06.18.2013 07:56 AM

Harper’s PMO: busted


The Prime Minister’s office sent information yesterday to The Advance regarding a money-losing speech Liberal leader Justin Trudeau made in Barrie in 2007.

On Monday, PMO communications officer Erica Meekes sent The Advance details of an engagement that netted Trudeau a $10,000 fee, but left Georgian College with a $4,118 shortfall. The information was sent via email with the caveat it be referred to as coming from a “source,” not the PMO, when used.

“As a follow-up to the growing controversy over the weekend on Justin Trudeau charging charities for his speaking services, I have enclosed further materials that demonstrate the scope of this practice, cost on the organizations, and in many cases, poor outcomes and large deficits as a result of his speaking tour,” the email stated. “As discussed, these materials are provided to you on background, and should be attributed to a ‘source.’”

Lessons to be learned from this extraordinary story:

1.  If you want something to be off-the-record or background, reach an agreement in advance, not post facto;

2.  The media in this country, formerly deferential, are now turning on the Harper Conservatives with ferocity and as one beast; and

3.  Justin Trudeau still has them spooked – otherwise, why make such a pathetically-transparent attempt to change the channel, orchestrated in the highest office in the land?

Oh, and Barrie Advance folks?  You’ve got balls.  Well done.


  1. John says:

    I guess there is now a job opening in the PMO. I hope some bigger papers carry this story.

  2. Eric Weiss says:

    I don’t think any MP of any political stripe should charge a fee to a charity to help them fundraise. Even if it’s technically not against the rules it smacks of using public office for personal gain. But this was just ridiculous. I couldn’t care less about what JT did before he entered public service.

    • Tom says:

      “using public office for personal gain. ”

      So? Every politician uses public office for personal gain. a) they draw a salary b) they sell books after c)…

      • Eric Weiss says:

        Helping non-profit organizations (schools, charities) raise money should be part of public service and their job as an MP. What they do before or after doesn’t concern me.

        • Tom says:

          I think driving a school bus for free should be part of an MP’s job. Just as arbitrary and helps kids get to school.

          Their job as an mp is to be an mp.

          • Cynical says:

            And it would certainly acquaint some of the NHARJ types like Peelever with the real world. Nothing like a bus full of kids to keep you in the real world. Or kill you.
            (Never Had A Real Job)

        • burlivespipe says:

          No doubt there are some MPs who do appear for charities at no cost. However, this isn’t a case of Trudeau going to these events then shaking them down. Charities and organizations came to him, with money offers to his booking agency, expecting to rake in more money. None of it was done when he had the large duty of leadership candidate — many of it happened when he was a private citizen.
          First, the CONS slag him for helping a charity by auctioning off his shirt; next they tag him for not bringing in boatloads of bills. Tell me, what is the great money-making machine of the CON party doing for charities itself? Besides having the government threaten any who show any other partisanship or leanings than to their own dirty ilk.

        • There was at a minimum ONE high profile case of Justin Trudeau raising money for a charity for no charge. And the Conservatives slagged him on National Television with a multi-million dollar ad campaign ridiculing him for it. (He stripped off his shirt for charity fundraiser for Liver Cancer). I am curious as to how you react to that? Double standards much? NOBODY likes a hypocrite.

    • A. Cynic says:

      So by your logic, I guess you are OK with the PMO using all it’s taxpayer resources to conduct a fishing expedition on MPs instead of doing the job of governing the country?

      • Eric Weiss says:

        If that’s directed to me I’d like you to explain what that Strawman has to do with anything I wrote.

  3. Mark N says:

    Honest to God, they leaked something to the press without arranging anonymity first?

    That’s astounding. I mean,wow. I am awestruck at the stupid.

    • Tiger says:

      Perhaps they had, or thought they had — “As discussed, these materials are provided to you on background, and should be attributed to a ‘source.’”

      Was that a one-way or a two-way discussion? (That’s an open question. The wording suggests two-way, but sometimes political staffers are reckless enough to just toss it out there.)

  4. Mark N says:

    Not to mention the amount of research time this is consuming in the PMO. I wonder if the budget for the research comes from the “secret” fund?

  5. Lynn says:

    Isn’t the PMO supposed to be running the country without so obviously stooping to such partisan bullshit? It is difficult, if not impossible, to respect the Cons and the methods that they employ. Since this is the game they wish to play maybe there is more footage of those old Reform meetings where Steve professes his desire for world domination and shows his reptilian tongue.

  6. AP says:

    This is more evidence that Stephen Harper, his cabinet and his staff are petty, vindictive control freaks who possesses looney tunes levels of paranoia.

  7. Michael S says:


  8. Speck says:

    2007? But he wasn’t an MP until ’08. Am I to think that the PMO is using government resources to create dossiers on private citizens in the event that they someday become a “problem”? Nice.

    On a completely unrelated note, it was quietly announced this weekend that the people who would most likely be employed to do these kinds of things -and their now banished watchdogs- would be forever silenced under extensions of the Security of Information Act.

  9. PeggyW says:

    These charities solicited JT’s services, and agreed to compensate him. I don’t think they deserve “do overs” after the fact (particularly not a year later) just because they didn’t profit the way they hoped. Their fundraisers may not have been successful for a myriad of reasons. Wherever you come down on whether Trudeau should have been doing this at all as an MP, at least he is standing up and facing the controversy head on, not hiding or blaming others as Harper always does. In the end, I think more mud will stick to those throwing it, then the target they are aiming at. And yes, it is good to see the media finally waking up, as opposed to being enablers to the detriment of our political institutions.

    • deb s says:

      exactly. Its strange how there is a sudden line up of these charities that JT Ripped off…I guess along with sending dossiers to the media, the PMO is nudging the organizations to seek compensation. Its funny how when the PM tries to change the channel, the new program stinks as much as the old one we were listening to. Steve needs to hire Warren:)

  10. partrick says:

    Hi Justin can we pay you to give a speech so we can raise money?
    Hi Justin, we didn’t make any money can we have our fee back?
    That wasn’t the deal.
    It is now, or I’m going to whine to your enemies to try and make you look bad.

    • Moe Lavigne says:

      From an “Arnold Murphy”, “Popcorn Boy” post a couple of days ago, Such a threat is possibly illegal in Canada.


    • Vankleek Hill says:

      Hi Justin can we pay you to give a speech so we can raise money?
      Hi Justin, we didn’t make any money can we have our fee back?
      That wasn’t the deal.
      But the little old ladies needed this
      Pfft! Let them eat cake.
      But aren’t you a compassionate progressive? It seems kind of mean.
      Oh, ah, yeah, right. Here’s the money back.

      • partrick says:

        That wasn’t the deal.
        Yeah, but we are incompetent and failed to see if anyone was willing to pay to come and see you and didn’t promote it properly because we thought you were easy cash and even though we are conservatives we have no one on our side that people are willing to abide, never mind listen too – lets just forget the “Tag along with Toews Evening” – and were willing to exploit you for our ends but now we are getting questioned about our ability to do our job because we lost money and instead of talking to you about this privately and giving you the opportunity to look good, AGAIN, we are going to scream streams of pus filled tattles to convince our dumb as plank supporters that if you don’t give back the money we gave you to make us money we will tell everyone you eat babies.

  11. J.W. says:

    Isn’t the real scandal that the line between the Prime Minister’s Office and the Conservative Party of Canada no longer exists? That takes us down the road to a completely different form of government than we have today. Of course no Canadian Party would ever combine that with cheating in elections, but if it happened, it would be very scary indeed.

  12. Ted B says:

    Not just from the highest office in the land, but at taxpayer expense. Shameful.

    As someone who does I lot of charitable work, the politicization of legitimate charitable work is probably what makes my blood boil over more than anything else this government has done.

  13. Adam says:

    You will know more about journalistic ethics than I do, Warren, but I would actually have considered it unethical for the Barrie Advance to publish this reference as if it were coming from a “source.” For one thing, the story being pushed by the PMO is a non-story, describing something that happened before JT was an MP (and even post-MP, it may be undesirable to profit from such speaking engagements, but it isn’t remotely criminal). It is also an attempt by Harper to try to get the media to do their dirty work for them – and it really isn’t ethical for a newspaper to do that. And, of course, the fact that the PMO (and not the Conservative Party) is playing these games IS the story, and it would be crooked not to publish it. Frankly, even if they said over the phone “treat this as off the record,” I think the Barrie Advance is well within its rights to burn the PMO.

  14. Ridiculosity says:

    In the 2012 budget Harper’s Conservatives threatened groups they would lose their charitable status if their political activities were judged to exceed 50 per cent of their activity. Given the massive amount of political media attention it has garnered recently, does that mean that the Grace Foundation in New Brunswick is now in Stevie’s crosshairs? For some reason, I think not…

  15. sj says:

    This is clearly just the beginning. It will get a lot more nasty before the next campaign.

    But I wonder, are there any MPs, who are lawyers or accountants, who do work for charities and charge them for their professional services. One must assume the Tories were smart enough to ask their MPs that before they began this latest mud fling.

  16. Steven says:

    The outcome that I most fear is the affirmation to the general public that with every revelation of malfeasance, manipulation and mendacity by government officials, government itself will be profoundly debased and will only attract bottom-dwelling careerists to join.

    Thanks a lot, Steve.

  17. deb s says:

    Politics is certainly a dirty business, But the Harper regime takes this to new levels. Does Harper follow any laws or rules. I dont understand how they can be allowed to continue operating like this…and using tax payers money…as the PMO are paid staffers…so its on the public dime. Well unless they have broken another rule and used the secret conservative fund to pay for overtime in “operation destroy the pretty boy”
    they also seem to be creating the angst…not just reporting it, as these charities are coming enmasse to complain now…this dirty pool has Harper written all over it. I get that other leaders may have done similar things…but its also coupled with everything else the stevie and his wrecking crew are a part of, senate scandals, robocalls, lies, cheating, allowing torture. Jesus, whats next, im afraid that Steve is making Rob Ford look good these days, it might be that ROFO is going to scrub the internet of his pics with Harper:P

  18. James Bow says:

    The wording of the e-mail the Barrie Advance received is interesting. Some have noted that this suggests a previous conversation was had, however, the editors at the Barrie Advance appear surprised to have received said e-mail. They’ve acted as if no previous attempt to establish these conditions of anonymity were made. And now Susan Delacourt provides an interesting blog about the e-mails she did receive, and the conversation she had establishing anonymity.

    The Barrie Advance is a community paper under the TorStar banner. Is it possible that while they weren’t part of the initial conversation, somebody at the PMO heard, “The Toronto Star has agreed to the conditions, send out the stuff”, and without looking at who they were conversing with, sent an e-mail to all of the editorial addresses under the TorStar banner, including the Barrie Advance. The Barrie Advance receives this, goes “what on earth is this stuff? Why are we receiving it? Who said we’d keep this anonymous?” and so the story went on from there.

    If that’s the case, somebody at the PMO needs to learn to be more careful in using their contact list on their e-mail program.

    • Tiger says:

      That actually makes a whole lot of sense as to how it probably went down.

      One staffer is getting taken to the woodshed…

  19. ray says:

    Who the fuck is Erica Meekes.
    This is the gal who sent the BS email about J Trudeau to the paper in Barrie and who is now mightily po’d according to the paper who outed her.
    Graduated from U of Ottawa 05 thru 09 with a degree in social work or some such. Now works in the PMO.
    This is how she describes herself on linked in.

    A political executive with direct experience building key media, government and community relationships; while developing and executing a communications strategy aligned with a broad, long-term vision. Political experience includes briefing and preparing Ministers and Members of Parliament on policy and strategy while offering advice and support to all members of the Conservative caucus.
    Thats a longwinded description of a delusional mid twenties gofer.
    To think we are paying these idiots to smear others is infuriating. Why cant we find out who all these enablers are and what they are being paid and outing them.
    At least it backfired..This time.

  20. Transcanada says:

    Slightly off topic but a favorite Harper PMO trick is called “Pet the Dog”

    This term was coined by cynical screenwriters, basically meaning: show the nasty old crank petting a dog, and you show the audience, aw shucks, he’s all right after all. Often used to demonstrate that a Jerkass is really a Jerk with a Heart of Gold, or, if more limited, that the character is goal oriented rather than sadistic and/or thoroughly evil. If used as an Establishing Character Moment then you skip right past the Jerk Ass phase.


    Harper loves kittens!

    Harper Sings!

    Harper does impersonations!

    Harper drinks beer!

    Can’t wait to see what he does next, but it’ll show he’s really human like the rest of us, No really!

    • deb s says:

      the only way I will believe he is human is when leaks his sex tape ( fill in the blank with who you most think he might partner with…me Im picking Baird)

      • A Cartwright says:

        LOL Deb, but I think it might be a threesome with Kenney as well. Elmer’s little boy, Pete, could wear a tin hat and deal with the PR work.

      • MCBellecourt says:

        Oh. My. God.

        deb s, you’re gonna give me nightmares…


        • deb s says:

          lol…but really think of the bright side….his base will put up with lies, cheating, scandals dujour, election tampering…as its all for the cause….but they will NO way put up with a Sex scandal…we dont have to watch the video…just get it to the right people:) Too bad we couldnt contact NSA and see what they have on him;)

      • MCBellecourt says:

        @A. Cartwright: That would be the Canadian version of peace talks between Larry, Moe and Curly–and if you put Dean Del Mastro with Elmer’s whelp, you’d have Canada’s answer to Laurel and Hardy doing security detail.

        Sounds expensive.

      • I wouldn’t be too sure that he actually has sex. I am inclined to think that, like bacteria, he reproduces by fission.

      • outsider says:

        Ah … gawd … please, wipe that image from my head …

      • Mona says:

        I would prefer a bi-prime minister than a PM from Quebec.

        • deb s says:

          we dont mind the bi….its the alien supreme overlord part…and I want a PM from New Brunswick. We need to switch it up occasionaly:)

          • Mona says:

            Dominic LeBlanc would have been a more legitimate Liberal leader and eventual PM from New Brunswick. Unfortunately, Dominic has sworn his fealty to Justin and will go down with Justin when he flops. Truly unfortunate.

  21. Terrence says:

    Serious question, Warren.

    Why would the PMO reach out to the media with this information directly? Why not secretly go through an intermediary — heck, why not send it to the CPC, and have _it_ get in touch with the media?

    Was it just gross stupidity?

    • MCBellecourt says:

      Desperation. When you’re desperate, you don’t think straight and you do stupid things. It’ll only get better because this latest attempt at a smear job didn’t work worth a shit.

      Peeps on other sites noted that things really started swirling down the porcelain pony when Nigel Wright wrote his Dear John letter to His Harperness. The new guy is wet behind the ears and it shows real bad.

      The eddy is turning into a maelstrom. I can’t wait so see how they screw up next!


      • MCBellecourt says:

        I thought about it some more, Terrence…it seems that Harper does not have the control over his office that he likes to think he has. Serves him right. From the scuttlebutt I’ve been getting all over the place, a lot of his staff are very wet behind the ears and, well, you know the saying–when the cat’s away, the mice will play…and Harper was overseas making an ass of himself (again).

        The Harpernauts also convinced themselves that they had the media in their back pocket–but, as Warren mentioned, they didn’t count on the capital “J” journalists at the Barrie Advance.

        The Advance people made a judgement call on the e-mail and gleaned a real news story out of an attempted smear. That is journalism at its finest and I echo Warren’s sentiment with my own two thumbs waaaaaay up.

        • deb s says:

          that or someone inside is really trying to screw him over! I would so love it, if the libs has a wellplaced mole.

          • Mark N says:

            It seems clear that, for some time, reporters have been accepting this arrangement as standard practice. In return for access to info, they keep silent on where the info comes from. It’s likely to have become such a regular thing that this young lady (with no media experience outside the Ottawa circle) figured it would work everywhere. I think the PMO staffer just got caught reaching too far.

      • outsider says:

        And I would bet that, to some degree, they just figured it to be a hick small-town paper that would be happy to get anything that seems somewhat newsworthy ….

    • That’s a good question. I think that the CPC is a pretty leaky ship nowadays. What with leaks to the CBC about secret funds, and Fife has not been getting occasional leaks, there is a gushing faucet into his inbox about Senate scandals, and basically endless tidbits that would cast Steven Harper in a bad light. It looks and smells like somebody is pushing Harper towards the exit, and less than subtly. The upcoming Conservative bun-fight/convention about leadership contest rules will be HIGHLY Entertaining.
      I dunno if that push is coming from Kenney, whom I think is the prime suspect. Maybe Mackay, maybe even someone like Prentice. Maybe it is just highly irate pro-lifers out for revenge. I did see that somebody put a flea in Fifes ear about Baird and 6 buddies staying at a Canadian taxpayer owned Palace in London while he was on a vacation.
      So with all that stuff going on, it may be the case that Harper has decided he needs to stick with uber-loyalists in the PMO to do his dirty work. If that is the case then the Harper Government is in big trouble. Historically, the Conservatives are almost as good as the Liberals on imploding in a burst of infighting.

      • Mona says:

        If Harper gives up the CPC leadership, he will have to do it this summer to allow the party to have a leadership convention. Two years is a comfortable time period to find a new leader, unite the party and as the new PM to table legislation geared for the October 2015 election. If Harper decides to stick it out, the party will have to fall in line behind him or leave gracefully. That’s the political reality. This Summer… stay or go? That is the question. Enjoy.

  22. Mona says:

    We certainly need a change of government, but I am apprehensive about having two candidates from Quebec, Trudeau and Mulcair, vying for the job of prime minister. Neither of them are representative of voting Canadians outside of Quebec. Besides, Trudeau is not qualified to assume the responsibilities of PM now or ever. Mulcair is just another shady character from Quebec.

    Looks like we’re stuck with Harper until 2019 unless he decides to relinquish the CPC leadership and make way for another leader.

    • Kaspar Juul says:

      Concern troll alert!!

    • Mona says:

      The CPC attack ad machine will grind Trudeau into dust over his “private business” (not an MP/while a pro-speaker… and when not a speaker/just an MP)… quick change artist. It’s a kiss of death for Justin taking money from struggling charities instead of giving money to orphan charities! I’m not arguing the point, I’m just stating facts that will be plastered all over the media sooner or later with CPC attack ads.

      Trudeau has done an admirable job hijacking the remnants of the LPC, and now with Bob Rae gone Justin can start rebuilding and remoulding the party in his image — generational change — out with the old, in with the new shiny Liberal party. Polls indicate that Canadians are entranced with his visage, and now he must fight to keep it relevant and genuine. It’s going to be tough to tread water for 2 years while the CPC crocs are snapping at your vulnerable arse.

      Please look at reality in the face because it ain’t gonna be pretty… unless Harper implodes completely and not only in your fantasies. Pray.

  23. RDS says:

    Here’s what I want to know: Are we supposed to believe that NONE of Harper’s MPs ever took a cheque for headlining a charity event? Fantino? Kent?

    It is, of course, quite possible that all their members are such low-charisma windbags that most people would pay money NOT to have to listen to them. I suppose they want us to think this is good?

  24. Patrick says:

    Don’t give the Barrie Advance a ton of credit. ( I will say that Laurie Watt is not a conservative, her hands have also been tied by the editor there) But this paper has suck the balls of the local conservative MP Patrick Brown for the last 7 years until this article came out.

  25. Brad Young says:

    I think the issue here is Steven Harper would have to pay people to come and listen to him, he is jealous.

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