At this point, I think maybe Marty Burke likes to write letters to the editor as a way to irk those of us still sore about his campaign of silence back during the 2011 election, a soreness that remains stinging in the wake of the robocall scandal for which Guelph was the epicentre, and on which Burke has yet to really comment on the record. And that brings us to Burke's latest screed to be published in the storied pages of the Guelph Mercury, and it's nice to see that in spite of everything that Burke is still doing the good work of the Harper political machine, which is to pile on Justin Trudeau.
In the June 20 letter, Burke railed again the the Federal Liberal leader because he had "been caught taking huge pay cheques for speaking engagements for charities and schools." Well, I'm not sure Trudeau was "caught" collecting big speaking fees, but it's got more punch than saying charities and schools asked Trudeau to speak in exchanged for a negotiated and agreed upon speaking fee, but I digress.
Burke continues, "Shamed publicly" not really, "after initially saying he would keep the money - he now claims he wants to 'make it right' by paying back money. Yet he insists he did nothing wrong." Except he didn't do anything wrong, and he didn't have to pay the money back. Someone complained, he paid back the appearance fee, which, granted, was a gesture, but it amounts to the same gesture that Mike Duffy made to the Canadian people when he paid back $90,000 to the government without the icky loan/gift/buy-off from Prime Minister's Chief of Staff angle.
"I call on U of G president Alastair Summerlee — the guy responsible for spending our tax dollars at our university" - Well, Summerlee doesn't just spend "our" tax dollars, he also spends the tuition money of 30,000 undergrad and graduate students, plus I don't think paying taxes to a public university entitles one to ownership of it, but again I digress - "to provide the details: How much of our tax dollars were wasted on this speech? How much was lost? Will he take Trudeau up on his offer to refund the money? If not, why not"
The University of Guelph had already responded to Burke's question in a Mercury article by the time the former Tory candidate's letter was posted. U of G spokesperson Kevin Gonsalves called the matter a "non-issue" and said that the university would not be looking for a refund of the $7,500 speaking fee Trudeau got as part of a "get out the vote" campaign in January 2006. You know, two years before Trudeau became a Member of Parliament and when he was a private citizen.
Still, Burke was unperturbed. "The biggest mystery to me is why anyone would pay to hear such a pantywaist anyway."
I have to admire Burke for the very un-ironic way he calls Trudeau a pantywaist considering he tried to use the Guelph Police Service to get the media to stop bothering him at the height of the robocall scandal. A "pantywaist." Really? Why doesn't Burke call him "yellow" and challenge Trudeau to a dual at high noon?
As I said on the most recent edition of the Gang of Four, this is a complete non-issue if only because the entire Hire-A-Speaker industry is a scam, and as for Trudeau making extra scratch as MP, if we're going to throw the book at him, then there are about 200 other guys we're going to have to line-up and throw books at too. Trudeau has broken no rules, broken no laws, and has been much more transparent with his side job than most people with the title of "senator" have been with their day jobs.
As for Burke, it's nice to see that he's still working for Prime Minister even if he's not on the Tory payrolls, unlike, say, the Barrie Advance. When Burke ran in 2011 he said that if elected he'd be the Consevative caucus' man in Guelph and follow where Stephen Harper would lead. I suppose it's comforting to know that some politicians still live up to their word.