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?