Thursday, May 29, 2008

Gomery Slaps Harper on Mulroney

There was a time when retired judge John Gomery was Stephen Harper's darling. That was when the sponsorship scandal was underway and Gomery was handing Harper a ticket to 24 Sussex Drive.

Now it's Harper who's in Gomery's crosshairs, this time over the enquiry into Mulroney's shady dealings with KarlHeinz Schreiber.

Gomery's comments to Canadian Press suggest he sees what's coming as a set up:

"The man who headed the inquiry into the Liberal sponsorship scandal is questioning how serious Prime Minister Stephen Harper is about an inquiry into the Mulroney-Schreiber affair.

"It's clear this is not a high priority for him, because he's not treating it as a high priority," retired judge John Gomery told The Canadian Press in an interview Wednesday.

"Once you've said you're going to do something, usually you're expected to do it within a reasonable period. And the period is getting beyond reasonable."

But the prime minister has delayed action, first while the Commons ethics committee conducted hearings, and then while a special adviser, University of Waterloo president David Johnston, compiled two preliminary reports on the affair.

Johnston recommended a relatively narrow probe into lobbying activities that Mulroney undertook for Schreiber after leaving office in 1993. That would exclude the so-called Airbus affair that centred on Air Canada's purchase of European-built jetliners while Mulroney was still in power.

Gomery called it "unprecedented" for Harper to ask an outside party to decide on the scope of the proposed inquiry.

The prospect of a narrow probe may be making it difficult for the government to find a judge willing to take the job, Gomery speculated.

Any commissioner "is going to be criticized from Day 1 if he follows that (mandate) and restricts the evidence to certain periods of time, certain facts. If he goes a little bit more broadly, he may be challenged in court for exceeding his mandate."

It was a different story, said Gomery, when former Liberal prime minister Paul Martin gave him a broad mandate to delve into the sponsorship affair that erupted under predecessor Jean Chretien.

"Generally speaking, I was able to go where I thought I should go to get the answers that I needed to get. I don't think that's the case for the (Mulroney-Schreiber) inquiry, if it's ever conducted."

What, a set up? By our Furious Leader, Little Stevie Harpo? To let Mulroney off the hook and spare his government embarrassment? Ya think?

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