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Everybody’s having a crack at Justin Trudeau for charging a fee to speak at a charity event. PMO staffers, NDP and Tory backbenchers — even Prime Minister Stephen Harper has come out tsk-tsking about how shameful it is that Trudeau, a public servant, had the gall to charge for his appearance.

Trudeau voluntarily disclosed that he’s earned $277,000 giving speeches to 17 different groups since becoming an MP in 2008, but before he was named Liberal leader.

Earlier this week, media reports started circulating highlighting three fundraising events headlined by Trudeau in 2006 and 2007 — before he became an MP — that lost money

But, really, what’s the big deal?

The speaking circuit is a huge industry, with fees ranging from a few grand to hundreds of thousands of dollars based solely on the amount of celebrity oomph the speaker brings with them.

And that’s the key word here — celebrity.

The New Brunswick charity didn’t agree to fork over $20,000 to Justin the MP.

No, they crunched the numbers and figured 20K was a fair price to have Justin-the-Trudeau come and lend their event a little celebrity glitz.

Nobody would consider paying that to hear just any old MP speak. But the young, charismatic son of one of the country’s most flamboyant, loved/hated prime ministers?  Well, that’s different.

The only problem here is it didn’t pan out. Just because you have a celebrity on your posters doesn’t mean you’re going to get bums in seats and dollars in your collection tin.

Not every charity fundraiser is money in the bank — just ask the Roman Catholic Archdiocese in St. John’s. In 2009, two dream homes — 30,000 tickets at $100 a pop — netted the archdiocese a loss of $500,000.

If you want a guest speaker rather than a ticket drive, go online and there are celebrity speakers to fit any event.

But bring your wallet.

Wayne Gretzky? No problem — for $50,000 plus.

More cerebral? No worries — Margaret Atwood for anywhere between $25,000 and $50,000, according to a recent report by Toronto Life.

From former presidents (Bill Clinton — $100,000-$350,000) and former stars (Roseanne Barr — $100,000), to former boy bands (New Kids on the Block — $500,000) you can have just about anyone you want appear at your event. You just have to have the money up front and hope you sell enough tickets to cover your costs.

No one bats an eyelid when a former sports star or a former starlet charges an arm and a leg to speak, or even just to sign an autograph — search Mark Hamill and read complaints from “Star Wars” fans about the $125-a-pop Luke Skywalker charges for each autograph — and that’s on top of his speaking fee.

But Trudeau’s critics will have you believe that he is letting the team down. That as an MP, a public servant, he should be willing to turn up at your bake sale and speak gratis.

More to the point, those media reports that started making the rounds on Monday have been traced back to the Prime Minister’s Office, which opens up a different can of worms.

If MPs, as public servants, can’t speak at charity events for a fee, how can the office of the top civil servant — the prime minister — peddle partisan media reports targeting one of his political opponents?

Organizations: Toronto Life.From

Geographic location: New Brunswick

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Recent comments

  • Ed Power
    June 20, 2013 - 19:33

    So, Aunt Lizzie, If Trudeau owned a Maries Mini Mart or NAPA Auto Parts store, would he be unable to work there when he wasn't on the Hill? Would he have to decline any pay he was due for the work performed? If he was a lawyer, would he have to stop practing law while he was an MP? If he was an electrician, he couldn't wire up a few houses over the summer? As a teacher, hecouldn't teach a few courses over the summer? The Charity hired him to speak at their fundraiser, he spoke, they thanked him and wrote a letter to their members touting the success of the fundraiser.....and then a year later come looking for their money back??!Some scandal. I would suggest that it is time to fire a few fundraising organizers who seem to be stunningly inept at their jobs, and a few Tory backroom boys and girls whose performance over the past few months - and years - is an embarrassment to the country.

  • Herb Morrison
    June 20, 2013 - 18:15

    Those who seem to be taking potshots at young Trudeau would do well to remen=mber that the first words that he learned at his Daddy's knee were probably Fuddle Duddle (In both official languages.) Seriously, I think Mr. Trudeau has a much thicker skin than he is obviously being given credit for by his detractors.

  • Aunt Lizzie
    June 20, 2013 - 13:08

    All MPs should of course speak free of charge to charities and associations whenever they are asked to do so, as long as it does not interfere with their parliamentary duties. The problem in Trudeau's case is that we taxpayers were paying him to be in parliament doing his job as an MP, and he chose to play hooky from his paid parliamentary duties in order to get paid for speaking gigs. If speaking to charities is part of his parliamentary duties, then he should not be charging charities to hear him speak. If speaking to charities is not part of his parliamentary duties, then he should not do it on parliamentary time while collecting his MP salary. Either way, his behaviour is clearly wrong - without even considering the fact that demanding payment to help a charity is just plain selfish.

  • marilyn
    June 20, 2013 - 09:44

    More crap from our house of crimes. I thought Mike Duffy did that among other things. Should be interesting for this government trying to have a relaxing summer.

  • Harper Hoax
    June 20, 2013 - 08:10

    We all know this was a set up. The same way this poorly set fundraiser was set up. The person who complained was the wife of a Conservative NB MP. But Harper and his bunch of Perrier poutine's think they are running Canada. They think Canadians are more concerned about shotty conservative run fundraisers or the leader of the opposition running a stop sign then the $90,000 cover up to protect Canadians from Hand picked appointed Senaters by Harper because they are bums towards the taxpayers.