Thursday, December 20, 2007

Harper's running away from his commitment to hold a public inquiry on Mulroney-Schreiber

How surprising. Harper's trying to squirm out from under a public promise. Watch him go and then check out below to see how he's misrepresenting his adviser's terms of reference:
Prime Minister Stephen Harper says it's up to his appointed adviser to determine if a public inquiry is needed to resolve the Mulroney-Schreiber affair.

Harper promised an inquiry last month into the decade-old business relationship between former Tory prime minister Brian Mulroney and international arms lobbyist Karlheinz Schreiber.

But in a series of year-end interviews, Harper left the door open for his adviser, David Johnston, to reject the inquiry route.

Johnston's written mandate states that he is to set terms of reference for a public inquiry and its timing, and report back by Jan. 11 - not to determine whether an inquiry is needed.

Asked directly by a radio station this week whether Johnston's mandate includes the no-inquiry option, Harper replied in the affirmative.
Annnnhhhh, wrong.

His numbers are tanking, partly due to the preliminary glance the public has had at the Mulroney issue and Conservatives doing what they can to shut down the parliamentary hearings. So Harper wants to head for the exits. A reminder, therefore, is once again in order for anyone thinking that Harper is telling the truth here, that it's up to David Johnston to decide whether or not there's to be an inquiry. It's not. In fact, Johnston has been told that he "shall" come up with recommendations for an inquiry, not that he "may" do so. If Harper doesn't have the guts to publicly take his promise back, he shouldn't be shluffing responsibility off on Johnston. Once again:
Whereas Mr. Karlheinz Schreiber has made various allegations with respect to his financial dealings with the Right Honourable Brian Mulroney, P.C., that go beyond the private interests of the parties, including in an affidavit sworn on November 7, 2007; and

Whereas the allegations with respect to the Right Honourable Mulroney’s time as Prime Minister, although unproven and in part conflicting with other available information, raise questions respecting the integrity of an important office of the Government of Canada;

Therefore, Her Excellency the Governor General in Council, on the recommendation of the Prime Minister, pursuant to paragraph 127.1(1)(c) of the Public Service Employment Act, hereby appoints to the position of special adviser to the Prime Minister, David Johnston of St. Clements, Ontario, as Independent Advisor, to hold office during pleasure, for a term ending on January 11, 2008; and

(a) specifies the duties of the Independent Advisor as to conduct an independent review of those allegations respecting financial dealings between Mr. Schreiber and the Right Honourable Brian Mulroney, P.C., and to submit to the Prime Minister by January 11, 2008 a report in both official languages, which shall

(i) make recommendations as to the appropriate mandate for a public inquiry into those allegations, including the specific issues that warrant examination, under the Inquiries Act,

(ii) state whether the Independent Advisor, in the course of his review, has determined that there is any prima facie evidence of criminal action; in that case, the report shall make recommendations as to how this determination should be dealt with, and what should be the appropriate mandate and timing for a formal public inquiry in those circumstances, and

(iii) make recommendations as to whether any additional course of action may be appropriate;


(b) authorizes the Independent Advisor to adopt procedures for the expedient and proper conduct of the independent review, including reviewing relevant records and documents and consulting as appropriate;

(c) fixes his remuneration as set out in the attached schedule, which per diem is within the range ($1,200 - $1,400); and

(d) authorizes the payment, in accordance with Treasury Board policies, of the following expenses incurred in the course of his duties:

(i) travel and living expenses while in travel status in Canada while away from his normal place of residence in accordance with the Treasury Board Travel Directive and Special Travel Authorities,

(ii) expert staff, as required, and

(iii) any other reasonable expenses as necessary to conduct the independent review.
Framing the mandate for the public inquiry is mandatory. The only possible sub-section here that provides wiggle room is the ability of Johnston to "(iii) make recommendations as to whether any additional course of action may be appropriate." That's "additional," as in, additional to the inquiry.

If Harper backtracks on this, it's one more broken promise. Rack it up, it's quite a record he's creating on his public word.