Former President Barack Obama spoke to the Chamber of Commerce in Montreal on Tuesday, warning against income inequality and the concentration of wealth—remarks from a man who reportedly commanded $400,000 a speech, or $7,700-a-minute at that rate, for his Canadian speech.
Obama said the world must do more to combat income inequality, noting that the concentration of wealth fans fears that governments exist solely to benefit the powerful, NBC reported.
“That’s a recipe for more cynicism and more polarization, less trust in our institutions and less trust in each other,” Obama said.
“And it’s part of what leads people to turn to populist alternatives that may not actually deliver,” Obama said in a thinly disguised jab at President Donald Trump without naming his successor specifically.
According to the Toronto Star, not everyone could afford to see the man calling for the end of income inequality.
“A dim-lit hall laid out for a rock star, a red-carpet stroll for giddy VIPs and video screens for the rest of the roughly 6,000 who were neither sufficiently wealthy nor connected to get a front-row seat,” the Star reported.
“This was the scene here at a 70-minute appearance nine months in the making: Barack Obama’s first post-presidency address on Canadian soil—one of the few appearances he’s made anywhere since handing power to U.S. President Donald Trump in January,” the Star reported.
“Hotly contested, planned and negotiated until the final days and beamed across North America, it was a strategic investment that may have topped half a million dollars and was meant to put on the map a city in the throes of its 375th anniversary celebrations,” the Star reported.
The Star speculated Obama may have been persuaded to speak through his friendship with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who tweeted about the former president’s visit:
— Justin Trudeau (@JustinTrudeau) June 7, 2017
Other dignitaries attending Obama’s speech included the federal cabinet minister and former astronaut Marc Garneau, Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre, and Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard.
“All were seated at the table of honour, surrounded captains of Quebec’s business world, sipping wine at corporate tables,” the Star reported. “The more reasonably priced $375 seats started at a distance where Obama was just a well-lit spec on a faraway stage.”
Michel Leblanc, president of the Montreal Chamber of Commerce, “refused to say how much they paid for Obama’s visit or what other conditions might have led to their winning bid,” according to the Star.
“Obama has reportedly demanded a $400,000 (U.S.) speaking fee for at least two other speeches,” the Star wrote.
“One Canadian source, who was unaware of the payment details, said such a price tag—which works out in Canadian dollars to roughly $7,700 for every minute Obama spent on the Montreal stage—would not be a great surprise,” the outlet continued.
Meanwhile, NBC’s report reveals Obama is now striving to be an international community organizer.
“Obama said that in times of economic uncertainty it can be tempting to turn to isolationism and ‘the politics of us-vs.-them’ and said World War I and World War II were the result,” NBC reported.
“He said the U.S. and other nations showed there was a better way “in creating an international order that was based not just on self-interest but also on principles.”