THE BLOG

MPs in Glass Houses Shouldn't Stone Trudeau

06/18/2013 05:27 EDT | Updated 08/18/2013 05:12 EDT

It isn't news that Justin Trudeau created a secondary income for himself as a professional speaker. He told us all about that while running for the Liberal leadership. It isn't news who his clients were. He shared that, too.

MPs from all stripes would be wise to consider the actions and decisions of their own caucus colleagues before trying to create a scandal out of a practice that was pre-emptively cleared by Parliament's Integrity Commissioner.

Between NDP MPs not paying their income taxes and members of the federal Conservative caucus being accused of defrauding taxpayers through false spending claims, neither party has the moral authority to determine whether Justin Trudeau acted inappropriately in being compensated for speeches he was being asked to deliver that were outside his mandate as an MP.

Even before entering politics, Trudeau has been able to demonstrate mass appeal and with that comes financial opportunities for him and those who can successfully market an event he is speaking at. There is nothing wrong with that.

Provided Trudeau did not use resources afforded to him as a parliamentarian in the creation of his secondary income, this should be no different than the MPs who grow food for profit, provide legal or accounting advice for profit, or provide medical treatment for profit.

If anyone, elected or not, seriously believes that backbench MPs have a national mandate to help and support individuals and organizations across the country as Charlie Angus has suggested, I would encourage you to call his office, even if Timmins-James Bay isn't your home and ask his staff to help you with a federal issue you're facing. Make sure you have a pen ready, because his staff will likely direct you to your own MP's office for help.

Justin Trudeau's actions should be viewed through one simple lens. Did Justin Trudeau separate the role of MP from that of a professional speaker when accepting payment for speeches? That same test would be used for determining the appropriateness of any other MP's secondary income stream.

Trudeau's decision to stop accepting paid speaking roles during his run for Liberal Leader was a good move. His decision to work out a solution with the Grace Foundation is delayed, but also a good move. His next move should be to clean up the rules and disclosures for MP's secondary incomes, which will undoubtedly embarrass and hurt more New Democrats and Conservatives than it will Liberals -- but will also be undoubtedly good for Canadians.

Recent media reports suggest more than a third of MPs have a secondary income stream, including Mark Adler, the MP for York Centre who generates more than $100,000 in secondary income annually off other people's speeches by virtue of owning the Economic Club of Canada. Considering the number of caucus colleagues of Mr. Adler that contribute to the success of his financial endeavour by speaking from the podium of the Economic Club of Canada, there is a far greater chance of a real conflict here than with Trudeau's actions.

Trudeau will weather this faux-scandal and, assuming no public resources were used, will come out of it unscathed. The story is less than three days old and the Prime Minister's Office is already facing a backfire after having been been outed trying to feed the story off the record.

At its core the vitriol and stunning rhetoric regarding this issue has little to do with Trudeau's actions and far more to do with the fear of what Justin Trudeau at the helm of the Liberal Party of Canada could do to the government and official opposition, something they ought to consider before trying to bring him down on a perceived weakness that runs far deeper within their own caucuses.

What Is Justin Trudeau Doing?