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Haggling Over Ethics Like Whores Over The Price

There is a very old joke about a man asking a woman if she would sleep with him for a million dollars. When she replies, “Of course”, he asks if she would sleep with him for $100. She looks at him with outrage and replies, “Of course not! What do you think I am; a whore?” To which he replies, “We’ve already established that, we’re just haggling over the price.”

I was reminded of that when I read Michael Coren’s article in today’s Sun News. Mr. Coren is quite incensed by the amount of money Justin Trudeau charges to speak. Mr. Coren points out, somewhat piously, that when he speaks, he asks those who hire him what they can comfortably afford as if that somehow makes him different from Justin Trudeau and all the others who charge more.

Quite frankly, the difference is lost on me.

Of all of the Sun News Media television news commentators, I tend to like Michael Coren the most. He is usually fairly balanced in his opinion and not as strident as some of the others. But we are miles apart on this issue.

It is a typical example of assembling unrelated facts together to prove a negative.

He starts by pointing out that Justin Trudeau is wealthy which lately seems to have become almost a crime in this country. How anyone can support individual success and denigrate it at the same time is a paradox that is usually reserved only for progressives.

Whether or not Justin Trudeau has inherited money or earned a bunch is irrelevant to any discussion about the ethicacy of charging speaking fees for public appearances. A case can be made that people like Mr. Coren should not be endorsing commercial products and, indeed, it wasn’t so long ago that it was considered highly unethical for journalists to hawk products for sale. But along with some of his other Sun News colleagues, he does and he is well-paid for it.

Then there is the argument that as a Member of Parliament, Mr. Trudeau should not charge charities but there are two issues here. First, no charity is compelled to hire him or pay him a fee for anything. Justin Trudeau was not running around the country trying force himself on anyone, he was simply available to speak, for a price, for anyone who wished him to do so.

Secondly, virtually every organization that hired him didn’t do so because he sits in Parliament. If that was all it took, then every MP would have countless offers to speak for a fee. They don’t and they don’t because they do not have Justin Trudeau’s profile, image or ability to fill a room. He built that on his own and whatever value it has is his to determine.

What I find distasteful in all of this is the hypocrisy. It was Justin Trudeau himself who first disclosed that he earned speaking fees and further, he disclosed how much he had earned. He was mocked by many in the press including Sun Media for doing that. There was no talk back then about it being unprincipled or unethical, it was merely highlighted as a political move that the enlightened questioned as an unnecessary political move.

Now, of course, thanks to one Conservative board member of the Grace Foundation who violated her ethical requirement to adhere to the decision of the Board upon which she sits when she released a copy of the Foundation’s letter to Mr. Trudeau’s speaking bureau – we have this ridiculous situation.

Justin Trudeau is being roundly criticized by the conservative media and Conservative Party supporters for having accepted a fee by a Foundation hoping to trade on his name and image while they ignore the abuse of privilege of Conservative politicians.

I don’t recall Mr. Coren having much to say about John Baird’s misuse of Canada’s High Commission last December when he took seven or eight of his buddies to England and they stayed in the apartment for free. The Conservative Party line is that it didn’t cost taxpayers money but, of course, it did.

Laundry, utilities, cleaning of the facility after Mr. Baird left were all paid for by taxpayers. But even if they weren’t – so what?

Is that the ethical standard these days? It didn’t cost tax payers money therefore it’s ok?

If that’s the case, there should be no issue about Justin Trudeau and don’t toss out the shopworn line about missing days in Parliament for which he was being paid. All Members of Parliament work far more days and hours than those for which they are paid and that includes Justin Trudeau. The fact that he might not be in the House on a given day doesn’t mean he hasn’t put in more hours earning his salary than most of the rest of us do.

Conservatives, who purport to be the party of individual rights and freedoms, have become fairly parsimonious and judgmental in recent months and it’s starting to wear a little thin.

Privilege isn’t simply spending taxpayers’ dollars. It’s an attitude and when government officials and cabinet ministers start believing that their exalted status entitles them to throw hissy fits in airports when they don’t  get special treatment, use military helicopters to fly them in and out of their fishing vacations or bunk in at a government facility with friends while on vacation – those are abuses of privilege.

It is arrogance made all the more so when they try to squirm their way around it with weasel words and slimy rationalizations. For the record, use of government equipment, resources and facilities for any but government use is not permitted. One can only imagine the howls from the enlightened class in the Conservative Party and the conservative media if it had been a Liberal cabinet minister who vacationed at a Canadian diplomatic facility.

I don’t like Justin Trudeau I consider him naïve, vacuous and shallow but I evaluate him on his ability to understand the issues we face as a nation and to lead not on how much he charges if someone wants to hear him speak. I could care less if he charges $20,000 per speech or only what someone can ‘comfortably afford”. It amounts to the same thing in the end all you’re doing at that point is haggling over the price.

I find it ironic that to remain true to my principles, I am forced to criticize Michael Coren whom I respect while defending Justin Trudeau whom I don’t but I get tired of the self-serving partisan hypocrisy that has replaced informed political debate these days.

Hypocrisy is simply that – hypocrisy! There is just a touch too much of it around these days and increasingly there is more and more of it on our side – the conservative side – of the aisle. I remember when we laid claim to a higher ethical standard than progressives. Apparently we weren’t successful at raising others to that standard, they were successful at drawing too many of us down to theirs.

Pointing fingers at Justin Trudeau isn’t going to change that, it simply reduces the argument down to who is the bigger whore.


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  • Gerry

    You are absolutely right on this. I feel the same disquiet
    and while partisanship is easy and often the preferred option to thinking it
    must be avoided. The fact that someone by virtue of birth is wealthy and in
    demand is neither his fault nor his failing. No one forced people to give him
    money for bromide; they made a business decision sound or poor depending on the
    outcome. However, I do have an issue with hiring the environmental educator for
    a rather handsome fee then approaching the same individual in his role as MP or
    Party Leader on a policy matter. Not only does the timing matter but also the
    appearance of a conflict of interest between the environmental educator
    (whatever the hell that is) and MP/Party Leader accepting money and accepting
    policy lobbying. That does not smell right so I want to put the charity ones
    over on one side and the policy related ones on another and it is this latter
    that is problematic as those are less to do with birth and more to do with
    position methinks.

    • MaggiesBear

      Personally, I don’t believe a sitting Member should be charging anyone a fee for what they beg to be allowed to do for free anywhere – anytime during an election. But, it is allowed and the Ethics Commissioner approved it in advance. Moralizing about it after the fact is a bit late in the day. Instead of attacking Justin Trudeau, people should be criticizing Parliament for allowing it in the first place.

      I agree with you about policy related issues in particular but it should be noted that once he decided to run for leader of the Liberal Party, Justin Trudeau resigned from the speaker’s bureau and stopped charging fees for speaking. Not too many others who sit in Parliament and who also charge fees have done the same.

      • Gerry

        Ummm, not to put too fine a point on it the conflict of interest code for members of the house of parliament (which took some digging to locate online) I think rather does prohibit gaming money from groups that will in future (in his case the very near future) lobby for particular policy consideration. They are not constituents (in which case you can apparently do pretty much anything) and it was in his role as critic that his involvement is of concern.

        And, also to be slightly picky, how does the Ethics Commissioner approve in advance speaking engagements for groups which have a particular policy interest in the area the MP is supposedly focusing on? A blanket approval is simply dumb. So respecting that the Ethics Commissioner is not a stupid person the approval would have been given with the provision that existing guidelines would be adhered to. That is my beef, I don’t think they were and the fact that no one has challenged Justin on violating the conflict of interest code makes me wonder if there is so much sludge going on that no one wants it to see the sunlight because their dirty laundry will also get dragged out.

        Damn, I really hate conspiracy theories but I am at a bit of a loss to figure out why the ‘game’ is being played the way it is.

        • MaggiesBear

          you raise good points and I agree with you on pretty much all of it. My point about the Ethics Commissioner was simply that she has become sort of the ‘green light’ for justifying pretty much everything. But then, what can you expect from a group of people who write their own ethics code but require an ‘independent’ body to make sure they follow it.

          There are virtually no ethics in politics anymore – just expediency and I guess that’s why the Trudeau thing got under my hat. The CPC was supposed to clean that up but in fact they’re as bad as everyone else and I’m tired of rabid, partisan supporters pointing the finger at others bile rationalizing and legitmizing the sins of those they support.

          I don’t know about you but I voted for more than that when I gave the CPC my support and I demand a higher level of integrity and ethics from those I do support than from those I don’t.

          • Gerry

            Unfortunately that is what passes for public ‘debate’ nowadays. We are in vigorous agreement. If this were a private forum I would explain why I have a particular interest in this area however unless we demand more from our politicians I guess we get what we collectively sheeplike get. I have long argued that people get the government they deserve be it totalitarian or democratic and I cannot now change my tune to say it ain’t my fault. Though I do have reservations about the apparent dumbing down of the collective – but that gets us into education and its ideological programming agenda :)

            • sebanders

              Very well said and I agree with every word, except for one thing. It would be easy to just walk away and not say another word on this matter that is, for me, like a burr under the saddle. And contrary to the impression that some may have gotten from my previous comments, this, to me, is not a partisan issue, but one of conscience: Trudeau’s conscience.

              To quote your words Gerry: “The fact that someone by virtue of birth is wealthy and in demand is neither his fault nor his failing. No one forced people to give him money for bromide;” there is a failing.

              He was indeed hired to speak, not for his great ability to speak nor for his brilliance, but mainly for his “accident of birth”, and for other reasons implied or mentioned outright (the conspiracy theory – backdoor fundraising mechanisms, etc.) And I don’t believe he is being faulted for that. Why should he not take advantage of that? I would. And why shouldn’t those hiring him take advantage of that? Depends on their motivation.

              From everything I have read and heard about his speaking engagements, I do not recall anyone objecting to what he did in regards to his public speaking engagements prior to being elected to public office and becoming a Member of Parliament. What he did before that is his business. As a Member of Parliament, the rules of the game changed.

              If one has an understanding of the Gestalt principles of human behaviour as described or defined by Dr. Friedrich (Frederick) Salomon Perls, simply put and abbreviated: “One must take responsibility for one’s own existence.”

              As far as the conflict of interest is concerned, the simple fact that he felt he had to consult with the Office of the Ethics Commissioner indicates there was doubt in his mind (???) which, as a Member of Parliament, should have been sufficient for him to step away and refuse further paid speaking engagements that “could be construed” as conflicts of interest. He had a choice. He made the wrong choice. That is the burr under my saddle.

              His wrong choice, in my opinion, is what has sparked this entire debate. For some it was principles. For others it was partisanship. Whatever the motivation, Trudeau did not show the maturity of character that is required of an MP to make the right choice. He failed. And the debates, wrongly or rightly, go on.

            • MaggiesBear

              I think we are walking the same road. It’s not that Trudeau’s speaking fees are big issue for me, it’s the moralizing about one public figure’s ethics (or lack of them) while defending the same thing in another’s. That’s partisanship taken to the extreme and it results in our being unable to fix what is actually broken because we tend to only blame whichever side we don’t support rather than the entire group.

              I do believe the ‘collective’ is dumbing down and rapidly. Some people now have smart phones that are smarter than they are but I don’t believe that is the sole reason for what’s happening. We’ve lost our way. Our values have been compromised, our ethical standards blinded by partisanship and accountability has become just another form of accusatory hypocrisy.

              Until that gets addressed, the folks doing the finger pointing are just one group of whores attacking another.

              You’ve raised some great points that really go to the heart of the matter. Thank you for that.

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  • sebanders

    Do you recall these lines? “I did not have sex with that woman.” I am sure you can remember who spoke those words, the media frenzy and the impeachment efforts that followed.

    Now, recall these words: “I did not collect fees for making speeches while being an MP. I never collected any money while a Member of Parliament, for making speeches.

    “virtually every organization that hired him didn’t do so because he sits in Parliament. If that was all it took, then every MP would have countless offers to speak for a fee. They don’t and they don’t because they do not have Justin Trudeau’s profile, image or ability to fill a room. He built that on his own and whatever value it has is his to determine.”

    No. He did not. His only claim to fame is his father’s name (and certainly not his intelligence – and by the way, “intelligent” is not synonymous with “smart”) which, is still a mystery to me why it still is, in view of all the crap he, Trudeau the elder, dumped on this country and we are still reeling from it. Guess the Media Party and the Liberal establishment really do believe that their “crap” does not smell.

    And I find it somewhat baffling that you take it upon yourself to defend the indefensible. Perhaps you should come down off your stepladder and look at it from the ground level.

    • MaggiesBear

      Justin Trudeau’s name and inheritance are an accident of birth and I grow weary of people holding it against him as if he somehow did something inappropriate by being born. I don’t support him and think he’s a terrible leader but the people piling on him are hypocrites. There are more than a few who need to hold those they support to a higher standard before they start slinging mud at those they don;t.

      As for the step ladder. Perhaps you should come up onto the hill that overlooks the valley. You might see things in a broader perspective.than you;ll find wallowing around in the mud.

      • sebanders

        Back at you.

    • oldwhiteguy

      i’m with the bear on this one. it is hard to quit this addiction.