Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Oliphant and the $2M taxpayer funded Mulroney legal settlement

It looks like it is going to be tough for Brian Mulroney to leave behind the issue of the $2.1 million legal settlement he received from Canadian taxpayers in 1997 in light of Justice Oliphant's report. While the report in and of itself doesn't mandate any kind of action on that settlement Mulroney received, Oliphant's thorough rejection of Mulroney's explanation for his testimony there is a substantial public rebuke begging to be dealt with. By whom? The government or Mr. Mulroney himself, I suppose. We'll see how this shapes up, whether such polls are accurate given again, how incredibly early that one's been brought into this picture or whether the cost issue, that $2.1 million eats away at such apathy. Interested punditry, political opposition and a lack of a reservoir of good will for Mulroney may all work against the quiet receding of this one into the background.

Here's a brief refresher on that lawsuit and the testimony in issue:
Mr. Mulroney brought the action against the government after news reports that the Royal Canadian Mounted Police had written the government of Switzerland to ask for assistance in an investigation of Mr. Mulroney and Mr. Schreiber.

At the time, Mr. Mulroney played down suggestions that he had significant dealings with Mr. Schreiber. “We would have a cup of coffee, I think, once or twice,” Mr. Mulroney told a government lawyer under oath.

Mr. Mulroney said in the inquiry that he had not disclosed the extent of his relationship with Mr. Schreiber or revealed the payments because a government lawyer did not ask the “correct question,” a position Justice Oliphant called “patently absurd.”
Oliphant could not be clearer in his disagreement with Mulroney's various grounds for not disclosing the payments he'd received from Schreiber during the course of the examination he underwent in that lawsuit. Here are some of the relevant excerpts:
In response to another question Mr. Sheppard asked about discussions he might have had with Mr. Schreiber after he knew about the LOR, Mr. Mulroney responded that his principal preoccupation was not Mr. Schreiber’s business dealings. He then stated, “I had never had any dealings with him.”
Mr. Mulroney’s position is that the answers he gave to those questions were given in the context of Airbus. However, as I have already noted, both the LOR and the statement of claim also referred to the Bear Head Project.
Mr. Sheppard also asked Mr. Mulroney whether he maintained contact with Mr. Schreiber after he ceased being the prime minister. In his answer, Mr. Mulroney failed to disclose the true state of affairs, including his agreement with Mr. Schreiber; the two cash payments in envelopes he received from Mr. Schreiber in hotel rooms at Mirabel and in New York, respectively; or the cash payment he received, again in an envelope, in the coffee shop at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel in Montreal. Mr. Mulroney’s response would lead anyone not knowing the true situation about Mr. Mulroney’s dealings with Mr. Schreiber or the money he had received from Mr. Schreiber to believe that the post–prime ministerial contact consisted of a couple of brief meetings to have a cup of coffee.

For Mr. Mulroney to attempt to justify his failure to make disclosure in those circumstances by asserting that Mr. Sheppard did not ask the correct question is, in my view, patently absurd. It was not Mr. Sheppard’s question that was problematic; rather, it was Mr. Mulroney’s answer to the question. Mr. Mulroney’s answer to Mr. Sheppard’s question failed to disclose appropriately the facts of which Mr. Mulroney was well aware when such disclosure was clearly called for. I suggest that Mr. Sheppard did ask the right question in attempting to ascertain what contact, if any, Mr. Mulroney and Mr. Schreiber maintained subsequent to Mr. Mulroney’s departure from the office of prime minister. There was no objection to the question by counsel for Mr. Mulroney because it was not an objectionable question. Nor did the question call for the volunteering of information by Mr. Mulroney. What the question called for was a clear, complete, forthright answer. And that answer was not forthcoming from Mr. Mulroney. (pgs. 36, 37 of Executive Summary)
Brutal stuff for a former Prime Minister. It's hard to see the present public disposition not favouring return of those legal settlement funds, thinking of the MP expense issue and the $1.1 billion G20 security boondoggle of late, but I guess we'll see.