Grace Foundation dodges Trudeau questions

The board of a Saint John, N.B., charity involved in a dispute with Justin Trudeau is refusing to discuss his offer to repay them.

Charity demanding $20K from Liberal leader

Liberal Party Leader Justin Trudeau says he'll compensate any charitable group that feels they didn't get their money's worth after paying him to speak at fundraising events. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press) (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

The board of a Saint John, N.B., charity involved in a dispute with Justin Trudeau is refusing to discuss his offer to repay them.

The Grace Foundation paid Trudeau $20,000 to speak at a fundraiser for a nursing home last summer. It lost money and now the charity wants the money back.

CBC News has been asking the foundation questions about its delayed bid to take its money back. They are:

  • Why did it take the charity nine months to ask for the money?
  • Why did the letter requesting the money end up at the office of Conservative MP Rob Moore?
  • Why was it widely circulated by the office of Prime Minister Stephen Harper?

The CBC put the questions to chairman Ian Webster as he arrived at the nursing home the charity supports Tuesday, but he declined to comment.

Webster said he was visiting relatives. He would not confirm or deny that the board was meeting in the nursing home Tuesday.

In an interview Sunday, Webster told CBC there was "no animosity" between the Grace Foundation and Trudeau. He said Tuesday's board meeting would put together a "proper response" to Trudeau's offer to repay it.

Trudeau was a Liberal MP at the time of the event and is now the leader of the federal Liberals. He has offered to compensate charities that paid him to speak at events.

The federal Conservatives have been accusing Trudeau of caring more about making money than serving the public.  

"Instead of being in his riding and listening to his constituents, Justin Trudeau was in Saint John, taking money from one of our local charities," said Rob Moore, the Conservative MP for Fundy-Royal in New Brunswick.

Grace Foundation board member Susan Buck wrote to Trudeau asking for $20,000 because the event was a "huge disappointment and financial loss."

Board member Judith Baxter gave the letter to Moore. Baxter received a Jubilee medal from Moore and her husband, Glen, is on the executive of Moore’s riding association.

Moore said the charity asked him to pressure Trudeau to give them money after their letter did not work.

'Playing politics'

Ceci Flanagan-Snow attended the Trudeau event as a non-partisan, volunteer photographer. She said the foundation should have swallowed the loss. Trudeau was charismatic and engaging, and delivered on his end of the deal, she said.

"They're playing politics now and that, to me, is incorrect," she said Tuesday.

"That was the rate they negotiated. They paid it. To come back a year later and say our event was unsuccessful and therefore we should get our money back? I totally disagree with it."