Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Mulroney-Schreiber: lex locii contractus edition

Yeah, I'm gettin' all Latin on ya this morning...

1. Mulroney's trying to get the Ontario brought lawsuit by Schreiber dismissed today in an Ontario court arguing a conflict of laws ground for his motion. A technical argument that the law of the contract is not Ontario since Mulroney was not domiciled in Ontario when the alleged agreement was made. Therefore he's entitled to have the suit thrown out in Ontario. More or less. A CP report has a brief synopsis of the competing arguments:
Mulroney was not a resident of Ontario - more specifically, 24 Sussex Dr., the prime minister's official residence in Ottawa - when the contract with Schreiber was made, his lawyers argue in a factum detailing the facts of the case.

In his factum, Schreiber argues that the agreement was made during a meeting at the prime minister's official summer residence in Harrington Lake on June 23, 1993, when Mulroney was still PM and living at 24 Sussex.
I will make a wild guess and say that the judge will reserve his or her decision on the matter. So we won't find out tomorrow whether this lawsuit which spawned the infamous Schreiber affidavit which brought all these allegations back to the fore of the public consciousness will be turfed or not. Even if it were to be, Schreiber could re-file it elsewhere, i.e., Quebec if needs be. But that might be an equally strange result, to say that Quebec is the proper law for this arrangement that was reached. As Schreiber's argument goes, even if the agreement was reached in Quebec, at Harrington Lake, Mulroney's "official residence" at the time was Ottawa. More importantly, the subject matter of the contract, Mulroney's advocating on Schreiber's behalf, was to occur principally in Ottawa. Schreiber's residence is Ottawa. So what's the substantive Quebec connection to this contract, other than it being Mulroney's long term domicile? While I haven't read the cases filed in support, I'll guess that the suit won't be dismissed on this ground and it will proceed in Ontario.

2. And as it does, the Canadian public is weighing in with their opinion, overwhelmingly, that Schreiber should not be extradited until he's had an opportunity to testify at a public inquiry.
Karlheinz Schreiber should be allowed to remain in Canada until he testifies at next year's public inquiry, according to a majority of respondents in a new Globe and Mail/CTV poll.

Germany seeks Mr. Schreiber's extradition to face charges of bribery, fraud and tax evasion.

But 59 per cent of respondents who were interviewed by the Strategic Counsel said his extradition should be delayed until after his testimony at the public inquiry into his financial dealings with former prime minister Brian Mulroney.
The strength of this opinion just might box in the Conservatives who have been keen to have Schreiber extradited throughout the fall and might be considering it in the back of their minds as an option should the Ethics Committee hearings get worse.

And as the poll points out, Harper's numbers on handling the matter are down. Could be the strength of the Conservative defence of Mulroney at the committee hearings is starting to cement a perception in people's minds that there's no distance between the Mulroney brand and Harper's Conservatives. After all, Harper's boys on the committee, Russ Hiebert, David Tilson et al. have been pretty quick off the mark to try to dismiss the hearings and to latch on to any bit of possible good news for Mulroney and trumpet it to the world. Maybe not so good a strategy, boys.

3. Speaking of which, we read of this effort in the Star today:
Brian Mulroney is bringing his wife, Mila, and their children to sit behind him on Thursday while he explains at a parliamentary investigation why he accepted $300,000 in cash from Karlheinz Schreiber.

The former prime minister, who often cites the need to honour and protect his family name, is expected to refer to them often as he answers questions on his financial dealings with Schreiber, the German-Canadian businessman who paid Mulroney shortly after he left 24 Sussex Dr. in 1993.

New Democrat MP Pat Martin scoffed at the plan to have Mulroney's family in the hearing room "lined up within the camera shot.

"You might as well have a chorus singing `O, Canada' softly in the background," he remarked.
Um, I don't think any special seating arrangements should be made by anyone here to manufacture a photo op. Backbone, committee members. Don't let the p.r. mavens steamroll you.

And a who's who in the Mulroney family is all laid out for us by Jane Taber, replete with the alma maters of the kids and reminders that Mila married Brian when she was 19. To which I would say...of what relevance is any of this to the serious allegations raised in these hearings about Mulroney's actions, including a very serious one of money being given to MP Mulroney while still in office? The attempt to generate sympathy for the shining family of Mulroneys is misplaced, to say the least.

And needless to say, I certainly hope the Committee members won't be intimidated by the glares they'll be receiving from the family. Someone's going to need to go toe to toe with Mulroney. I wonder if anyone will step up.

4. A must-read column by Linda McQuaig today, "Not exactly the media's finest hour," taking to task a number of commentator's ho-hum attitudes about the Mulroney-Schreiber affair's significance. Also of note:
Schreiber testified that Mulroney had been told he would receive funds from a lobbying firm representing Airbus after he left office. If Schreiber's allegations are true – and they have not been proven in court – it suggests that Mulroney may have agreed while he was in office to accept what amounts to a secret commission. Canadian law prohibits government officials from accepting secret commissions.

It is irrelevant whether a benefit is only received after the official has left office, if an agreement was made while the official held office, according to Fred Fedorsen, a criminal lawyer who has handled cases involving secret commissions.
Now that's some food for thought, that's for sure...