Sunday, December 23, 2007

Voices for a public inquiry

Star editorial from Saturday:
There are compelling reasons for such a probe, including the importance and value of the truth and integrity to our democratic institutions. Effective democracy demands that the public interest must always take precedence over the private or personal interests of those who enjoy the power and privilege of governing.

If there is any question of that principle being abused, as there was, for example, in the Liberal sponsorship scandal, the only way to restore the public's faith in our system of representative government is to cast a spotlight on the officials in question in order exonerate them or expose their wrongdoing. It is the ultimate form of accountability.
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To claim, as some do, that the Schreiber-Mulroney affair is ancient history, and therefore not worth the expense of an inquiry, is to imply that there is some kind of magic dividing point on the time line of history, before which the truth does not matter.

Canadians are entitled to know whether a former prime minister broke faith with the people who put their trust in him, even if it was nearly 15 years ago. And given the circumstances of his dealing with Schreiber – envelopes stuffed with $1,000 bills exchanged in hotel rooms and then squirrelled away in safety deposit boxes and safes with no taxes paid for several years – Mulroney should have the right to explain himself before a full-blown inquiry.

And yes the inquiry will cost money. But keeping our democracy healthy is not something that can be had for free.
A columnist Friday with a similar view, taking on the spin designed to avert a public inquiry on the Mulroney-Schreiber affairs, promised by Harper yet now in jeopardy:
Aided on air by Elf Ian Macdonald, Mulroney acolyte Bob Fife and Lloyd, who often begins a report with something like, Well, Craig, why are they still beating that dead horse?

“The case for a public inquiry has melted away,” wrote Margaret Wente. There's nothing new, said Chantal H├ębert.

But here's Karlheinz Schreiber: “The story is the payback for money to help someone come to power.” Replete with details: How Franz Josef Strauss dispatched him from Germany to seed right-wingers around the world and eject fakes such as Joe Clark. And where they plotted: the Ritz! They sat around, “And everybody got something,” once Brian took power. Not just contracts but free trade and the rest. We still live with the results. This isn't worth inquiring into? Watergate was just a piddling break-in.

They say “there is nothing to link Mr. Mulroney to the Airbus bribes.” But that may get the sequence wrong. What if Airbus wasn't what the Mulroney crew were owed something for? What if Airbus was what they owed to the Straussians who hoisted them into power? I'm just inquiring.
Yet we will never get any answers if Mulroney and Harper have their way in jettisoning the public inquiry they respectively committed to attend and hold...