Tag Archives: Grace Foundation

The rise of Trudeaumania, redux

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Charging twenty-thousand bucks to a charity that looks after old folks for speaking at one of its fundraising events would be, for anyone, tantamount to committing political suicide. Anyone, except the ridiculously telegenic Justin Trudeau.

The federal Liberal Leader, it seems, can do no wrong, which is not how Conservative and NDP oddsmakers hoped the world would be working by now, mere months after the Grit convention.

As the Saint John Telegraph-Journal reported last week, Mr. Trudeau’s offer to return his appearance fee to the Saint John-based Grace Foundation has met with stony silence. According to the story, “Kate Monfette (spokeswoman for the Leader) said the Grace Foundation is the only organization so far to indicate it wants a refund,” and yet, she said, “We have made initial contact with all organizations and so far we have not received a request for a refund.”

Methinks, the organization has thought better of its original decision to tap Mr. Trudeau for the largesse. The firestorm of controversy that erupted in the wake of its highly public request barely singed the young politico.

Indeed, recent public opinion surveys tell a convincing tale

“A new poll shows the federal Liberals continue to pound the Conservatives, with Canadians saying for the first time leader Justin Trudeau would make a better prime minister then Stephen Harper,” The Montreal Gazette reported late last month. “According to a new Léger Marketing poll, 27 per cent of Canadians now think Trudeau would be a better prime minister than Harper, who has a score of 23 per cent.

New Democratic Party Leader Thomas Mulcair is seen as the best prime minister by 14 per cent. It’s the first time Léger has reached such a polling conclusion since Trudeau took over the party April 14, said Léger vice-president Christian Bourque. ‘It’s the Trudeau phenomenon,’ said Bourque. ‘In our polling it’s the first time that he’s edging ahead of Stephen Harper.’

In fact, the newspaper added, “The national poll, conducted for The Gazette and Le Devoir, showed the Liberals under Trudeau would have rocketed into a majority government had an election been held this week. With distribution of the undecided vote, the Liberals now stand at 37 per cent in the polls – up seven percentage points from March – followed by the Conservatives at 29 per cent – down two from March – and the NDP at 21 per cent – down three points from March.”

Meanwhile, it seems, Atlantic Canadians are warming even more steadily to the prospect of federal Liberal government. According to a CBC News story last week, “The federal Liberals opened up a wide lead in party support in May, earning the support of 49 per cent of Atlantic Canadians, compared to 24 per cent for both the Conservatives and the NDP.

“Don Mills, the chief executive officer of Corporate Research Associates, said the Liberals received the jolt in popularity after Trudeau won his party’s leadership.

‘He has had, obviously, a pretty significant impact in the resurgence of the Liberal party. It was only in 2011, just before the election, where the Liberals fell to the lowest support ever in 25 years of tracking in Atlantic Canada,’ Mills said in an interview. ‘Now we see the NDP are falling back to more traditional levels of support and the Liberals are seeing the highest amount of support in eight years.’”

What accounts for Mr. Trudeau’s rock-star status, particularly on the East Coast, has less to do with his policy statements – which are, frankly, as thin a gruel – and more to do with who he is not; namely Stephen Harper and Thomas Mulcair. That and the fact that he appears genuinely happy to be wherever he is found, captured on video, compensates for his youth, relative inexperience and the odd misstep.

For all the legitimate criticism he could draw for charging charitable organizations for the pleasure of his company, none of it will stick. The Grace Foundation’s silence might only signify its dawning realization of the reality of their own awkward circumstances.

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The perils of pontificating for money

Not $20,000 in the penny plastic

Not $20,000 in the penny plastic

From time to time, I augment my absurdly meagre living by crafting speeches for famous people. It’s nice work, when I can get it. I have noticed that the more exalted the public figure, the less inclined he is to draft his own addresses.

Still, the real money is not in the writing, but in the yakking.

Sir Richard Branson of Virgin territory can command upwards of $250,000 per appearance. These days, he’s fond of making commencement speeches (I have no idea what, if anything, the billionaire charges for these). His recent post on the social networking site, LinkedIn, suggests that in such circumstances he prefers to forgo his customary fees and handle them personally, which means haphazardly:

“I have been offered to do graduation speeches over the years and did accept an honorary Doctor of Technology from Loughborough University. It was strange at the time, but now we have Virgin Galactic perhaps it’s not so strange! I was chuffed to receive it, having left school at 15. It was a hell of a lot easier than going through university to get it! If you are graduating, congratulations and good luck for your future. Every graduate – scratch that – every person has the chance to reach for the stars in their chosen field.”

The king of all toastmasters, however, must be former U.S. President Bill Clinton who has, according to some estimates, raked in as much as $89 million pontificating before rapt crowds of establishmentarians since the end of his second term. An item in the New York Daily News, published earlier this month, notes that the “retired” Commander in Chief “has earned a whopping $500,000 speaking advance to deliver a 45 minute speech at the 90th birthday bash for Israeli President Shimon Peres – putting (his) price tag at roughly $11,100 per minute.”

On the other hand, “The Democrat won’t personally benefit from the sum, as it will reportedly be directed to the William J. Clinton Foundation. Clinton’s foundation did not respond to a request for comment. . .Initially, invited guests were asked to pay an $800 entrance fee but President Peres pulled the plug on the cover charge, saying he wouldn’t attend the party in his honor if it turned into a fundraiser.”

All of which brings us to the odd case of Canadian Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau, who has promised to reimburse New Brunswick’s Grace Foundation – whose mission is to support the “St. John & St. Stephen Home” for the elderly – $20,000 he charged for a speech he delivered last year, when he was just a lowly Member of Parliament.

The decision, he announced on CTV’s Question Period, was “the right thing to do.” What’s more, he vowed, he was prepared to work with any group he might have addressed in his official capacity as an elected representative “to try to fix it and make it right.” If news reports are correct, that’s a lot of fixing.

According to last week’s Globe and Mail, “Mr. Trudeau won’t necessarily reimburse every organization that paid for his services – including schools and non-profit organizations – saying he was ‘open to exploring all options with them.’ Doing so could cost him most of the $277,000 he earned for speeches since becoming an MP. Mr. Trudeau earned a reported total of $1.3-million during his entire public-speaking career before running for party leader last year.”

The question, of course, is: If the repayment is the right thing to do now, why wasn’t it the right thing to do in March when he initially rejected the Grace Foundation’s request for recompense? (Its fundraiser actually lost money thanks, in part, to Mr. Trudeau’s pricey stipend).

Do sitting politicians have an obligation to present themselves at charitable functions free of charge? Or do they only see the light when Senators Mike Duffy, Pamela Wallin and Mac Harb are on the hot seat over dicey expense accounts?

These are issues only Mr. Trudeau can resolve. Big bucks carry big responsibilities – the best reason, perhaps, for keeping one’s trap shut whenever at all possible.

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