Mitch Joel WARNING... LONG RANT! It takes a lot for me to both get angry and publish about it. Canada’s…
Linda McQuaig on Mulroney-Schreiber
David Mitchell forwarded this piece with the comment that [the] “article ought to be given wider circulation than the Star, otherwise smoke and mirrors will distract everyone”.
One central disturbing image
November 15, 2007
There’s already an energetic campaign by the Conservatives and their supporters to keep us distracted from the central image in the Mulroney-Schreiber affair.
That central image is former prime minister Brian Mulroney, in secret meetings in hotel rooms shortly after leaving office, accepting $300,000 in cash from lobbyist Karlheinz Schreiber, a key figure in the billion-dollar sale of Airbus planes to Air Canada.
It’s a hauntingly powerful image – an image more potentially damaging than any that emerged from the Gomery inquiry into the scandals of Jean Chrétien’s Liberal government. Imagine if there’d been reports of Chrétien in a hotel room accepting bagloads of cash.
So as the Conservative spin doctors do their work, keep the image of what went on in those hotel rooms front and centre in your mind, and wait for an explanation. Because Mulroney hasn’t given one.
In his public comments in Toronto on Monday night, Mulroney bellowed with outrage, portraying himself a victim of a vendetta by bureaucrats and journalists. But he offered no explanation as to why he accepted the cash, nor why he didn’t report it in his tax returns at the appropriate time.
All this is a nightmare for Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who rode a wave of outrage over the Liberal scandals all the way to 24 Sussex. In order to retain his credibility as a crusader for clean government, Harper has now been obliged to call a public inquiry into the dealings of Mulroney, his former mentor and fellow Conservative.
Harper made it sound as if his decision to call an inquiry was based purely on allegations by Schreiber. This is convenient for Harper (and Mulroney), since Schreiber can be dismissed as unreliable. After all, he’s currently in jail fighting extradition to Germany, where he faces charges of bribery, fraud and tax evasion.
But the case doesn’t hang on Schreiber’s word. Mulroney himself has indirectly confirmed receiving the $300,000. Indeed, he’s paid tax on it, filing a voluntary tax disclosure – a practice permitted by Canada Revenue Agency – to correct his earlier failure to report the payments in the tax periods in which he received them.
Perhaps Mulroney has an explanation for the payments – an explanation he’s chosen not to share with the public. His spokesman Luc Lavoie has referred to the payments as a “retainer.”
Mulroney has greatly contributed to suspicions by declining to acknowledge his financial dealings with Schreiber, even throwing investigators off track. When the RCMP launched an investigation in 1995, Mulroney sued for libel and testified under oath that he had only met Schreiber for coffee “once or twice” and “had never had any dealings with him.”
Really? Does Mulroney not consider the payment of $300,000 some form of “dealing?” If he had no “dealings,” what was the payment or “retainer” for? On the basis of Mulroney’s testimony, the Canadian government ended up paying Mulroney a settlement of $2.1 million.
But there’s much more at stake here than money. What’s at stake is the most basic public interest – whether Canadians can have confidence in the integrity of our political system.
As the inquiry proceeds, the Conservatives will attempt to muddy the waters with a barrage of partisan counterattacks. Mulroney will suck up precious air time casting himself as the injured party.
All this sound and fury is designed to distract us. Ignore it. What matters is what happened in those hotel rooms: a former prime minister, a lobbyist and $300,000 in cash.