Defending Justin Trudeau

How the heck I wind up in the position of actually defending Justin Trudeau, I’m not sure. It’s possibly because I think the outrage over his public speaking fees is a tad … well, overblown. Not to mention contrived.

Let’s begin by having a look at the list of engagements that was provided to the Ottawa Citizen by his leadership campaign. The period we’re interested in, from this list, is anything after September 2008, because that was when the 2008 election was formally called, and that was the year Justin first entered Parliament as an MP.

  • In 2008, from September to December he had three speaking engagements, totalling $45,000
  • In 2009, he had three engagements (31 January, 2 and 6 November), earning $35,000
  • In 2010, he had five engagements (5 March, 23 April, 7 May, 23 September and 6 December), earning $90,000
  • In 2011, he had three engagements (25 January, 9 and 15 June), earning $50,000
  • In 2012, he had four engagements (25 and 30 April, 26 and 27 June), earning $72,000

The point, believe it or not, isn’t the amount of the fees, but the frequency of the engagements: simply put, they haven’t been happening often enough to cause people to question his commitment to his duties as an MP. If you want to check that, you can do so by looking at his voting record on the Parliamentary web site.

So: the engagements of 2008 didn’t affect Justin’s voting, because they took place before Parliament began to sit on November 18.

2009? The January engagement happened on a Saturday, when Parliament doesn’t sit. Two days before, on the 29th, Justin did vote against a budget sub-amendment. As for November, yes, he did miss a vote on employment insurance on the 2nd — but so did Michael Ignatieff, Stephen Harper and Thomas Mulcair. (There were no votes on the 6th of November, as it was a Friday and Parliament usually doesn’t schedule recorded votes to happen on Fridays.)

2010? There were no recorded vote on 5 March 23 April or 7 May, since they were Fridays. There were also no recorded votes on 23 September, a Thursday or 6 December, a Monday.

2011? Parliament wasn’t sitting on 25 January. No vote was held on the 9th of June. The 15th did have a budget vote, on which Justin did vote “nay” along with the rest of his party; the speaking engagement on this day was in Ottawa, so it wouldn’t have been a hardship.

2012? There was no recorded vote on the 25th of April, nor on the 26th or 27th of June. On 30 April, Justin did miss two recorded votes, one being a supply vote on a motion by his leader, Bob Rae.

So — during his tenure as an MP, Justin Trudeau missed three votes as a result of his 18 speaking engagements, two of which happened on the same day. When you consider that he has 395 recorded votes on his record, that number seems pretty trifling. Certainly it’s no indication that his performance as an MP has suffered.

Conclusion: Criticizing Justin’s speaking engagements while being an MP is on a par with criticizing Stephen Harper for not performing French-language songs on the piano. It’s not enough to cause his leadership campaign to even tremor, much less derail.

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10 Responses to Defending Justin Trudeau

  1. chg says:

    Thanks for the analysis which shoots down some arguments.

    It is a subtle point, because Trudeau was paid to speak before becoming an MP on issues like youth involvement and education, which have relevance to government. Because it is subtle, he sought advice from the Ethics Commissioner, and her ruling is good enough for me.

    One can see from his pre-MP days, that Trudeau is asked to speak a lot. He still speaks a lot, but most of it is not paid. Many places would want him to speak in his role as an MP, but if someone wants to pay him to speak on the same general issues he has always spoken on and he can do that without affecting his MP duties, I don’t see the problem — provided the ethics commissioner has decided there is a clear distinction between these private-business talks and his political talks.

  2. Jennifer Ross says:

    I don’t want to defend Justin too much because I am not supporting him as leader, but it is important to look with facts and not totally made up stuff.

    Yes, a candidate for Leader (or a candidate in an election) is prohibited from donating whatever they like to their own campaign. They get the $1,200 we all get to support our candidate of choice. They are allowed to pay for their personal expenses. They are further allowed : “Candidates and nomination contestants can contribute an additional $1,000 out of their own funds to their own campaigns. This amount is not indexed.
    In addition, if an individual is running as a contestant in a leadership contest that same year, the individual can contribute a further $1,000 from personal funds to his or her campaign. This amount is not indexed.” EC Website

    So, $1,000, $2,000 at most, wouldn’t need more than one speaking engagement to cover it.

  3. John Case says:

    The issue for me as a non-Trudeau supporting Liberal is not that he was absent for a vote or two, and some might find that distasteful but it’s not the real issue for most people.
    What bothers me about this is that when Justin was being paid to sit as an MP, he was also charging school boards, universities, not-for-profits and public agencies a “speaking fee”.
    I’m fairly certain that speaking to schools and community groups is part, even if it’s just a small part, of the job of an MP and the ethics commissioner might not have had a problem with it, but I do.

  4. Ted B says:

    Good post. Facts and data used in a non-partisan way in an effort to focus attention on real issues. Kudos.

    The concern that speaking fees could be a way to hide skirting election financing and campaign rules is very real. I suspect that is why Trudeau pro-actively sought out the view of the Ethics Commissioner before the speaking engagements and not just when he was “caught”.

    To conclude something nefarious was up, then we need to do what our host here has done with his speaking dates and look at the actual speaking engagements. What did he speak about and who was his audience? I have not done that research, but I seem to recall that he was doing a lot of speaking on the importance of “volunteerism” at schools and the like. (I recall the one incident when he spoke at a RC school on that subject and Dean Del Mastro, a Pentecostal Christian, tried to block him from speaking telling the Roman Catholic Church that Trudea was not a good enough Roman Catholic for them.)

    I get that leaders draw the ire of the opposing sides to the point of “all attachs are not just fair but good”, and Harper has certainly had his share of deranged attacks, but I puzzled by the obsessiveness of the early stage “Trudeau derangement syndrome” before he’s even won leadership.

  5. Sam2121 says:

    Trudeau is restricted in what he can financally contribute to his own campaign to $1200 just like everyone else.

    It would important for those posting here to first get themselves informed about the electoral law before posting outrageous assertions.

    What I relly think is happening on this site is that a heck of a lot of Tories are starting to get very worried about the appeal of Justin Trudeau!

  6. Blame Crash says:

    It’s pretty obvious that his voting record and attendance is a minor issue of little importance. But why are you attempting to steer attention to it, pretending that that’s the controversy?
    The real controversy is the fact that this is a blatant scheme to skirt the election laws. That’s bad enough but it gets worse! Can you think of a better way to hide graft and take kick-backs that to pay someone a grossly exorbitant “fee” for something as simple as showing up and blabbing for a hour!
    There is no doubt about it, this is full frontal corruption and is so typical of those low brow liberals.

  7. Taliesyn says:

    The problem I have with Trudeau collecting these fees is who is paying. Public sector monies should NEVER be paid to politicians for ANY reason. The potential for corruption is too high and even the appearance of conflict of interest must be avoided.

    Considering he is also campaigning for the leadership of the Liberal Party, any payment to him could be considered support and should, even if the law currently doesn’t consider it such, be restricted to the limits allowed for under election finance law.

  8. Joe says:

    The only question that I have is about election law. I know that individuals, corporations and unions are limited in the amount they can donate to a campaign. Is the candidate likewise restricted or can he put every penny he has into his own election bid. If the candidate can put as much money into his campaign as he can afford wouldn’t ‘fee for talk’ be a slick way of circumventing election law? Of course from that point of view did Justin already use some of those fees as campaign funds and if so did the school boards break the spirit if not the letter of Canada’s election laws?

  9. Big Jim says:

    “If 10 year-old school children are willing to pay $25,000 to listen to Justin, well, that’s just the free market, isn’t it?”

    So you are saying the children’s parents sent their 10 year olds to school with envelopes stuffed with money? Or are you saying the 10 year olds did it on their own?

  10. Johnny B Liberal says:

    Thank you for illustrating that Justin can walk and chew gum at the same time. I never thought this was in dispute.

    Some of you knuckle draggers seem to think it’s unethical to moonlight as an MP. Not me.

    If 10 year-old school children are willing to pay $25,000 to listen to Justin, well, that’s just the free market, isn’t it?

Comments are closed.