By John Geddes - Monday, January 21, 2013 - 0 Comments
Brian Mulroney is out of political purgatory and only too happy to tell Canadians (and Stephen Harper) what real leadership is about
His large, impressive head swims into view, as he makes his unhurried way through the luncheon crowd assembling outside the hall of a Fredericton conference centre. That jaw line, which once seemed cut from granite, now looks more moulded from clay. Even with its edges softened by age, though, you would know the profile anywhere. His silver-grey hair is immaculate. The rich hue and perfect drape of his blue suit set him apart—no offence to the menswear purveyors of the New Brunswick capital—from the local businessmen and provincial politicians pressing in to shake his hand, share an old campaign anecdote, and maybe pose for a photo. But what really triggers the memories, good and bad, is his voice. Its bass notes don’t so much cut through as rumble beneath the conversational din. The plummy laugh penetrates to every corner.
And Brian Mulroney has been laughing a lot lately. His one-day, mid-November visit to Fredericton—where he delivered a speech at the lunch, met privately with the provincial government’s cabinet, and spoke to students at St. Thomas University before a reception at its Brian Mulroney Hall—was typical of his extraordinary 2012. At 73, Mulroney spent the year being feted on the 25th anniversary of his Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement, consulted on Quebec by the Prime Minister, who once shunned him, and even being called “a classy individual” by Justin Trudeau. Can it really be less than three years since Justice Jeffrey J. Oliphant’s commission of inquiry found that Mulroney behaved “inappropriately” in taking envelopes containing hundreds of thousands in secret cash payments from a certain German-Canadian arms lobbyist? Continue…
By Brian D. Johnson - Wednesday, March 30, 2011 at 12:33 PM - 1 Comment
The former PM’s life gets treated as a campy cartoon in Mulroney: The Opera
When they read the script for Mulroney: The Opera, the lawyers were anxious about the money shot: the scene of Brian Mulroney breast-stroking like Scrooge McDuck in a swimming pool full of cash. They feared it could be libellous. The former prime minister, after all, had admitted to taking a mere $225,000 from German lobbyist Karlheinz Schreiber, not enough to fill an entire pool. When director Larry Weinstein explained that the wads of bills wouldn’t actually fill the pool, just float on the water’s surface, the lawyers figured that was okay.
Mulroney: The Opera is one of the most bizarre concoctions this country’s eccentric film industry has ever produced: a $3.8-million musical satire, almost entirely funded by the federal government, that amounts to a snake-oil portrait of an ex-prime minister as a lying, delusional, power-mad showboat of grotesque proportions. An original work riddled with allusions to Wagner and Mozart, Bizet and burlesque, this campy biopic condenses Mulroney’s life story into a 75-minute cartoon.
It may invite comparisons to last year’s Score: A Hockey Musical, a $5.3-million folly that bombed at the box office. (Next to hockey, political satire is arguably Canada’s most popular, and vicious, national sport.) But while Score was earnest romance, Mulroney: The Opera is monstrous caricature. And, spooked by Score‘s failure, its producers at Rhombus Media have come up with a novel way to spring it on audiences, using high art as the commercial hook. Mimicking the format of Cineplex’s The Met: Live in HD series, the movie is set to play on 72 screens across Canada as a single Saturday matinee, on April 16, followed by just one repeat showing on April 27. The general manager of the Metropolitan Opera will even introduce it on video.
By Andrew Coyne - Friday, June 4, 2010 at 9:00 AM - 73 Comments
COYNE: Justice Oliphant’s report leaves no doubt about Mulroney’s credibility
The word “inappropriate” appears literally dozens of times in the course of Justice Jeffrey Oliphant’s report on Brian Mulroney’s dealings with Karlheinz Schreiber. It was inappropriate, the judge found, for Mulroney to have met so many times with Schreiber while he was prime minister and Schreiber was an unregistered lobbyist, inappropriate for him to have entered into business with him scant weeks after leaving office—and on the same file, the Bear Head project, for which Schreiber had been lobbying his government all those years—inappropriate to have taken payments from Schreiber in cash, inappropriate to have kept them in cash, inappropriate not to have deposited the money in a bank account, or leave any other record of the transaction, whether contracts, invoices, receipts, expenses, tax returns or even a decent thank-you note.
Well, no. “Inappropriate” would be the word if Mulroney and Schreiber had entered into a legitimate business arrangement—if Mulroney had never had any dealings with Schreiber before leaving office, or if the business had nothing to do with government, or if it were anything, really, that anyone could attest to or understand or even describe—but had kept no record of it and dealt only in cash and done everything else they could do to conceal it. Or “inappropriate” would perhaps serve if Schreiber, having had privileged access to Mulroney in ofﬁce and having enjoyed such notable success at winning lucrative contracts from his government, had retained him immediately afterward for some sort of murky “professional services” agreement but at least had kept all the appropriate records and perhaps used the odd bank now and then.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, May 31, 2010 at 4:18 PM - 44 Comments
Brian Mulroney releases a statement in response to the Oliphant report.
“While I have not yet had an opportunity to review Commissioner Oliphant’s final report, I have been briefed on its contents.
I was satisfied, but not surprised, to learn that the Commissioner has concluded that I did not, as Prime Minister, apply pressure to or attempt to influence my ministers or other government officials with respect to the promotion or approval of the Bear Head Project. The evidence presented during the inquiry demonstrated that the allegations made against me to that effect were completely false.
I was also pleased that the Commissioner confirmed that no agreement with Mr. Schreiber was reached while I was Prime Minister of Canada and, moreover, that the agreement reached after I left office was exclusively international in scope. To that end, I understand that the Commissioner was satisfied that I did nothing domestically to promote Thyssen or its objectives after I left office.
I genuinely regret that my conduct after I left office gave rise to suspicions about the propriety of my personal business affairs as a private citizen. I will leave it to others to assess the full impact of these events. For now, I am merely grateful that this unfortunate chapter is over and that my family and I can move forward with our lives.”
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, May 31, 2010 at 1:24 PM - 64 Comments
Justice Oliphant’s public statement on his findings in the matter of Brian Mulroney and Karlheinz Schreiber is here.
His full report, in four volumes, is here.
By Paul Wells - Wednesday, December 16, 2009 at 2:18 PM - 214 Comments
Prime Minister Harper’s most prominent decision to call a commission of inquiry came in late 2007 when he set about to create a commission to investigate Karlheinz Schreiber’s allegations about Brian Mulroney. Here’s the text of that announcement. I’ve bold-faced the parts that seem germane in regard to Richard Colvin’s new letter.
On Friday I announced that I would be appointing an independent and impartial third party to review what course of actions may be appropriate given Mr. Schreiber’s new sworn allegations. These allegations remain unproven and untested in a court of law and arose in a private lawsuit. There are, however, now issues that go beyond the private interests of the parties in the lawsuit.
Many have called for a public inquiry, including, most recently, Mr. Mulroney.
Given the conflicting information and allegations (including what appears to be some conflicting information under oath) and the extended time period over which the events referred to in various documents and allegations surrounding this matter have occurred, I have decided to ask the third party to advise the government on appropriate terms of reference for a public inquiry.
If in reviewing material, the independent party finds any prima facie evidence of criminal action he or she will identify this and advise how this should be handled and what impact, if any, it should have on the nature and timing of the inquiry.
A public inquiry is a major step and one that should only be taken when it addresses Canadians’ interest, not those of the various parties, whether Mr. Schreiber, Mr. Mulroney or political parties. That is why it is important that we engage the necessary independent expertise and take the time to ensure that the terms of reference meet that test.
This decision set a bar. If the prime minister strikes commissions of inquiry only when Brian Mulroney requests them, he should say so. If resolving Colvin’s allegations is not in the public interest, the prime minister should explain why not. If the proper response to unproven allegations is no longer to seek proof or disproof, the prime minister should tell us why that is no longer his response. If Richard Colvin, who remains a salaried and trusted public servant, is less credible than Karlheinz Schreiber, who was the subject of concerted extradition efforts by the German government at the time he made his allegations, the prime minister should explain why Colvin’s credibility is so limited, and why he continues to be entrusted with serious responsibilities on behalf of the Canadian federal state.
By Nicholas Köhler - Thursday, December 10, 2009 at 2:40 PM - 1 Comment
Paula Adbul, Wayne Gretzky and others that “bowed” out this year.
Go to the light, a voice said, and, after 72 years on the air, it did. Guiding Light, the longest-running scripted program in broadcast history, had declined to an average of just 2.1 million viewers an episode, making it the least-watched of the remaining soaps. So CBS executives extinguished the town of Springfield and its denizens—Reva, Josh, Lizzie and all—forever.
Stoned, drunk or flaky? It’s always been hard to tell with Abdul. So when she announced she was leaving the judge’s table on American Idol, the question became whether she was quitting or just playing hardball. Fox ended the speculation by tapping Ellen DeGeneres; Abdul’s subsequent TV impersonation of Ellen—less straight up than a strange variation on drag—closed the deal.
A casualty of the Phoenix Coyotes’ financial ill-fortune, Gretzky stepped down as coach in September, even as Jim Balsillie and Gary Bettman competed for the team’s future. Later, a dispute over millions in salary Gretzky says is still owed him caused some to wonder whether he’d attend the Hockey Hall of Fame inductions of former teammates Brett Hull, Luc Robitaille and Steve Yzerman. Always the gentleman, Gretzky did come. “The game is bigger than any individual or any person,” he said.
Not by garlic or a stake in the heart, but by scheduling conflict, Montreal actress Rachelle Lefevre last summer found herself exterminated from the role of creepy Twilight vampire Victoria in the second sequel, Eclipse. Filming for the adaptation of the Mordecai Richler novel Barney’s Version, in which she’ll appear as Barney’s first wife, Clara, was slated to overlap with Eclipse, so producers dropped Lefevre in favour of Bryce Dallas Howard, daughter of director Ron Howard.
View-Master scenic reels
Slipped into that plastic viewer, with its distinctive fire-engine red colour and a side-trigger to move between images, the 3-D scenic reel was the next best thing to being there. The Grand Canyon threatened real vertigo, the glacial cools of the Rockies actual hypothermia. But citing long-diminished sales, Fisher-Price has stopped making the scenic reels (it will continue with TV and movie-related discs). Meaning our children will no longer gaze at the View-Master’s astonishing verisimilitude with the pock-marked moon or red Mars.
Oscar De La Hoya
Dubbed “the Golden Boy,” he was a throwback to the classic Hollywood pugilist. A Mexican-American raised in hardscrabble east L.A., De La Hoya promised his dying mother he’d win gold in the 1992 Olympics; he did, then went on to become one of history’s most successful pro boxers. Good looks and scrappiness made him widely popular, but he was an outright hero to America’s Hispanic population. After his last bout in May before retirement at 36—he lost to Filipino Manny Pacquiao—De La Hoya approached his old trainer, Freddie Roach. “You were right, Freddie. I don’t have it anymore.”
‘High School Musical’ cast
Four years after its television debut in 2006, the cast of High School Musical—the Disney franchise so at home in sterile Salt Lake City, where it is filmed—has graduated, never to return. What to do? Replace Zac, Vanessa and Ashley with a new crew of post-pubescent vocalists, who will also no doubt be outfitted with the Antares Auto-Tune pitch-correction software, for High School Musical 4: East Meets West (which sounds exotic, but likely goes no farther east than Minneapolis).
Monthly beer allotments
For years, Molson retirees enjoyed a benefits package that could surely only exist in the booze-fuelled fantasy lives of Bob and Doug McKenzie: lots of free beer. Retirees in St. John’s got six dozen bottles a month. But in June, Molson said it would cut the quota of complimentary beer it allots its retirees to a monthly dozen in St. John’s. Five years from now, retirees across Canada will get no beer at all. Current workers will see their allowance slashed to 52 dozen bottles a year. Union grievances and protests are expected to go flat.
Radio-Canada’s ‘Bye Bye’
Once a very funny way for francophones to call in the New Year, Radio-Canada’s year-end television event had in recent years devolved into an offensive, unfunny caricature of Québécois humour. Indeed, last year’s review, which featured controversial sketches mocking Barack Obama and singer and child-abuse survivor Nathalie Simard, drew tough criticisms from the CRTC. Adieu, adieu, Bye Bye.
For its 18 km of unspoiled 18th- and 19th-century riverside landscape and its historic old town, UNESCO named Germany’s Dresden Elbe Valley a UN World Heritage Site in 2004. Last summer, it took the rare step of rescinding the distinction—just the second time it’s done so—after “the Florence of northern Europe” went ahead with plans to build a modern bridge in the middle of the heritage zone. Dresden had rejected a tunnel alternative and the structure was backed by a local referendum, creating an unbridgeable gap between locals and UNESCO.
The former arms dealer and self-styled international man of mystery avoided extradition from Canada for a decade. This to the obvious horror of Brian Mulroney, who describes taking cash from Schreiber as “my second-biggest mistake in life,” the first being ever agreeing to meet him. There’s no chance they’ll bump into each other at the ATM these days—the Mounties escorted Schreiber to Germany in August.
Almost 10 years after Europe restricted their use and close to six months after the U.S. said it would do likewise, Canada placed a partial ban on phthalates, a family of compounds better known as “rubber duck chemicals” for their frequent use in softening plastics in toys. The chemicals are believed to impede the production of testosterone, particularly during fetal development, when high phthalate levels may feminize males.
Best polka album
Despite protestations by some that polka remains a vibrant musical form, the Grammy Awards have discontinued their award for best polka album. This vastly reduces the chances that Canada’s polka king, Walter Ostanek of St. Catharines, Ont., who has been nominated for 21 Grammys and won three, will ever be nominated again.
The Lockerbie bomber
Three Canadians were among the 270 victims of the 1988 Lockerbie bombing. In August the Scottish government agreed to repatriate the ill Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi, the only man convicted in the terrorist act, on compassionate grounds. Back in Libya, he got a hero’s welcome. Terminal prostate cancer was the bomber’s ticket home; we’re still awaiting his final exit.
Chinese Uighur detainees
The odyssey continues for a group of Chinese Muslims captured in Afghanistan and Pakistan after 9/11 and sent to the U.S. prison at Guantánamo Bay. Quickly identiﬁed as non-combatants, the Uighurs could not be returned to China for fear of persecution, and no other big power would have them. In November, six landed in the Paciﬁc island nation of Palau, a former U.S.-run trust territory that will be their refuge until another country—possibly Australia—agrees to take them permanently. Meanwhile, they may learn to love fruit bat cooked in coconut, a local delicacy.
It was the film used to capture the image of the beautiful green-eyed Afghan girl for National Geographic and the basis for the infamous Zapruder reel that caught the murder of president John F. Kennedy, sparking a thousand conspiracy theories. It could only be thus: Kodachrome, introduced 74 years ago but discontinued in June, was at once too real and too vivid. Singer Paul Simon recognized in its bright hues a promise reality could not keep: “Makes you think all the world’s a sunny day,” he sang. Digital photography, which offers a starker reality, led to the end of its colourful optimism.
By macleans.ca - Friday, August 7, 2009 at 9:30 AM - 0 Comments
Plus a week in the life of Amanda Rodrigues
Face of the week
Annamay Pierse sets a world record in the 200-m breaststroke semi-final at the world championship. She won silver in the final.
A week in the life of Amanda Rodrigues
The widow and one-time suspect in the death of Montreal boxing champ Arturo Gatti was released from a Brazilian prison after his hanging July 11 at a seaside resort was ruled a suicide. A second autopsy, conducted last week at the request of his family, revealed bruises missed in the first examination. The family has also questioned why Gatti changed his will three weeks before his death. The new will makes Rodrigues the sole beneficiary of his estate. Continue…
By kadyomalley - Sunday, August 2, 2009 at 7:20 PM - 29 Comments
The Toronto Star was on the scene to cover the star of Canada’s longest running extradition saga as he rolled up at the Toronto West Detention Centre:
[Schreiber] arrived at around 4:45 p.m., exiting a taxi and declaring to reporters that they had just witnessed the “biggest political justice scandal in history.” [...]
Schreiber was not able to say exactly when he’ll be extradited, and numerous attempts to contact the Ministry of Justice have gone unanswered.
He did say, however, that he has big news to share with the Canadian media.
“But I have to be careful at the moment,” he said.
Oh, what can it be? The suspense, how it kills ITQ.
UPDATE: And he’s off, according to CTV:
Karlheinz Schreiber has been handed over to German authorities and is now en route to Germany, ending the embattled businessman’s 10-year fight to avoid extradition.
Justice Minister Rob Nicholson released a statement on the matter Sunday evening.
“On August 2, 2009, Mr. Schreiber was surrendered to Germany in accordance with the valid surrender order issued against him on October 31, 2004 by former Minister of Justice, Irwin Cotler,” Nicholson said. “Over a 10-year period, Mr. Schreiber was given every reasonable opportunity to challenge his extradition. His surrender to Germany was in full accord with the law and consistent with the spirit and purpose of extradition.”
By kadyomalley - Tuesday, June 23, 2009 at 4:18 PM - 10 Comments
Fresh off the Oliphant newswire:
Justice Jeffrey J. Oliphant has recommended that Mr. Karlheinz Schreiber be entitled to remain in Canada until the completion of the Inquiry, which is scheduled to end on July 28th. At that time there will be an additional Round-Table Meeting. As Justice Oliphant indicated on his previous request, he remains of the view that Mr. Schreiber should be available to provide instructions to his Counsel and to be available for final submissions of all Parties.
By kadyomalley - Wednesday, June 10, 2009 at 9:00 AM - 47 Comments
Yes, it’s come to this: the curtain will rise on the last scene of the long-running drama that has been dazzling – and confounding – audiences at Old City Hall since the Oliphant Show opened to rave reviews earlier this year. Well, the last scene of Act One, anyway — we still have the second phase of public hearings to go, after all.
Sadly, we won’t be hearing from the Big Bad Wolson, the Talented Mr. Roitenberg or any of our other favourite commission counsel today — and yes, it’s a little bit unusual for them not to submit final arguments, but not totally unheard of; ITQ’s theory is that they’re fairly confident that the judge has, as one might say, gotten their drift, as far as how they see the facts of the case. Nevertheless, ITQ is eagerly awaiting an epic performance on the part of Guy Pratte on behalf of Team Mulroney, at the very least, and we’re hoping that Karlheinz Schreiber will have sufficiently convalesced to be able to attend in person, so he can nod approvingly from the audience as Richard Auger delivers his closing summation.
Get a sneak preview here, courtesy of the unfailingly up-to-date commission website. (The actual arguments aren’t up yet, but the binders should give you a pretty good idea of what we’re going to hear.)
Good morning and welcome to Oliphantasy Island, where all your geekiest legal procedural dreams will come true! Rumour has it that we may just be out of here by 1pm, although that will depend on whether the lawyers are able to agree on the lineup, and the all-important question: to lunch, or not to lunch. Or rather, to lunch at the usual appointed hour, or defer til after all parties have been heard from, and break for the day. Such is the stuff of rampant debate and discussion in the media encampment today. Which, ITQ can report, is boasting a surprisingly high turnout by inquiry regulars — the Globe’s Greg MacArthur is back, as is CanWest Mulroney maven Norma Greenaway; Sun Media, CBC, Canadian Press — really, the gang’s all here.
Of course, we’re also all on unofficial RaittWatch — we may not be on the Hill, but the berryvine extends outside the parliamentary precinct. How *did* reporters manage in the days before we were all wired to the centre – and each other – through the magic of technology? Wait, don’t answer that; I bet the approved response involves a lot of harrumphing and in-my-daying.
Apologies for the delay, but – well, there’s apparently a delay; we’re still waiting for the judge to show up, and nobody knows what’s keeping him, although judging from the steady stream of lawyers in and out of the room, it seems likely that there are behind-the-scenes doin’s a’happenin’.
Well, we’ve got a tentative order of appearance, at least — Fred Doucet’s lawyer – Robert Houston – will go first, followed by Auger, with Pratte getting the last word. I guess Team Attorney General doesn’t have anything more to say.
Still no sign of the judge, and a mutiny is starting to take shape in the Victoria Room.
And just as I typed that, the sun came out and the judge arrived; he apologizes for the delay, and tells us that he expects an explanation — he was told that the lawyers would be ready to go within minutes, and then — nothing.
Battista – who apparently drew the short straw – tries to mollify the clearly irate Oliphant; counsel for the parties have been busily negotiating, and are very, very close to an agreement. Ten more minutes, and they’ll be ready to go. The judge gives all and sundry his most barely veiled baleful eye, and gives notice that he’ll be back at 10am, and they’d best be ready to go at that point.
By Andrew Coyne - Thursday, June 4, 2009 at 8:00 AM - 78 Comments
Six years later, Mulroney has yet to give us a convincing account of his deal with Schreiber. Can we really leave it at that?
He destroyed himself. Nobody did it to him. He was simply asked, respectfully, to explain himself. And he could not. If the former prime minister of Canada is now widely suspected of corruption, it’s all his own work.
Brian Mulroney was not on trial before the Oliphant inquiry, nor was the commission counsel, Richard Wolson, his prosecutor. Wolson’s job was simply to test the witness’s story, to see how well it stood up: whether there was any evidence to support it; whether it conflicted with others’; whether there were any internal inconsistencies. But mostly it was to let the witness tell his story. And the more Mulroney talked, the less believable he became.
By Charlie Gillis - Wednesday, June 3, 2009 at 5:23 PM - 9 Comments
Mulroney’s sweetheart deal raises questions of basic fairness
That’s some “routine.” When Brian Mulroney came cap in hand to Revenue Canada nine years ago, the federal agency agreed to tax only half of the $225,000 the former prime minister received from Karlheinz Schreiber in a now-infamous series of cash-stuffed envelopes. It was a bargain to die for—at least to anyone who has neglected to declare sizable amounts of income. In an appearance last week before the public inquiry into Mulroney’s dealings with Schreiber, Christiane Sauvé of the Canada Revenue Agency acknowledged that such reductions were “routine” at the time, but hastened to add the practice has been stopped.
Maybe. But Mulroney’s sweetheart deal has shone unwelcome light on a dark reach of the tax system, raising questions of basic fairness at a time when Canadians feel the taxman’s every pinch. The little-known “voluntary disclosures program” is supposed to offer amnesty to those with undeclared income, sparing them fines and criminal prosecution while allowing Ottawa to collect money it might otherwise never see. But the government’s information circulars on the program say nothing about whittling down the amount owing, and taxpayers might be forgiven for wondering why we’re giving tax laggards “amnesty” at all.
By John Geddes - Thursday, May 28, 2009 at 9:00 AM - 4 Comments
The man who grilled Mulroney has a history of finding the truth
The contrasts between Brian Mulroney and Richard Wolson, the lawyer who questioned the former prime minister at the public inquiry into his dealings with German businessman Karlheinz Schreiber, could hardly have been starker. Mulroney was a portrait of weary, wounded dignity. Every complex, equivocal sentence he uttered threatened to lead the proceedings by a winding route to a dead end. Wolson was a study in tenacity and focus. His blunt questions came with minimal preamble, and, although courteous in a curt way, he didn’t hesitate to cut short a lugubrious Mulroney digression with an abrupt, “Stop there.”
Beyond their verbal styles, the two men’s physical presence offered striking juxtapositions, too. Mulroney, 70, sometimes looked drained. But his baritone still resonates with the rich undertones of irony and sarcasm that once made him such a riveting Parliament Hill orator. Wolson, 61, carries himself with a coiled energy. Aside from his distinctive coiffure—less a head of hair than a back-swept crest of quills—the closest he comes to a theatrical quality is when his patience runs thin and his voice upshifts from dogged to insistent.
By Mitchel Raphael - Thursday, May 21, 2009 at 12:20 PM - 1 Comment
Steyn’s Ezra quip and a very busy Mr. Oliphant
Those people on the Hill sure like free food
The Canadian Pork Council held a BBQ on the Hill (free pulled pork sandwiches!) to publicize the safety of their product in the midst of swine flu panic. It was the longest lineup Capital Diary had ever seen for a Hill reception. The final 30 people did not even get meat—some of them grabbed buns to soak up the leftover liquid in the serving pan. New Democrat Peter Stoffer was one of the few MPs who waited his turn in the endless line, even when organizers tried to pull him to the front for preferential treatment. The line went slower when cabinet ministers like Gerry Ritz (Agriculture) and Jean-Pierre Blackburn (National Revenue) took over from staff to do the serving. Everyone from Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq to Grit Leader Michael Ignatieff was chomping down. Conservative MP Shelly Glover noted she loves ham. “My kids live off of it,” says the mother of five, who was elected in the last election. (She is on leave from the Winnipeg Police Service, where she used to investigate crack houses and went undercover as a sex-trade worker.) Quipped deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer at the BBQ: “This is the good kind of pork on Parliament Hill.”
Who knew Justin had a tattoo?
Last year, Nova Scotia Grit Mike Savage was the lone MP to take up the Canadian Paraplegic Association’s challenge to spend a day in a wheelchair. This year, several politicians participated, including Conservative MP Dona Cadman and senators such as Olympic skiing gold medallist Nancy Greene Raine. They experienced first-hand the challenges of being in a wheelchair—travelling over carpets or hitting inaccessible committee rooms on the Hill. The day ended with wheelchair races. When Justin Trudeau took on his Toronto Liberal colleague Martha Hall Findlay, he suggested she remove her jacket. When she did and it was revealed she was sleeveless underneath, Trudeau, who was already without a jacket and tie, stripped down to his sleeveless undershirt. (A few people were surprised to see a small tattoo of the earth on his upper left arm.) He won for fastest male MP, but beat Hall Findlay only by a slim margin. It should be noted, however, that Hall Findlay had a “wardrobe malfunction.” Her bra straps slipped off her shoulders and she had to pause to push them back up.
But it's just starting to get good: Liveblogging the last day of public hearings at the Oliphant Inquiry
By kadyomalley - Thursday, May 21, 2009 at 7:49 AM - 25 Comments
Um, guys? This inquiry that has been the focal point of ITQ’s existence for the last two months? It’s about to be — over. I know. I’m not sure what I’m going to do with the rest of my life either.
Okay, in fairness, it’s not really over, per se. I mean, there’s still a report to be written, which requires conclusions to be arrived at, and the second phase of hearings, which will cover policy recommendations, and get underway in a couple of weeks — oh, and Schreiber still has to show up for a final round of cross-examination by commission counsel, and apparently, there’s also a slight possibility that one of the other parties will pop up today with a motion to subpoena more witnesses. But it’s still the very last day of public hearings according to the schedule, at least, so please excuse your liveblogger if she starts to get a bit maudlin towards the end.
As for today’s hearing, it’s a bit of a mixed bag, as far as the witness list goes: Salpie Stepanian from the PMO correspondence unit; another CRA official, who will testify about the voluntary disclosure program, and Fred Bilt, who was Canada’s Ambassador to China when Mulroney allegedly discussed his United Nations group buy concept with the Chinese leadership, but who was not, according to the former prime minister, actually present during the conversation.
Good morning, Oliphantophiles!
With just a few minutes to go until the last! public! hearing! ever! (okay, not really), we’re all aboggle over the revelation that the government is picking up the tab for Team Mulroney’s legal bills, to the tune of $2 million.
By Andrew Coyne - Sunday, May 17, 2009 at 7:10 PM - 13 Comments
One of the thorniest issues raised by Brian Mulroney’s testimony is the question of what connection, if any, he had with Franz Josef Strauss, the late chairman of Airbus and noted benefactor of conservative politicians around the world — including Mulroney, as it happens. It was Strauss’s money that Karlheinz Schreiber contributed to the dump-Clark movement at the 1983 leadership review, paving the way for Mulroney to become Conservative leader and, a year later, Prime Minister.
Now, if Mulroney did know Strauss, it wouldn’t mean that he knew that Strauss had helped in his rise to the top. And even if he knew anything about that, it wouldn’t mean that he had anything to do with the Airbus deal. All the same, Mulroney was categorical in his 1996 examination: “I did not know Mr. Strauss myself, nor did I know any of his family.” No cup-of-cofffee equivocation here — this time it’s a flat denial:
Q: Is it not a fact that Franz Josef Strauss was the chairman of Airbus?
A: I have no idea.
Q: You have no idea of who Franz Josef Strauss is?
A: Oh, yes, I do.
Gérald Tremblay (one of Mulroney’s lawyers): The question is: “Is it not a fact that he was chairman of Airbus?”
A: I… I knew of Franz Josef Strauss; I didn’t know him personally, I never met him, but I knew of him as the Premier of Bavaria and as a Minister of Finance in the Federal Republic. I had no idea what his other occupations may be.
Yet his former appointments secretary, the self-described “gatekeeper” to his office, Pat MacAdam, tells a very different story. MacAdam has said or written on different occasions over a space of more than a decade — to William Kaplan in 1994, to the fifth estate in 1999, in his newspaper column in 2007– that Mulroney and Strauss were “old friends,” that Strauss was “a good friend of Mulroney’s [in] years gone by,” and that “Brian Mulroney was pretty thick with Franz Josef Strauss.”
Then there’s the question of Max Strauss, Franz Josef’s son, one of the family members Mulroney professes not to know. MacAdam is on record repeatedly saying that, before Mulroney became Prime Minister, Schreiber “used to show up with Strauss’s son,” that “the son used to call on him [Mulroney] as a courtesy call,” that Schreiber would “come in with Max Strauss …
oh, maybe five, six, seven times a year.”
(CORRECTION: Beware of ellipses. A closer examination of the transcript of that 1999 interview suggests that “five, six, seven times a years” is a reference to the number of times MacAdam saw Schreiber, not the number of times Schreiber and Strauss visited Mulroney’s office together. On the other hand, MacAdam also says that Schreiber was “a close friend of Mr. Mulroney’s. They knew each other long before Mr. Mulroney became an MP and leader of the opposition. I don’t know where they met, maybe through the Strausses.”)
Now, MacAdam has said different things on other occasions. In 2001, he told the fifth estate that the younger Strauss visited only once, for 30 seconds. He also said he didn’t think Mulroney had ever met the senior Strauss.
At the Oliphant inquiry, under oath, he stuck to the “one visit” version with regard to Max. But he insisted, repeatedly, that Mulroney knew Franz Josef.
MS BROOKS: “Mulroney was pretty thick with Franz Josef Strauss.”
MR. MacADAM: I don’t know that. I know that they knew each other.
One of these gentlemen is clearly mistaken.
By kadyomalley - Friday, May 15, 2009 at 8:30 AM - 126 Comments
Is it just ITQ, or does this week not feel like someone snuck in a few extra days somewhere in the middle? A conspiracy of calendographers? Someone should totally investigate that.
Anyway, the former prime minister is set to undergo another few rounds of pointed questioning courtesy of commission counsel Richard Wolson, who may or may not wrap up his cross-examination before noon. We’re not sure whether there will be additional questions from the lawyers for the other parties — well, other than Schreiber, of course, but at the moment, that’s not scheduled to get going until next week — so it may be a short day over at Old City Hall. Then again, considering how much ground is left, at least in theory, for Wolson to explore, that may be an overly optimistic estimate of when ITQ will finally be able to holster the berry and hit the nearest patio to start the Victoria Day weekend off in the traditional manner.
Oh, and I hope that L. Ian MacDonald isn’t putting too much weight on his theory that the chilliness in the Victoria Room is somehow indicative of warm and friendly relations between his former boss and the commission staff, as he seems to suggest in this column, because ITQ can tell y’all that the air conditioning has been at full throttle for weeks after a weird one-day heat wave back in April — check the section of the transcript from just after the lunch recess – and as far as she knows, has absolutely nothing to do with any request made by Team Mulronigator.
Good morning, Oliphantabulists!
Before we get started, I’d like to throw a question out there, just for fun: What do we — the ITQ/Oliphant comment crew, that is — think of a media relations strategy that involves stalking the press table with a phonecam, surreptitiously taking pictures of reporters at work? Good idea, or something PMO would reject as being too heavy-handed and confrontational? All opinions welcome! Feel free to mull that over while we wait for today’s session to begin.
The right honourable witness has taken the stand – well, he’s standing behind the chair in what has become his traditonal pre-hearing pose, but he’s here, anyway, sporting a progressively conservative navy blue tie and an expression that could almost be described as ebullient. Why is this former prime minister smiling? Darned if ITQ knows, but I guess we’ll find out.
By kadyomalley - Wednesday, May 13, 2009 at 7:45 AM - 110 Comments
(For full liveblogging coverage of day one, click here.)
So — we’re back! When the inquiry reconvenes today, Team Mulroney lead counsel Guy Pratte will still be gently grilling his client over his dealings with Karlheinz Schreiber, although the conventional wisdom — and who are we, really, to be wise when confronted with such unprecedented events? — says that he will probably wrap up at some point this morning or early afternoon, thus leaving the field clear for the commission counsel, most likely Richard Wolson, to take the floor. Which should be interesting plus plus.
Oh, and remember how Schreiber mysteriously disappeared midway through Mulroney’s testimony yesterday? Turns out he had an actual medical semi-emergency, and wound up in hospital, where he underwent gallbladder surgery last night. He’s apparently now recovering, but there’s no word on when he’ll be back at Old City Hall. ITQ hopes that he has access to the CPAC live feed, at least.
Well, we’re all abuzz over the latest Schreiberian developments — the gallstone attack, that is — and comparing notes about when we found out. As for the Man of the Hours and Hours of Self-Serving Testimony with Many Glaring Omissions, the verdict seems to be that he did himself no favours yesterday, although like the currently convalescing Schreiber, nobody is willing to write the end of the story just yet — he may yet have a few tricks up his sleeve, that former prime minister of ours. Or, alternately, and perhaps more helpful to him in the long run: clear, direct, unequivocable answers to the questions that linger still. Oh, come on — you know ITQ is a shamelessly hopeless optimist.
Anyway, the other rumour swirling around the Victoria Room today has to do with the eventual cross-examination of Mulroney by Schreiber’s counsel; specifically, whether Eddie Greenspan, who has yet to darken the door of Old City Hall, will turn up for the occasion. Apparently, the word earlier this week was that he *would*, but now that’s been downgraded to a “maybe”. Or, in ITQ’s case, a “gosh, wouldn’t *that* be interesting”. I will, as always, keep you posted.
As for what we can expect today — well, it’s hard to see how Guy Pratte can stretch even the most open-ended line of questioning much past noon, which means that commission counsel — presumably, but not definitely, in the form of Richard Wolson — will get their first crack at him this afternoon.
Oh, and remember the Team Mulroney power walk down the hall yesterday morning? Well, apparently *that* was a one-shot deal; we’re told that the Right Honourable will be making a more understated entrance today — through a back door, out of sight of the assembled media.
Definitely a smaller turnout of reporters today — although admittedly, there’s a a half hour or so til the show gets underway, and the media section could still fill up before then — but still a far more sizeable contingent than during previous weeks, though.
Don Newman is still here! Oh, thank goodness — we’re still important. And yes, it *has* been noted that I may have developed a touch of Stockholm Syndrome during my self-imposed exile from the Hill, but really — you try covering an inquiry day in and day out for weeks and see if you don’t start feeling oddly protective.
By kadyomalley - Tuesday, May 12, 2009 at 7:30 AM - 101 Comments
So — wow. This is it — the moment — or four days’ worth of moments — that we’ve all been so eagerly anticipating, and please don’t hold it against the momentousness of this occasion that I’m pretty sure I’ve said that about nearly every witness so far. What can I say — My name is ITQ, and I’m an inquiroholic.
Anyway, as I’m sure I don’t have to remind y’all, the Right Honourable Brian Mulroney will take the stand a little later this morning, and really, I’m not sure how much background context is required to appreciate what’s at stake. I’m hoping to be on the scene at Old City Hall by 8am — can’t let one of those Oliphant-come-lately reporters snag the last seat, after all — and the show is slated to get underway at 9:30 am.
In the meantime, if you want to refresh your memory about the last few weeks of testimony, or if you’re a newcomer to ITQ, feel free to check out the complete collection of ITQ livebloggings to date.
Ladies and gentleman of the Oliphantiac Brigade, I can report that the inquiry has, indeed, arrived: no less an august personage than Don Newman has joined our number, thus officially designating this event as The Centre Ring of the Political Circus Maximus. Take that, Citizenship and Immigration committee!
Wait, I take that back. I love you, parliamentary committees. I promise I’ll be back soon, and I’ll never leave you again. Well, not until the Royal Commission on Where All That Infrastructure Money Went, of course. Kidding! Kidding! (I hope.)
By kadyomalley - Monday, May 11, 2009 at 11:03 PM - 2 Comments
You know, just in case anyone wants to get caught up on the story so far — the complete collection of ITQ liveblogganings from Old City Hall (and, in one case, the Government Conference Centre) – in chronological order:
- Anyone out there have a “direct and substantial interest” in the Mulroney/Schreiber inquiry?
- Let him be perfectly clear: Liveblogging Arguments at Oliphant
- The quality of clarity is not strained: Liveblogging the ruling from Justice Oliphant
- Let the games begin: The First Day of Public Hearings at Oliphant
- And now, a trip down former Liberal ministerial memory lane: Liveblogging Mark Lalonde at Oliphant
- Oliphant Inquiry: Would it be totally wrong to start a countdown?
- Schreiber on the stand (Day One) Now sit right back and you’ll hear a tale
- Schreiber on the stand (Day Two): Who’s afraid of the big bad Wolson?
- Schreiber on the Stand (Day Three): Is it just me, or is it starting to feel like we’ve heard this story before?
- Schreiber’s last stand – for now (Day Four).
- Much more than just the doorman: Liveblogging former Mulroney advisor Fred Doucet at the Oliphant Inquiry
- (Not Exactly) Total Recall: Liveblogging Doucet at the Oliphant Inquiry (Day 2)
- One former PM down, one to go: Liveblogging Kim Campbell and Perrin Beatty at Oliphant
- The Spectator in the Spotlight: Liveblogging Norm Spector at the Oliphant Inquiry
- Ghosts of Mulroney cronies past: Liveblogging Luc Lavoie and Elmer MacKay at the Oliphant inquiry
- No, Minister: Liveblogging former PCO Clerk Paul Tellier and Senator Lowell Murray at Oliphant
- Follow the … money? Now there’s an idea: Liveblogging the Oliphant forensic accountant’s report
- So – bang, or whimper?:Liveblogging Karlheinz Schreiber’s return to the Oliphant Inquiry
- Oliphant Inquiry: Objection, your honour!
By kadyomalley - Thursday, May 7, 2009 at 8:02 AM - 22 Comments
On the eve of next week’s Mulroneython — which is, as far as ITQ knows, pretty much unprecedented in the annals of Canadian judicial independent commissions of inquiry in terms of the length of time that a former prime minister will spend on the witness stand — Karlheinz Schreiber will once again take centre stage at Old City Hall today, where he will likely respond to yesterday’s forensic accounting report, as well as various other issues that have come up since his first appearance. Oh, and knowing Schreiber, he’ll also try to leave a few parting gifts — by which, of course, we mean new allegations and previously unrevealed evidence that may or may not back up his claims — to welcome his former business associate turned nemesis to the inquiry next Tuesday.
Welcome to Schreiberia! Or welcome back, to be scrupulously accurate, since this is actually the fifth day that he’ll be on the stand, and – actually, he never really went anywhere, come to think of it. Only difference is that today, he’ll be at the front of the room and not prowling like a Siamese cat between the lawyers’ tables and the media camp.
Oh, my — we have drama! Before Wolson could get cracking with his reexamination of Schreiber, Richard Auger rose to ask the judge for a ruling to ensure that his client will be able to attend the rest of the proceedings, rather than, say, being escorted onto a plane back to Germany later today, which is what seems to be the general theory in the Victoria Room as far as what lies in his immediate future. The request, as it turns out, took other counsel by surprise — I guess he didn’t give notice — so the judge has adjourned for ten minutes to allow for a little private lawyer-on-lawyer-on-lawyer chat. ITQ will keep you posted on any developments, official or otherwise.
I think it would be nearly impossible to look more self-satisfied than Guy Pratte when he thinks things are about to unexpectedly go his way. There is much chitterchattering amongst us non-lawyerly types over what this could mean, and what Oliphant will do; Schreiber, meanwhile, is sitting in his usual spot, flipping through his binders and smiling at all and sundry who pass him on the way out the door.
By kadyomalley - Wednesday, May 6, 2009 at 8:00 AM - 50 Comments
You might remember today’s witness — Navigant Consulting associate Steve Whitla — from such commissions of inquiry as, well, Gomery, which is pretty much the standard by which such adventures in forensic accounting are, and will continue to be measured. Of course, in that instance, there were a lot more breadcrumbs strewn on the path — but ITQ still holds out hope that Whitla’s report to the inquiry will at least give us some indication of whether there are dots to connect between the Bear Head “success fees” that have so gobsmacked the judge, stubbornly still-mysterious Swiss bank accounts and – of course – the cash-stuffed envelopes that the former prime minister has admitted to accepting from Karlheinz Schreiber. That, or at least dazzle us with graphics and flowcharts of Escherian beauty and complexity. We’re easy to please, really.
Oh my goodness, Oliphaniacs: It’s PowerPoint Day at Old City Hall! Or at least it *will* be in approximately half an hour; on the wallscreen that last hosted the avuncular virtual image of Elmer MacKay is a slide that reads:
Oliphant Commission of Inquiry
May 6, 2009
We don’t know what the *next* slide will say, mind you, but I can report that this one is framed in a very accountable navy blue with enticingly red lettering on an impartial white inset frame. We’re not sure if they’ll be handing out copies of the report itself before – or at the beginning of – Whitla’s presentation, but I’m sure it’ll go up on the website soon after he begins testifying, so you should totally be able to follow the bouncing bankroll along with ITQ.
Okay, maybe I was being a bit too vicariously ambitious on the part of the inquiry communications team — who, if I haven’t said it enough already, have gone above and beyond the call of duty to fulfill our constant and capricious demands — since the report is, apparently, on the hefty side, as tomes go; the executive summary alone is nearly two inches thick. In that case, we may have to wait a bit longer for the eventual PDF, but I promise to do my best not to get all of you hopelessly lost.
And – all rise! Hey, there’s Whitla, who snuck up to the witness stand unobserved by the ordinarily all-seeing ITQ eye, but before he gets started, Wolson has a few remarks to put on the record.
Ooh, this might be interesting: He wants to remind the judge of the three memos related to “the birds”, which goes to the source of funds.
First, there is no evidence that Mulroney knew the *source* of the funds, nor does counsel assert that the payments were for anything other than — and then he slips, and says the A-word That Must Not Be Spoken, but corrects it to “not Airbus”. Other than that, the judge will have to be informed by the evidence when he writes the report.
Um. Wow. Way to get us off to an intriguing start.
Roitenberg begins the main examination – see, I know the right terms now! I’m learning so much at Oliphant Inquiry Law School, really – by getting Whitla to give a quick rundown of his background – chartered accountant, specialist designation in investigative and forensic accounting, did his time at Gomery, etc – as we all fidget impatiently waiting for the presentation to begin.
So, anyone recall if the commission counsel gave a similar speech before the Gomery forensic report was submitted to the court? I’m curious as to whether this is unusual.
By kadyomalley - Tuesday, May 5, 2009 at 7:57 AM - 37 Comments
Former mandarin-in-chief Paul Tellier takes the stand this morning to discuss his efforts to impose some sort of order to the chaos into which Mulroney’s cabinet had descended over the Bear Head file by 1990– including that now infamous full costing of the plan, which was enough to convince the PM’s then-chief of staff Norm Spector that the project had finally run out of political luck. Meanwhile, this afternoon, we’ll finally find out just what those mysterious documents were that turned up in Senator Lowell Murray’s office last week. More cabinet confidences? ITQ hopes so, if only because it turns out we love reading the non-Bear Head-related tidbits that surface on the periphery, which would otherwise have remained deep state secrets for another decade.
The senator will almost certainly also be quizzed about his tenure as ACOA minister, and – of course – what he knew about the previously clandestine business dealings between his former boss and Karlheinz Schreiber after Mulroney left office.
To kill time between now and 9:30 am when the hearings — and the liveblogging — gets back underway, though, why not check out Halifax Chronicle Herald reporter Steve Maher’s sizzlingly speculicious piece on the enigma of Bruce Vercheres?
Good morning, Oliphantiacs — and a special ITQ wave of solidarity across the ether to those pioneering livebloggers who will, beginning this morning, be bringing the O’Brien trial to insta-twittery life. Good luck, y’all! Maybe I’ll head to the courthouse once we’ve wrapped up public hearings here atOld City Hall.
I have to admit to being just a little bit full of anticipatory glee over today’s testimony, by the way — not only do we *finally* get to hear from Paul Tellier, the accidental Sir Humphrey who found himself in the midst of an epic intracabinet battle, but also Lowell Murray, who is always worth watching, and I say that as someone who assigned herself to liveblog the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs committee *just* so she could see him eviscerate then-Democratic Reform Minister Peter Van Loan on Senate elections. Ahh, memories. And yes, I’ll be back on the Hill soon enough, I promise — these hearings are supposed to finish by May 22, whereupon I will return from sabbatical to chronicle the workings of Parliament once again.
Oh, and can I also add that I’ll be not shocked, but a teeny bit dismayed if the inquiry gives in to Team Mulroney’s request to have his counsel — in the form of Guy Pratte, one assumes – conduct the main examination when he appears next week? Did we not learn from the Ethics committee that, as tempting as it may be to accord special treatment to former prime ministers, it’s generally best to pick a protocol – like, say, swearing in witnesses – and stick to it?
Oh! Apparently, Lowell Murray is up first. Huh. I should have paid more attention to the ever shifting witness schedule. He looks as dapper and scrappy as always, and is serenely sipping water and gazing at the sea of lawyers that lies in front of him.
And – it’s showtime!
By Andrew Coyne - Wednesday, April 22, 2009 at 12:29 PM - 18 Comments
A former senior executive of Bear Head Industries says he had no idea former prime minister Brian Mulroney was working for the company promoting its proposal to build light-armoured vehicles in Canada in the early 1990s.
Greg Alford, then vice-president of Bear Head’s corporate affairs, was testifying today before a public hearing probing Mulroney’s business dealings with German-Canadian businessman Karlheinz Schreiber and the $300,000 in cash Mulroney received for unsuccessfully lobbying for Bear Head.
“No,” said Alford when asked whether he knew whether the former Progressive Conservative PM was working in any capacity for Bear Head beginning the summer of 1993.
So. Mulroney says Schreiber hired him to lobby for Bear Head internationally. Schreiber says he hired him to lobby for Bear Head in Canada. But the vice-president of Bear Head testifies that he’s not aware of Mulroney having done any lobbying for the firm, period.
Which doesn’t prove Schreiber didn’t hire Mulroney to lobby for Bear Head; Schreiber says he kept it a closely guarded secret. But there’s precious little evidence that he did, other than the list of dead foreign leaders Mulroney told the ethics committee he’d buttonholed. For his part Schreiber, though he complains that Mulroney did no work on the file, can’t explain what work he expected him to do and admits he never followed up or asked for progress reports.
Let me advance a tentative hypothesis: the whole lobbying-for-Bear Head story was a sham. Whatever reason Schreiber had for slipping Mulroney $300,000 in cash after he left office, it wasn’t to lobby for Bear Head — though it suited both Mulroney and Schreiber to say it was.