Justin Trudeau under fire for earning speaking fees while serving as a Member of Parliament

·Politics Reporter

Earlier this week Liberal leadership front runner, Justin Trudeau gained accolades for disclosing his financial net worth to the Canadian public even though he didn't have to.

Today, he's getting criticized for what's in that disclosure.

[ Related: Justin Trudeau discloses details about his inheritance ]

Trudeau, as it turns out, is 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.

That doesn't sit well with a lot of people who suggest MPs shouldn't be charging Canadians for speaking to them.

"It is absolutely untoward and inappropriate for MPs or senators to charge a speaker's fee," NDP MP Pat Martin told Sun News on Thursday.

"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."

At least two of Trudeau's leadership opponents — David Bertchi and George Takach — seem to agree with Martin.

"I certainly wouldn't be, as a member of Parliament, receiving money for speaking out on matters of public interest," Bertchi said according to Sun News.

"It's critically important for members of Parliament to speak out and assist in creating sound policy across the country."

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.

So what's the problem here?

It's clear that Trudeau isn't earning these monies just because he's an MP.

He already made a name for himself as a speaker prior to becoming an MP — in his best year he earned over $450,000 in speaking revenue.

Companies and organizations want him to speak because he's the son of one of the most talked about prime ministers in Canadian history. Moreover, he's charismatic and articulate.

[ Related: Trudeau fights tears following Belleville cop's gift of father's famous photo ]

And, with all do respect to Pat Martin and David Bertchi, nobody is going to pay either of those gentlemen that kind of money to speak.

Trudeau is also being criticized, on Twitter, for accepting money for speeches from publicly funded organizations: in November 2009 he earned $15,000 from the Waterloo Catholic District School Board; in April 2012 he made $10,000 for speaking at Queen's University.

If individuals are really angry about that, however, they should be taking their concerns to those institutions and not Trudeau.

Here is a Speaker's Spotlight promo video about Trudeau that was posted on YouTube in May 2008, just 5 months before he became an MP:

(Photo courtesy of The Canadian Press)

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