PMO orchestrated Grace Foundation contradiction and smears

Julian Wolfe
June 18th, 2013

It is telling when a charity, which has clear links to the Conservative Party and PMO, demands a refund a year after enjoying an event with Liberal leader Justin Trudeau. Numbers discovered through the Canada Revenue Agency show an organization that’s doing very well, contrary to the claims they made as part of an opportunist act orchestrated by the PMO. Just when the PMO didn’t have enough problems with the Duffy affair

The Grace Foundation recently demanded a $20,000 refund from Justin Trudeau after a change of heart about his fundraising efforts for the charity. They recently claimed in a letter from board member Susan Buck, circulated through the PMO and Conservative MP Rob Moore, that the event was “a huge disappointment and financial loss.” 

In 2012, the same year as Trudeau’s “evening to remember,” The Hilltimes reports CRA records show the Church of St. John and St. Stephen Home Inc., the organization that owns the Grace Foundation fundraising arm, spent $3.2 million on management and administration while only spending $2.3 million on charitable programs. The revenues were listed as $4 million from the New Brundswick Government and $1.7 million in unspecified goods and services.

The Grace Foundation is in good shape, filing an annual financial and activity report showing $4.59 million worth in building and land assets and further ownership in “other capital assets.”

The foundation reported $880,000 worth of 10 full-time salaries and a further $1,398,448 for 78 part-time workers. It listed $4,661,494 as the amount it spent for the year of compensation.

PMO Press Secretary Julie Vaux attacked Trudeau in response to the leak, claiming “Most parliamentarians raise money for charity, not from charities.”

Interestingly, The Hilltimes reports Grace Foundation Chairperson Ian Webster and trustee of the Church of St. John and St. Stephen Home Inc. was unreachable.

The scandal leaked through the PMO, rather than through Conservative Party research, raising questions on whether tax money was used to orchestrate the smear.

On June 16, the PMO sent information on Trudeau’s 2007 Barrie speech, which allegedly lost money, to The Advance.

Yesterday, an email exchange obtained from Simcoe News showed PMO Communications Officer Erica Meekes sent information regarding a $10,000 speech that netted a $4,118 shortfall for the Georgian College. The information, however, was said to be coming from a “source” rather than the PMO itself.

“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 information included invoices, a promotional poster, and a receipt for Toronto Four Seasons which Meekes responded, “To be fair, there is an in-house yoga studio at the Four Seasons!”

Meekes told Simcoe the PMO often reaches out to the media when confronted with the exchange.

Usually, Party researches leak information to the media, however, this time, it was the PMO.

Meekes’ email instructed the media to speak to “the local MP for Georgian College” Patrick Brown, who said Trudeau should be forced to refund the event, even though it happened before he entered politics.

“I don’t know why he wouldn’t do it for free even before he was an MP. He didn’t charge the Liberals to do speeches at their partisan events,” said Brown. “Why charge charities and not-for-profits, especially when they are losing money, based on his professional ability to draw crowds?”

Trudeau offered to reimburse charities who paid for his services between 2008 and 2012, which wouldn’t include this one.

Recent activity on social media showed Grace Foundation board member Judith Baxter had a photo-op February 23 in the PMO and a picture of when she received a Jubilee reward with Conservative MP Rob Moore. Additionally, Baxter’s husband Glen is listed on the board of directors in the Fundy Royal Conservative riding association – Moore’s riding.

 This is a desperate time for the PMO. After losing Nigel Wright in the Duffy affair, the Conservatives are desperate to change the channel on the mess they created but have in turn implicated the PMO in yet another scandal.

What do you think of the charity’s finances? What do you think of the PMO’s partisan initiative? Will this stunt hurt or help Liberal leader Justin Trudeau’s image?

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