Our Members of Parliament should not be charging money for speaking engagements.
That seems to be the consensus among Canadians, according to a new poll released this week by Forum Research.
The question, of course, is in reaction to the news that Liberal leadership candidate Justin Trudeau was a hot commodity on the 'speaking circuit.'
According to the Ottawa Citizen, the son of Pierre earned $277,000 for speaking engagements since becoming an MP in 2008. A good chunk of the money was earned from publicly funded organizations: in November 2009, for example, he earned $15,000 from the Waterloo Catholic District School Board; in April 2012 he made $10,000 for speaking at Queen's University.
That doesn't sit well with a lot of people. The poll suggests that 76 per cent of Canadians don't want MPs earning such fees at all, while 57 per cent of respondents think Trudeau should return the speaking fees he earned from the non-profits.
"Justin Trudeau doesn't take as much heat for accepting speaking fees as politicians in general, but most Canadians still think he shouldn't be taking them," Forum Research President, Dr. Lorne Bozinoff wrote in his survey report.
"Canadians are aware MPs make a substantial salary, with generous benefits. They do not think they should be paid on the side for what they do naturally."
It's a sentiment that has been expressed by other MPs as well.
"It is absolutely untoward and inappropriate for MPs or senators to charge a speaker's fee," NDP MP Pat Martin recently told Sun News.
"I'm paid handsomely to be a member of Parliament and if I'm invited to speak ... that's one of my duties to share that with civil society, free of charge, gratis."
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For his part, Trudeau says that when he does his speeches, he doesn't talk politics. He told the Citizen that his speeches were about youth issues, education and the environment. He also vetted his speaking business through Parliamentary ethics watchdog Mary Dawson upon being elected to the House of Commons.
The Forum Research poll was conducted between March 6th to 7th via an interactive voice response telephone survey of 1,755 randomly selected Canadians 18 years of age and older. Results based on the total sample are considered accurate +/- 2 %, 19 times out of 20.
(Photo courtesy of Reuters)
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