The plot may have thickened in the Justin Trudeau speaker engagement fee scandal, if a scandal it is. It turns out a husband of a board member of the charity asking for a refund has strong ties to the federal Conservative Party.
Glendon Baxter is a director of the Fundy Bay Conservative Riding Assoc. and his wife, Judith, a board member of the the Grace Foundation seniors’ group in Saint John, N.B. Mr. Trudeau was contracted to speak for the Grace Foundation in June of 2012 for a fee of $20,000.
That group sent a letter to Mr. Trudeau telling him the event was “a huge disappointment and financial loss for our organization" and asking for his fee to be refunded. That letter was circulated by the Prime Minister's office Friday. There has been no word if either Baxter gave the letter to the PMO's office and asked them to circulate it.
The Grace Foundation said they tried more than once to get a refund but Mr. Trudeau said the letters were not sent to him but to the speaker's agency that booked the job. That agency reportedly turned the organization down without contacting the Liberal leader.
Mr. Trudeau said on CTV Question Period Sunday he would refund the Grace Foundation and any group that asks him for a refund, saying he would "do right" by them. In another development today other groups Mr. Trudeau has spoken for said they were happy with his talk and would not be asking for a refund.
Judith Baxter appointed by Harper Government
It's being reported, though unconfirmed, that there is a photo of Judith Baxter standing with the Prime Minister in his office. It's also come out that Judith Baxter has twice been appointed to 4-year terms on the Canadian Museum of Civilization’s board by the Conservatives.
Postmedia News, and other news-gathering organizations, have said they have called the Baxters for comment but were unable to reach them.
Meanwhile, two groups, Literacy for Life and the Eastern Ontario Catholic School Board, say they are happy with the work Justin Trudeau did for them. Literacy for Life paid Mr. Trudeau to speak at a literary conference in Saskatoon and that has come to be in the news because Saskatchewan premier Brad Wall called on Trudeau to pay back the $20,000 fee.
But that group said the talk met their expectations and resounded well with their membership. It was, they said, what they asked for and they did not hire him as an MP but as an environmental speaker.
Premier Wall is the leader of the conservative Saskatchewan Party and got his start in politics as a member of the Progressive Conservative Party (now the Conservative Party). As of this writing he had not commented on the support Mr. Trudeau received.
Mr. Trudeau said he will either pay the $20,000 back to the Grace Foundation or speak at another fundraising engagement for them, their choice.