Linda McQuaig on Mulroney-Schreiber

Written by  //  November 16, 2007  //  David Mitchell  //  1 Comment

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
Linda McQuaig
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.

One Comment on "Linda McQuaig on Mulroney-Schreiber"

  1. Robert Gordon November 18, 2007 at 11:44 am ·

    So what’s new about former PM Brian Mulroney being in the public eye? If a person goes back to when we first heard of Brian Mulroney’s political ambitions and methods the latest revelations of his dealings with Karlheinz Schreiber should not be surprising. It all began when hapless former PM Joe Clark was only able to garner 60% support in a bid to fend off Brian Mulroney from becoming Canada’s Progressive Conservative party leader. The knives came out and JC fell by the wayside. That was the first indication that majority support doesn’t necessarily rule in a democracy.

    Next after PM Pierre Trudeau’s retirement amid a flurry of controversy, Mulroney was able to capitalize on the situation leading the Conservatives to the first majority since John Diefenbaker’s run as a right wing savior of the country. (Remember the Avro Arrow controversy when Canada lost credit for producing the best fighter plane ever developed to that time).

    After Mulroney’s election came the introduction of the hated GST that brought the governments of all political stripes the claim to massive surplus budgets by creating jobs and the expert handling of Canada’s economy while in power. Even the massive profits from the surge of oil and mineral manufacturing would pale beside the cash flow created by the introduction of the GST on everything Canadians consumed except food, the cost of which is affected by GST on transportation costs and other needed services.

    Then NAFTA surfaced under Mulroney, purported to be an agreement with Canada’s largest trading partner that would give us long term gain for some short-term pain. As it turned out NAFTA gave our American counterparts the long-term gain. It seems recent problems related to the auto sector, forestry, agriculture, beef, pork and many other cross border industries have reversed the original premise, and we are now experiencing long-term pain for short-term gain.

    Mulroney’s collapse as Canada’s eighteenth Prime Minister did not come in an orderly fashion with the opposition parties squeezing his Conservative government out of power. It came with an explosion of voter anger that reduced one of Canada’s largest ever majority governments to a mere two seats. Mulroney’s years in power devastated the once proud Progressive Conservative party leaving it broken and bleeding and prey to the recent Reform/Alliance party takeover under present PM Stephen Harper.

    It is a known fact in politics as in most other circles that where there is smoke there is usually fire. A betting person would probably avoid placing their fortune on Brian Mulroney escaping just retribution for past performance. Bags of cash to pay for goods and services usually bring on the wrath of government tax collecting agencies unless the cash transaction is illegal and beyond the scope of those inspectors. Maybe the RCMP needing a face-saving victory such as finding fault with the Mulroney-Schreiber affair to offset the taser mishap at the Vancouver airport will find the true facts in a re-opened Mulroney investigation

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