Inside Politics

UPDATED - Charity didn't authorize release of Trudeau letter to Tory MP

Nearly a week after finding itself at the centre of the simmering controversy over Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau's past part-time gig on the paid speakers' circuit, the board of directors of the Saint John-based Grace Foundation has finally broken its silence and provided their side of the story -- and it's one that likely won't show up in the next round of Conservative talking points.

In a written statement, Foundation chair Ian Webster reveals that, while the board members "are deeply distressed about many statements made from various persons," they are "most concerned" by the remarks made by Fundy-Royal Conservative MP Rob Moore -- who was, of course, the PMO-designated spokesperson for the story when they were shopping it to reporters last week.

According to Webster, "there was never any intention for this .. to become a political topic of discussion on the floor of the House of Commons" -- and what's more, the board "did not authorize any member or agent to approach the Honourable Member for Fundy-Royal or any political person on this matter."

Webster confirms that the Foundation did indeed send a "private letter" to Speakers Spotlight after news of Trudeau's hefty appearance fees hit the headlines last February, but when no response was received, "it was agreed at the May board meeting that no further follow-up would be necessary."

Although he declines to elaborate on how that correspondence found its way to Moore, who has previously told CBC News that it was passed on by board member Judith Baxter, Webster does express his hope that recent correspondence with Trudeau "will clarify the misunderstanding" between themselves and the Liberal leader.

The full statement, as provided to CBC News:

The board of directors of Grace Foundation consists of local community volunteers serving the residents of an established nursing home in Saint John, New Brunswick.

Subsequent to an article published in the Montreal Gazette titled "Trudeau errs on speaking fees" published on February 20th, 2013, by L Ian Macdonald, the board wrote a private letter to Speakers Spotlight, dated March 13, 2013, regarding speakers fees.

After receiving no response, it was agreed at the May board meeting, that no further follow-up would be necessary.

We are deeply distressed about many statements made from various persons. However, we are most concerned with the remarks that the Honourable Robert Moore, MP for Fundy-Royal has made concerning our foundation.

There was never any intention for this matter to become a political topic of discussion on the floor of the House of Commons.

The Board of Directors did not authorize any member or agent to approach the Honourable Member for Fundy-Royal or any political person on this matter.

We believe our correspondence this week with Mr Trudeau will be helpful in clarifying the misunderstanding between Mr. Trudeau and ourselves.

Ian Webster

Chairperson

Shortly after I posted this statement, Speakers' Spotlight dropped me a line to let me know that the agency had, in fact, replied to a letter sent by Foundation board member Susan Buck in early April 2013, and had indicated that they were "confused by the request for a refund," as they had followed up with the organization after the Trudeau event, and were told that they were  "pleased with the outcome."

In any case, it appears that the board was unaware that the agency had responded, but have told CBC News that it wouldn't have had made any difference as far as their decision to drop the matter.

UPDATE: The (brief) April 2013 correspondence between Speakers' Spotlight and Grace Foundation board member Susan Buck, which was provided to CBC News by Moore's office. 
Note: Email addresses and personal phone numbers have been redacted. (By me, to be clear.):

Tags: blackberry jungle, grace foundation, justin trudeau

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