Thursday, December 06, 2007

Mulroney-Schreiber: because it's not going away

Despite the Conservatives' best efforts. And besides, it's just so much fun...

1. A wish list extravaganza of witnesses...that's what the uber-competent Ethics Committee is drawing up. Well, it's good news that these hearings will be expanded to devote the appropriate amount of time to deal with the allegations and hear from the proper witnesses. My faves in particular:
Now, in addition to players whose names have repeatedly come up at the committee over the past two sessions - such as Mr. Mulroney, his former aide Fred Doucet and his solicitor-general, Elmer MacKay - the committee hopes to hear from Mr. Harper, his chief of staff, Ian Brodie, and his communications director, Sandra Buckler.
Now who wants to bet, should such staffers become actually sought after, that we'll soon start hearing about the Canadian version of Bush's executive privilege gambit? That Harpie's top advisers can't possibly breach any prime ministerial privileges. Wait for it.

I think they would also be smart to hear from Schreiber again in the future once they've heard from the majority of witnesses, to tie up loose ends and bear down on him for clarifications. You know, to help out on little things like this:
Yesterday, the committee released a large package of documents tabled by Mr. Schreiber on Tuesday, including a May 8 letter the German-Canadian businessman sent to Mr. Mulroney as a "last warning" that he was "prepared to disclose" allegations - including that Mr. Mulroney received payments from lobbyists Government Consultants International, who worked on the Airbus file. (emphasis added)
The Star's report:

Brian Mulroney received payments from a lobbying firm that worked to sell Airbus planes to Air Canada, Karlheinz Schreiber charges in a bitter, threatening letter to the former prime minister.

In a May 8, 2007 letter, Schreiber warns Mulroney that he is "prepared to disclose" that incendiary allegation along with other dramatic claims, including that he was asked by former Mulroney aide Fred Doucet to transfer funds "to your Lawyer in Geneva."

That is followed in brackets by the note, "Airbus."

The letter does not say when Doucet allegedly made the request.

Mulroney has long denied any impropriety in the Airbus deal.

But Schreiber, a former arms dealer, revives the politically charged allegation in his letter, saying Mulroney received payments from Government Consultants International – an Ottawa-based lobbying firm – as well as its principals Frank Moores, Fred Doucet and Gary Ouellet.

Schreiber also claims that "you asked me through my lawyers to commit perjury to protect you" and the former prime minister "supported fraud" related to a project to build an armoured vehicle plant in Cape Breton.

"The time has come that you bring the whole battle with me to a peaceful and satisfying end. This is my last warning," wrote Schreiber, who is facing extradition to Germany to face charges of bribery and tax evasion.
All Schreiber stated on Tuesday was that the $300,000 that he, Schreiber, paid directly to Mulroney had nothing to do with the Airbus deal. Some Conservatives took this to mean that Mulroney was exonerated. This letter, however, suggests there is further examination warranted on the question to determine if others paid Mulroney commissions on the Airbus deal. Yep, that's a doozy of a letter that needs much more attention and questioning of further witnesses.

Now if someone would just give these members a crash course in examining a witness for pete's sake. As Andrew Coyne deftly put it:
On the contrary, the committee’s flabby interrogation of Schreiber shows exactly why an inquiry is needed. The point is not to convict Mulroney, or to exonerate him. The point is to find out what happened. Or at least to ask.
2. Memo to Conservative MP David Tilson, who said this yesterday:
But Conservative MP David Tilson said the parliamentary committee hearings were a waste of tax dollars.

"The star of the show is a German arms dealer, for heaven's sake," he said. "I don't think that's the way to go."
Schreiber is a Canadian citizen. He is German born, yes. But I think a lot of Canadians would be offended at such an exclusionary view of Canadian citizenship. What is it, if you have an accent that means you're presumably not Canadian to Tilson? Or is Tilson just plain old lazy?

More later today...