Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Trudeau hits a Wall on taking fee to speak

Sask. premier insists keeping cash improper

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REGINA -- Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall says he won't apologize for saying federal Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau should return $20,000 he charged for speaking at a literacy conference in Saskatoon.

Wall says it's inappropriate for an elected official to accept a fee to talk at such an event, so Trudeau should pay back the money.

"I just think in terms of an example of leadership that that's the right thing to do at this point," Wall said Friday.

"He's now an aspirant to be the prime minister of the country. I think it's wrong for MPs or MLAs, for those to elected office, to take money for speeches that we ought to be giving because we're already paid our wage and so, because these are charities, in the main, I think an offer of reimbursement is the right thing to do."

The Saskatchewan premier says the conference, held in April 2012, was left with only a $7,000 surplus for its next event.

The issue came to light after Wall was asked about speaking fees in an interview with Global TV.

In the TV interview, Wall noted the speech came just before the Quebec MP decided to run for the Liberal leadership and he questioned whether the money was used to help finance Trudeau's leadership campaign.

Wall later said in a statement that if Trudeau says none of the money he charged to charities aided his leadership campaign, "then I accept him at his word." However, the premier also said he makes "no apologies for asking questions of accountability."

"Clearly, it's not $20,000 to fly from Ottawa to Saskatoon, so this is about revenue," said Wall.

"I've heard his argument... that there's lots of politicians, MPs for example, as private members who have other careers, some continue to practise in law, maybe some continue in some other vocation and make money.

Liberal House Leader Dominic LeBlanc took issue with Wall's comments.

"Premier Wall needs to immediately apologize for this smear. It looks like the race for (Prime Minister Stephen) Harper's job is on," LeBlanc said in a statement.

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 15, 2013 A23

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