUSSALIDIS | QMI AGENCY

OTTAWA - Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau has done a complete reversal on the speaking fees he raked in from charities in the five years since he was an elected MP in his Montreal riding.

Trudeau says he's willing to refund tens of thousands of dollars to charities he billed for his speeches to "make it right."

"I'm willing to pay all of the money back if that's what it comes to and I'm going to work with them on that, but I'm going to fix this," Trudeau told CTV on Sunday.

That's the opposite of Trudeau's position on Friday when he brushed off a letter from the New Brunswick-based Grace Foundation asking if he'd be willing to give back his $20,000 speaking fee for a 2012 fundraiser that left the group in the red.

A statement from Trudeau's spokeswoman indicated the MP had "fulfilled all obligations within his contract" and didn't touch the possibility of a refund to the group trying to raise money for furniture in retirement homes.

Grace Foundation did not respond to QMI Agency's request for comment.

MONTE SOLBERG: Blown opportunity: Trudeau could've taken a stand against cynical cronyism but failed

Trudeau also faced stinging criticism from Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall for the $20,000 the MP charged for a speech to a Saskatoon literacy group in 2012.

"In my view, it is inappropriate for a public official to accept a fee to speak at such an event when he is already paid to speak on matters of public policy," Wall said in a statement Friday.

But after hearing of Trudeau's willingness to refund fees, Wall said called the move "very much the right thing to do" via Twitter.

New Brunswick Conservative MP Rob Moore is still skeptical.fees

"Justin Trudeau ignored the Grace Foundation pleas for repayment for four months, and only when embarrassed in the media has he now claimed he will 'make it right'," he said in a statement.

Trudeau released a statement Sunday about his change of heart.

"Canadians hold me to a higher standard, as they should," he said. "I accept and endorse that expectation."

 

Trudeau said he'll speak with the charities he billed for speeches to patch things up if they're unhappy.

He also sang his own praises to explain why his speeches were in such demand.

"I'm actually a very good speaker," he said in the television interview.

Trudeau has not talked about other controversial speaking fees he collected from school boards, which depend on taxes for their revenue, and labour unions, which depend on members' dues.

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