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Justin Trudeau has offered to return his speaker’s fee to the Saint John-based Grace Foundation, which says it’s “deeply distressed” its effort to get its money back has been made into a political football. (THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Justin Trudeau has offered to return his speaker’s fee to the Saint John-based Grace Foundation, which says it’s “deeply distressed” its effort to get its money back has been made into a political football. (THE CANADIAN PRESS)

WHAT READERS THINK

June 22: This week’s TALKING POINT – MPs and speakers’ fees – and other letters to the editor Add to ...

In a week where scandals at every level of government grabbed headlines, Justin Trudeau was criticized for initially refusing to give back $20,000 he was paid to appear at a money-losing charity event. Readers, print and digital, weigh in on the ethics of MPs’ accepting speakers’ fees

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The Harper government’s posture of outrage over the fact Justin Trudeau took money from charities is a bit rich (Accepting Money From Charity Not Appropriate, Says Harper – June 19). Heritage Minister James Moore denounces Mr. Trudeau for taking funds from the “most vulnerable” and Stephen Harper intones that “I do not take money from charities.”

Excuse me? The Harper government builds policy around taking money from social agencies and the most vulnerable. It slashes funding to charities whose mandate doesn’t line up with government ideology: Recall Kairos, Match International and Planned Parenthood. To cite just a few examples from recent activities, the Conservatives have reduced funding for refugee health services, immigration-settlement agencies and international assistance to the poorest nations.

I’m not a fan of wealthy public figures collecting speaking fees from community groups. But this government is in no position to throw stones when it comes to taking money from the most vulnerable.

Elizabeth Vibert, Victoria

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These are charity functions that Mr. Trudeau is charging to speak at. Sure, it’s perfectly legit. But what does it say about the guy? Some of these charities lost money. Now that it’s in the open, he’s offering to pay the money back. Even he knows it looks bad.

Sandra Praught Sutherland, Whitchurch-Stouffville, Ont.

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Both parties agreed beforehand that his speech was worth $20,000. If the charity felt otherwise, it could have said no.

Paul Belisle, Hamilton

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In my experience as a musician, charity events pay quite well. The purpose of a charity event is to attract wealthy donors and separate them from some of that wealth. Attracting the most donors requires an event with good food and drink, in elegant surroundings, with great live entertainment and perhaps a celebrity keynote speaker. The professionals involved in a charity event are paid well, from the caterer, to the decorator, to the musicians, the venue staff, the bartenders and the keynote speaker.

The question of whether or not it is ethical for a politician to maintain a career as a public speaker might be asked of some of our more patrician Conservatives as well, but the fact remains that professionals are fairly compensated for their services.

Ken Cory, Oshawa, Ont.

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In future, perhaps politicians will speak for free at charity fundraisers as a public service, however, all transport, meals and accommodation should be at the charities’ expense, not the taxpayers’.

Alan Jackson, Ridgetown, Ont.

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What the heck is so wrong with someone making money – politician or not? There was nothing illegal about this. I would fully support any public official who can charge an honorarium or fee for a speaking engagement.

Why are Canadians so jealous of the success of others?

Joe Puccio, Guelph, Ont.

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You should have noted that more than 50 per cent of the MPs who are reporting additional income are Conservatives, and that at least one of them reporting additional income from public speaking is a Conservative.

W.C.P. Baldwin, Toronto

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You are allowed to work for money. If you get the price you ask for your service, who is to blame? It is called negotiation. Charities regularly pay for speakers. It’s part of their expenses. If the charity is so stupid as to pay more than they it get back, it’s in no way the speaker’s fault.

Claire Burman, Shawinigan-Sud, Que.

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The optics of taking money from charities just isn’t good. You have to question the ethics involved. Many people donate their time to charities without expecting to profit from it.

When Mr. Trudeau saw that only about 120 people showed up at the charity event, he should have immediately offered a refund or at least a reduction of his $20,000 fee. He comes across as just another in a long line of politicians in it for himself.

Paul Lailey, Vancouver

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I think that Justin Trudeau had every right to charge for speaking to groups that are well outside his own constituency. He was not the party leader at the time. Why should he have been expected to give up his time to prepare for a speech, then to travel to and from the event for free?

If a group with charitable status was willing to try and cash in on his name as a speaker to attract a crowd to a fundraising event, then he should have had no qualms about charging a fee.

Brian Mills, Calgary

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The whole idea of a serving politician topping up his/her salary with speakers’ fees is problematic. It’s an invitation for abuse and it should be banned asap.

Ian Nicholson, Fredericton

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The payment of a fee by a charity to Justin Trudeau has been discussed almost exclusively in terms of partisan politics (Charity Distressed By Flap Over Request For Refund Of Trudeau Speaking Fee – June 21). But, we should be asking a more fundamental question: Why are charities, such as the Grace Foundation, which was trying to raise money in support of a seniors’ residential facility, willing to pay high fees for speakers? This is because they are faced with the double whammy of government cutbacks and a shrinking philanthropic pie. That’s the real scandal, especially when important health and social services are involved.

Sid Frankel, associate professor, Faculty of Social Work, University of Manitoba

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ON REFLECTION More letters to the editor

John Baird’s freebie

Re Baird’s Lodgings Were Friendly Favours (June 21): I and half a dozen friends will be in London next year and we would be pleased, like the vacationing John Baird and his six buddies, to occupy Macdonald House if the High Commissioner isn’t in residence.

Since Mr. Baird’s office says it “did not cost taxpayers a dime” for him to stay there – it was a favour from the High Commissioner – we’d expect to stay free, too.

We sure hope Gordon Campbell’s kind offer to Mr. Baird wasn’t for insiders only.

Neil Buchan, Courtenay, B.C.

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A cat’s nine lives

Re Floods Force Tens Of Thousands Of Albertans From Their Homes (June 21): Your front-page story and the photo of Kevan Yaets and his cat, Momo, swimming for safety after he pulled the feline out of his flooded truck were riveting.

But good journalism follows the story carefully. Animal lovers everywhere, and those of us in the ailurophile subset in particular, need to know: Did Momo make it?

Mike Hutton, Ottawa

Editor’s note: Yes, he did. Number of lives used: Unknown.

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Applaud or lament?

Re Atleo’s Full Court Press For Action (June 21): On National Aboriginal Day, June 21, should we applaud the perseverance of First Nations or lament their naiveté? The first European explorers and settlers lied about their intentions and stole aboriginal land, and from the Royal Proclamation of 1763 to this very day, the descendants of those early Europeans (Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada, represented by the Government of Canada) continue to pretend that their actions are not indicative of their intentions.

Michael D. Arkin, Toronto

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With balconies, size counts

Re Down With Balconies (June 20): Realtor Brad Lamb says condo owners don’t use balconies. I live in an older building; my balcony is about 600 sq. ft., large enough to comfortably hold a dinner party.

In summer, I eat almost every meal there and use it more than the living room.

The problem isn’t with balconies, it’s with builders whose objective is generating the biggest profit, rather than building housing that fits occupants’ needs. If you build balconies correctly, owners will use them.

Robert Lachance, Toronto

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