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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