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.