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.