Grace Foundation charity refund another failed Conservative stunt

Julian Wolfe
June 17th, 2013

The Conservatives launched an attack on Liberal leader Justin Trudeau Friday, claiming he made profit on his charity services. The attack came as the Grace Foundation asked for a refund after claiming Trudeau’s speech did nothing to further their efforts. Screenshots circulating on social media, however, show its board member, Judith Baxter has close ties with the Conservative government and a lucrative position in the public sector.

The screenshots leaked to social media depict yet another PMO attack gone wrong in the midst of an ongoing scandal and criminal investigation into dealings that took place in the Duffy affair.

Baxter is listed in the CRA as the Vice Chair of The Church Home Charitable Foundation and was also reappointed as a trustee to the Canadian Museum of Civilization by Heritage Minister James Moore on December 15, 2011.

Baxter also allegedly took a photo-op which she says was in the PMO on February 23.

Baxter also was presented a Jubilee medal by Conservative MP Rob Moore.

The Grace Foundation alleges they lost thousands of dollars after paying Trudeau $20,000 to give a speech. Trudeau has agreed to repay the money but it appears the case isn’t necessarily as much about Trudeau’s business as it is a potential favour to the Conservative government.

The refund was asked through a letter from board member Susan Buck to Trudeau, circulated through the PMO, saying the speaking event was “a huge disappointment and financial loss.”

Trudeau’s spokeswoman at first said Trudeau fulfilled the requirements and the complaint was made over a year later.

The “Grace Foundation did not contact anyone for reimbursement until almost one year after the event, despite having previously indicated that they were satisfied with the event,” Trudeau’s spokeswoman, Kate Monfette, told The Globe and Mail Friday. “With regards to this event, Mr. Trudeau fulfilled all obligations within his contract.”

In fact, on July 3, 2012, the Grace Foundation released a statement calling the event an “evening to remember.”

“On Wednesday June 27, Grace Foundation hosted its inaugural fund raising event. Guest speaker Justin Trudeau spoke passionately about our roles and responsibilities as Canadians in the global community, challenging each individual to consider his or her contribution toward positive change. Following the formal presentation, audience members had an opportunity to pose questions and engage in conversation. Audience members agree it was an evening to remember.”

Grace Foundation, July 3, 2012, An Evening with Justin Trudeau

Immigration Minister Jason Kenney was quick to weigh in.

“He was getting paid $160,000 as an MP, but he went and took a $20,000 cheque from a group of seniors trying to do a fundraiser to buy furniture,” Kenney said, later adding: “He pretends to be a defender of the middle class. Middle-class Canadians make charitable contributions. They do not take huge payments from charities, especially when it is their job to help them.”

Trudeau later responded in a conciliatory fashion, saying, “I am open to exploring all options with them to ensure that they are satisfied with the outcome.”

Buck then told CBC by phone that she referred the matter to the board’s chairperson Ian Webster after not receiving any word from Trudeau.

Meanwhile, Conservative MP Rob Moore said “only when embarrassed in the media” did Trudeau decide to repay the charity. “Trudeau did not go far enough, he did not categorically commit to repay the Grace Foundation and the many other charities across the country who deemed his services a ‘big disappointment.'”

NDP Ethics critic Charlie Angus said charging the charity was inappropriate. “The question is whether or not he’s making this offer because it’s political damage control or because he’s come to the realization that it was completely unethical for a Member of Parliament to be charging fees, especially outrageous fees, to charities and schools.”

So the recent attack on Trudeau from the PMO – legitimate or another attempt at a smear? If the leaked screenshots indicate anything, is the need to question the Conservative and NDP attack as one that is based on opportunism rather than merit. The Grace Foundation seemingly has ties to the PMO through Baxter who is not only seen bragging about a photo-op in the PMO office, but being appointed by James Moore to the Canadian Museum of Civilization trusteeship. Over a year later in the middle of a scandal, all of a sudden the Conservatives are desperately looking for distractions, is this one of them? Has it been effective or has it backfired?

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