Last month, a discussion took place in one of the Idle No More groups to which I belong. Bill Wilson, the group member who started the discussion, was concerned about what was planned in upcoming weeks as it pertained to the Idle No More movement. He wrote in part:
“[quote] We already know that the AFN, Summit & UBCIC types will not do anything without White approval, honorariums and expenses! Even Chief Spence’s “partner” needs $850./day plus a hotel room and meal allowance to watch [Chief Theresa Spence] ALLEGED FAST – TIME TO GET REAL [end quote]!”
This article isn’t about to address what the AFN, Summit or UBCIC does and does not do. This article is, once again, about mixing apples with oranges when discussing various matters relating to Idle No More.
When the money referred to muddies the waters (as in Bill Wilson’s comment), it’s time to identify who pays for what, and whether the money is at issue. If the money to which Bill Wilson or anyone else is referring is money that is payment for unrelated work, then that money ought not be an issue at all.
In other words, if someone works for the local convenience store and supports a movement or a political party or a cause, it doesn’t mean that the local convenience store or the owner of the convenience store or the companies that supply the convenience store support that same movement or political party or cause.
Here’s how to see things more clearly, especially if we’re going to talk about politics and money. I’m going to use Justin Trudeau as an example — not because he’s a politician, but because he’s a well-known Canadian who just happens to be a Canadian in politics, and elected to office as a Member of Parliament.
As a member of the House of Commons, Justin Trudeau, Member of Parliament for Papineau (QC) earns a base salary of $157,731.
Until last September, he was also a Committee Member for Canadian Heritage; Citizenship and Immigration; Human Resources, Skills and Social Development; and, The Status of Persons With Disabilities. Keep in mind that “Members who occupy certain offices and positions are entitled to additional pay in accordance with the Parliament of Canada Act as listed.” In other words, the base salary of $157,731 didn’t include any payment he may have received for being a Committee Member of any of the four Committees identified.
That’s all about Parliament Hill and Justin Trudeau’s livelihood as a Member of Parliament.
But he also has a healthy income from public speaking. In fact, it was revealed to mainstream media by Justin Trudeau recently that he earned $462,000 during his best year, and only $277,000 since becoming an MP in 2008. With the decision to seek the Liberal leadership, he earned only $72,000 from four speaking events in 2012.
And, of course, there’s also the inheritance from his father, former Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau, which Justin revealed was worth about $1,242,522 CDN as of August 2011 according to the BDO statement, which pays out a stipend to Justin, Sacha (his brother) and Sarah (his step-sister).
In 2010, he and his wife purchased a semi-detached home near Mount Royal for $777,000, with a $622,000 mortgage. When the average home in Toronto costs $800,000, a home such as the one Justin and his wife purchased doesn’t seem ostentatious given the location and housing prices (especially back in 2010 when the cost of houses was rising and the economy was still doing relatively well).
In other words, Justin Trudeau is making a good living as Justin Trudeau, Member of Parliament. He’s made some investments and some investments were made for him by his late father. When he is no longer a Member of Parliament, he has a number of options open to him thanks to his education and his experience, not the least of which is public speaking.
Now let’s take a look at what Bill Wilson was complaining about and do a comparison. First off, Chief Theresa Spence earns a salary as the Chief of Attawapiskat. Chief Spence was also reimbursed for $1,798 in travel expenses in 2011 according to the financial statement prepared Ross, Pope & Company LLP, Chartered Accoutants. We can strike that from consideration since we’re not taking travel expenses into consideration with Justin Trudeau’s salary for being a Member of Parliament.
Unfortunately, there are those out there — in the general public as well as in mainstream media — who insist on blending Clayton Kennedy’s income in with Chief Theresa Spence’s salary when arguing about how much money Chief Spence has at her disposal.
Did I miss something when I was reading the news articles about Justin Trudeau? Did those reporters include his wife’s income in with Justin Trudeau’s salary when griping about how much money Justin Trudeau was pulling in?
Oh wait, Sophie’s money wasn’t even mentioned!
But there will still be those out there — in the general public as well as in mainstream media — who will argue that Clayton Kennedy’s money should be included with the money Chief Theresa Spence is earning because she allegedly hired him to be the co-manager of Attawapiskat. Except for one thing: the Chief can’t just crown someone a co-manager. This is a decision that’s arrived at by council as a whole — not by the Chief alone — and any recommendations made by a manager or co-manager are presented to council as a whole so council can discuss and arrive at decisions that are in the best interests of their reserve.
Oh wait, that’s just like what happens in cities and towns across the country!
So when bloggers and mainstream media are screaming that Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence’s household made as much as $250,000 in the fiscal year ending March 2011, let’s take the time to remember that no non-Native politicians have their spouse’s or partner’s income blended in with their income as a politician.
That Clayton Kennedy owns a company called Moo Shum Enterprises Inc., is immaterial. How much or how little the company charges is immaterial.
No one asks how much Justin Trudeau’s wife, Quebec television host and former model, Sophie Grégoire (who also works with a number of charities) may be earning from investments, royalties, speaking engagements, et al. And however much she may or may not be earning isn’t blended in with Justin Trudeau’s income when bloggers and mainstream media discuss his income.
So let’s compare apples with apples and orange with oranges when it comes to taking a closer look at what a politician brings into his or her household.
The apples are Chief Theresa Spence’s income per year rounded up to $70,000 compared Justin Trudeau’s income per year rounded up to $158,000.
Another set of apples is the cost of living where basic necessities such as food cost four times as much in Attawapiskat than in Montreal or Ottawa or Toronto. In other words, if we doubled Chief Spence’s income it still wouldn’t compare with what Justin Trudeau is earning. Chief Spence would still have only half the buying power Justin Trudeau has, based on political incomes alone.
And the oranges which would be Moo Shum Enterprises Inc., charging Attawapiskat $850 CDN per day, times 221 days ($221,000 CDN per year) compared to Deloitte Touche charging Attawapiskat $90,000 CDN per day, times 229 days ($19.9 million CDN per year).
Let’s leave everything else outside at the front door.