Apparently, Liberal leader Justin Trudeau's sense of entitlement has finally landed him in water hot enough that he's felt himself starting to cook just a little.
Right now the story is the hottest thing in Canadian politics: a New Brunswick-based charity, the Grace Foundation, recently asked Trudeau to return the $20,000 (!) speaking fee he charged them to appear at a fundraiser. Trudeau walked away with $20K in his pocket. The charity lost money.
Conversely, Trudeau's supporters think that they've found their retort to the controversy: that Judith Baxter, a member of the Grace Foundation's board of directors, has connections to the Conservative Party. She's even been photographed in the Prime Minister's office.
As it turns out, each camp in this debate -- those criticizing Trudeau, and those alleging a nefarious conspiracy between the Conservative Party and the Grace Foundation -- have to answer a key question:
This question can easily be mistaken for one of dismissal, and it's frequently used that way. But in reality, when we hear stories like this one, it's the very first question we should ask ourselves. So what? As in, so what does all of this actually add up to?
Let's start with Trudeau. Justin Trudeau, son of the late former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau. Old-money trust-fund kid. Charges thousands of dollars to appear at speaking events, frequently as fundraisers for charity. He actually doubles his speaking fee after being elected as a Member of Parliament. Many of these charities lose money on the events for which Trudeau was ostensibly supposed to be a major draw. Trudeau is asked to return his fee. At first he refuses.
Well, there are obviously some serious questions to be asked about just how genuinely Trudeau believes in public service. Sure, his time is worth money. Everyone's is. But Trudeau's an old-money millionaire. He doesn't need it. The charity, meanwhile, works for a very good cause. And they could use the money far more desperately than Trudeau could.
Not to mention the very serious question of Trudeau's approach to charitable giving. Does he believe in it or not? What claim does Trudeau have to a party that frequently promotes itself as a force of generosity in Canadian society if he, himself, profits from charitable causes at their expense rather than giving even his time to them? Just what would the prospects for Canadian charities be under a Trudeau government?
That's my personal answer to the "so what" question regarding Trudeau. Other people's may differ.
Now on to Judith Baxter. Her visit to the Prime Minister's Office. She received a Queen's Diamond Jubilee Medal from Heritage Minister James Moore. Her husband sits on the board of Moore's Riding Association.
Perhaps in a social media environment, where the desire to draw nefarious conclusions constantly overrides the need for anything resembling actual evidence, this is sufficient to draw that conclusion. But so far those peddling this theory have cited no evidence of any actual wrongdoing. Their sole scrap of evidence is that of association. So if Judith Baxter -- who is only one member of the Grace Foundation board -- is guilty of aynthing, it's mere association.
That's not a very conclusive answer to the "so what?" question. In fact, it's the kind of answer that turns the "what if?" question from one that can be extremely revelatory to one that is, by default, dismissive.
If only Justin Trudeau were so fortunate. These questions leave him looking far less like the innocent victim of a conspiracy and far more like Ebenezer Scrooge.