The charity that asked Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau to return $20,000 he earned at an apparently unsuccessful speaking event last year has ties to the Conservative Party.
The Grace Foundation in New Brunswick wrote to Trudeau after the event last June, but the issue only made headlines after Conservatives began hammering the Liberal leader in question period on Friday.
In the letter, Foundation board member Susan Buck described the event, which was intended to raise money for a local church and nursing home, as "a huge disappointment and financial loss for our organization."
"A refund of the fees charged for your speaking engagement to the Grace Foundation would meet our needs and would provide a positive public impression," she wrote.
But Canada.com has revealed that Grace Foundation board member Judith Baxter's husband, Glendon Baxter, is director of the Fundy Bay Conservative Riding Association. Glendon Baxter has also contributed nearly $700 to the party since 2009, according to Elections Canada records.
What’s more, Judith Baxter has twice been appointed by the Harper government to four-year terms on the Canadian Museum of Civilization’s board. A spokesperson for Heritage Minister James Moore told Canada.com that Baxter was appointed because of her "wealth of experience" as a museum coordinator and volunteer.
A Facebook photo that may show Judith Baxter and her daughter posing in the prime minister’s office also made the rounds on social media last weekend, though the authenticity of the shot has not been confirmed.
But Fundy Royal Conservative MP Rob Moore, who has spearheaded the attack on Trudeau, did confirm in a CBC interview on Monday that it was Judith Baxter who first gave him a copy of the charity’s letter to Trudeau.
CBC’s Kady O’Malley says Moore then passed the letter to the prime minister’s communications team, "who lost no time putting it into heavy circulation among Hill journalists, even going so far as to hand it out in the Foyer after question period last week."
But the Prime Minister’s Office isn’t just focusing its attention on the New Brunswick charity.
The Barrie Advance reported on Monday the PMO sent the newspaper details of a money-losing speech Trudeau also made in Barrie in 2007, with the caveat that the information be referred to as coming from a "source." Instead, The Advance named the PMO staffer, Erica Meekes, who passed along the details.
"As a follow-up to the growing controversy over the weekend on Justin Trudeau charging charities for his speaking services, I have enclosed further materials that demonstrate the scope of this practice, cost on the organizations, and in many cases, poor outcomes and large deficits as a result of his speaking tour," the email stated. "As discussed, these materials are provided to you on background, and should be attributed to a 'source.'"
The material included invoices, a promotional poster and an accommodation receipt for the Toronto Four Seasons. Meekes wrote, "To be fair, there is an in-house yoga studio at the Four Seasons!"
The newspaper’s decision to expose the PMO’s attempt to embarrass Trudeau won the outlet many fans on Twitter.
Story continues below slideshow.
Trudeau vowed on Sunday to compensate all charities that paid him hefty speaking fees since he became an MP. He has long maintained that he stopped charging for speeches once he began his run for the Liberal leadership.
Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall has demanded Trudeau repay the $20,000 fee he charged for speaking at a Saskatoon literacy conference last year. Wall also suggested on Global TV that Trudeau used speaking fees to help finance his leadership campaign.
Liberal House Leader Dominic LeBlanc shot back that Wall should apologize for the "smear" and suggested the premier was attempting to raise his profile for a future federal run.
"It looks like the race for Harper’s job is on," LeBlanc said in a statement.
"We have not asked for our money back,” said Veronica Baker in an email. “The conference was a success, as it has been every year we have held it."
And while Trudeau has faced criticism for earning extra money, an HuffPost analysis of the most recent MP disclosures reveals 40 per cent of MPs declare a secondary source of income to supplement their base salary of $160,200.
These range from music royalties, condo rentals and farm earnings to profits from private investment firms and a national speaker’s bureau.
With files from The Canadian Press
Earlier on HuffPost:
Prime Minister Trudeau and his then-wife Margaret leave the city's Notre Dame Basilica Sunday afternoon after the christening of their 22-day old infant Justin Pierre James, Jan. 16, 1972. Tasseled shawls kept the baby hidden from photographers and the 10-degree-below-zero weather.
Eleven-month-old Justin Trudeau, urged on by his mother Margaret Trudeau, crawls up the steps of an aircraft in Ottawa Dec. 5, 1972 to meet his father, then-prime minister, Pierre Trudeau on his return from Britain.
Pierre Trudeau is saluted by RCMP Officer as he carries son Justin to Rideau Hall in 1973. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/02/14/justin-trudeau-cries-cried-photo-loyalist-college_n_2690299.html">Justin Trudeau teared up when he was presented with a framed copy while visiting Loyalist College in 2013</a>.
Alexandre (Sacha) Trudeau delivers a right hook to his older brother Justin during a play fight in 1980 at Ottawa airport as the boys await a flight with the return of their father, then-prime minister, Pierre Trudeau. Nobody was injured. Justin was born in 1971 and Sacha in 1973 - both on Christmas day.
March 1979 photo of the Trudeau children: Michel (front), Alexandre (Sacha) and Justin (rear).
It was a big day for Dad, but a long day for the three Trudeau children. Left to right, Justin, Michel and Alexandre (Sacha) Trudeau attended the swearing in ceremonies of their father Pierre Elliott Trudeau as Prime Minister March 3, 1980 at Government House.
Then-prime minister Pierre Trudeau and 10 year-old son Justin walk toward a plane at CFB Ottawa on Nov. 7, 1982.
Then-prime minister Pierre Trudeau, left, watches as his 11-year-old son Justin swings on a chain during a tour of an old fort in the Omani town of Nizwa Dec. 2, 1983. Trudeau and Justin spent the day visiting the towns of Jebel and Nizwa 165 kilometres south of Muscat.
Then-prime minister Pierre Trudeau's 11-year-old son Justin jumps off an old cannon while visiting a fort along with his father in the Omani town of Nizwa and Jebel.
Justin Trudeau and friend Mathieu Walker in the Sahara desert in October, 1994.
Justin Trudeau and friend Mathieu Walker in the Sahara desert in October, 1994.
Justin Trudeau with friends Mathieu Walker and Allen Steverman in Shanghai in 1994.
Justin Trudeau with friends Mathieu Walker (left) and Allen Steverman (centre) at the Great Wall of China in 1994.
Former prime minister Pierre Trudeau (L), his son, Alexandre (Sacha), ex-wife Margaret Kemper and son Justin weep as they leave a memorial service for their son Michel in Montreal in 1998. Michel Trudeau drowned after being swept into a lake during an avalanche in British Columbia.
Justin (left) and Alexandre (Sacha) Trudeau lean out of the funeral train to show appreciation to mourners who turned out to pay their respects to former prime minister Pierre Trudeau in Dorval, Que., Monday Oct. 2, 2000. Trudeau's casket was moved from Ottawa to Montreal for a state funeral. ()
Justin Trudeau is consoled by his mother Margaret after reading the eulogy for his father, former prime minister Pierre Trudeau during his state funeral in Montreal, Tuesday, Oct. 3, 2000.
Justin Trudeau delivers a eulogy for his late father Pierre Trudeau during the state funeral for the former prime minister at the Notre-Dame Basilica in Montreal, Tuesday, Oct. 3, 2000. Trudeau first caught the public heartstrings in October 2000, when he delivered a moving, deeply felt eulogy for his legendary father, weaving an emotional spell from inside the cavernous Notre-Dame Basilica in Montreal.
Justin Trudeau breaks down on his father's casket after reading the eulogy during the state funeral for former prime minister Pierre Trudeau Tuesday, Oct. 3, 2000 in Montreal.
Justin Trudeau gives a rose to a young girl, one of thousands of mourners who stood outside Notre-Dame Basillica in Montreal Tuesday, October 3, 2000 during a state funeral for his father, former prime minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau.
An enthusiastic Justin Trudeau talks to reporters during a news conference to promote avalanche awareness in West Vancouver Thursday Jan. 25, 2001.
Justin Trudeau stands at the base of a mountain near the evidence of a controlled avalanche at Lake Louise, Alberta, Friday January 12, 2002.
Trudeau with adviser and friend Gerald Butts in July 2003 at Virginia Falls, Nahanni National Park Reserve in the Northwest Territories.
Justin Trudeau carves through a gate during a celebrity slalom race in Mont Tremblant, Que. Friday, Dec. 12, 2003. Trudeau was taking part in a 24-hour ski-a-thon for charity organized by Jacques Villeneuve and Villeneuve's manager Craig Pollock.
Justin Trudeau spoke to students as Sisler High School about the benefits of joining the Katimavik Project on March 9, 2004
Justin Trudeau, son of the late prime minister Pierre Trudeau, leaves with his new bride Sophie Gregoire in his father's 1959 Mercedes 300 SEL after their marriage ceremony in Montreal Saturday, May 28, 2005.
Sophie Gregoire waves to the crowd as she arrives for her wedding to Justin Trudeau, son of the late prime minister Pierre Trudeau, in Montreal Saturday, May 28, 2005.
Then-leadership candidate Stéphane Dion crosses paths with Justin Trudeau, a supporter of Gerard Kennedy, at the Liberal Leadership Convention on Nov. 30, 2006 in Montreal. The day after he won the leadership, Dion told Trudeau he needed his help and urged him to run.
Former prime minister Jean Chretien meets Justin Trudeau at the Liberal leadership convention, Friday, Dec. 1, 2006, in Montreal.
Justin Trudeau poses in London, Ont., on Tuesday, June 5, 2007 with a group of youth who participated in the Katimavik national youth service program that he has been actively involved in. The funny faces came from a request by a parent taking a photograph.
Justin Trudeau raises his arms in victory after being voted in as the Liberal representative in Montreal's Papineau riding, on April 29, 2007.
Justin Trudeau, then Liberal candidate for the riding of Papineau, on the campaign trail with his mother, Margaret, in Montreal on Sept. 23, 2008. Trudeau snatched the riding from the Bloc Québécois by 1,189 votes.
Liberal Justin Trudeau, then a candidate in the riding of Papineau, on the campaign trail in Montreal, Tuesday Sept. 23, 2008 with his mother, Margaret.
Then-Liberal Leader Stephane Dion chats with Justin Trudeau in Vancouver before boarding the campaign plane to fly to Ontario, Oct. 7, 2008.
Justin Trudeau apologizes for swearing at Environment Minister Peter Kent in the House of Commons Dec. 14, 2011.
Justin Trudeau poses in this official photo for his boxing match with Senator Patrick Brazeau.
Senator Patrick Brazeau, right, and Liberal MP Justin Trudeau take part in a weigh-in for a upcoming boxing match Wednesday March 28, 2012.
Senator Patrick Brazeau, right, and Liberal MP Justin Trudeau take part in a weigh-in for a upcoming boxing match Wednesday March 28, 2012, in Ottawa.
Liberal MP Justin Trudeau, left, fights Senator Patrick Brazeau during charity boxing match for cancer research Saturday, March 31, 2012 in Ottawa.
Senator Patrick Brazeau, right, and Liberal MP Justin Trudeau take part in a charity boxing match for cancer research Saturday, March 31, 2012 in Ottawa .
Liberal MP Justin Trudeau celebrates after he defeated Senator Patrick Brazeau during charity boxing match for cancer research Saturday, March 31, 2012 in Ottawa .
Liberal MP Justin Trudeau kisses his wife Sophie Grégoire after winning a boxing match against Senator Patrick Brazeau on Saturday, March 31, 2012 in Ottawa.
Liberal MPs, including Justin Trudeau, look on as Senator Patrick Brazeau holds a Liberal hockey sweater on Parliament Hill Ottawa, Monday April 2, 2012.
Liberal MP Justin Trudeau trims the end of Senator Patrick Brazeau's pony tail out of respect in the Foyer of the House of Commons on Parliament Hill Ottawa, Monday April 2, 2012.
Liberal MP Justin Trudeau announces he will seek the leadership of the party at a news conference, Tuesday, October 2, 2012 in Montreal.
Liberal MP Justin Trudeau waves to the crowd of supporters as he holds his son Xavier and his wife Sophie Gregoire holds their daughter Ella-Grace after announcing he will seek the leadership of the party Tuesday, October 2, 2012 in Montreal.
Justin Trudeau, right, chats to his chief advisor Gerald Butts after taking part in the the Liberal leadership debate in Mississauga, Ont., on Saturday, February 16, 2013.
Marc Garneau, left, and Justin Trudeau take part in the Liberal leadership debate in Mississauga, Ont., on Feb. 16, 2013.