There is certainly enough shame for everyone on this one: Double-Dipping

By Ray Rivers.

BURLINGTON, ON. June 18, 2013.  We’re not talking ice cream cones.  Collecting income from two separate sources is called double-dipping.  Most of us have probably double-dipped at some point in our lives.  Maybe we taught evening classes while drawing a salary for the day job?  Or perhaps we drove the courtesy van at Canadian Tire, or greeted at Wal-Mart while drawing a CPP or OAS pension.  This double-dipping is a natural part of our capitalist culture – by earning as much income as we can, we help grow the economy.  There is nothing wrong with double-dipping.

 I was surprised, however, that Justin Trudeau was collecting speaking fees while also serving as member of Parliament.  I thought politicians were eternally hunting for a soap box, and were happy if only it were free.   But Trudeau actually got paid.  Well, politics is a complicated, dirty business, as Justin found that out when the Conservative-linked Grace Foundation demanded their money back, just to embarrass him.  In the midst of the Senate debacle and with the PMO (Prime Minister’s Office) being investigated by the Mounties, Mr. Harper sank even lower than I thought he could go.

 Trudeau might have known it was a trap.  Why else would the Conservative leaning Grace Foundation invite the soon-to-be-crowned leader of the Liberal Party to speak.  And why pay him $20,000 when anyone could have just turned on the TV or gone to one of his stump speeches.  And, if you are good Conservative would you really go to listen to the son of the most despised man in Conservative history?  Almost a year after he spoke, Grace demanded their money back.  But somehow the letter went to the Prime Minister’s Office, which circulated it far and wide, before even Trudeau had seen it.  And it worked, Harper embarrassed Trudeau.

This is not what the political junkies mean by Double Dipping.

 To be clear, Justin wasn’t in any kind of conflict of interest, although this raises a question about the nature of his job as MP and his commitment to serve the people.  I think he was wrong to charge for the speech, and he obviously agrees since he has offered to repay everyone.  In fact, this whole incident says more about the PM, Grace and their board of directors than it does about Trudeau.  The Canada Revenue Agency conveys charitable status only to organizations which do not “seek to further the interests of a particular political party”.  And Grace’s actions should now place their charitable status in jeopardy, but don’t count on it with this government firmly in control.

 I was also surprised to learn that senators, like Pamela Wallin, are permitted to serve on corporate boards, where she would be party to corporate decision-making based, in part, on government policy before them.  There is no question that an airline or an investment house would benefit from inside information on evolving government policy.  Why else would they have been willing to pay over a million dollars?  Wallin was taking Doube Dipping to a new level.

 And wasn’t she being paid to attend to business in the Senate when she was double-dipping to pick up all those lucrative earnings?  By definition doesn’t this make the Senate her part-time job?  The fact is that the Senate isn’t a full-time job and it’s not even a serious business.  We can complain about senators like Wallin, Duffy, Brazeau or Harb – but really – isn’t the problem more with the Senate itself than the occupants.  The Senate doesn’t fit our governance model because there is no place for a Senate in a Parliamentary democracy.  It is time for it to go.

 Editors note: Back in the ‘good old days’ several of the bigger banks has Board members who were Senators that sat on the Senate Banking Committee that set the rules on bank behaviour. 

Ray Rivers writes weekly on both federal and provincial politics, applying his more than 25 years as a federal bureaucrat after which he decided to write and has become a  political animator. Rivers was a candidate for provincial office in Burlington where he ran against Cam Jackson in 1995, the year Mike Harris and the Common Sense Revolution swept the province.

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1 comment to There is certainly enough shame for everyone on this one: Double-Dipping

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    Double-dipping does not mean the same thing as having two jobs or two careers, unless you work for the CBC and then you can be forgiven for obvious reasons for not knowing the difference. Double-dipping refers to people who retire from employment, collect their pension, and then go back to work for the same employer. Typically one finds this amongst teachers in Ontario who fill in as “supply” teachers, a role that can last an entire year and make it difficult for new, young, recently graduated teachers to find permanent employment in their field. Teachers are not the only ones.

    When it comes to politicians it is worth noting that the most famous politician of the 20th century, Winston Churchill, made a great deal of money in public speaking on lecture tours organized by his agency. He also cleaned up by writing historical books. Indeed, he was busy editing for a publiciation deadline his “History of the English Speaking People” while he was simultultaneoulsy running the government in the Second World War as Britain’s Prime Minister. He made far more money from his private endeavours than he did from holding public office. Nobody thought anything peculiar about this except for the extraordinary engergy of this individual.

    As to Mr. Tudeau, I think he has learned a valuable lesson in politics from the masters that should stand him in good stead as he prepares to leave his daytime show and get a slot in prime time.