Thursday, February 26, 2009

Mulroney Takes a Hit

Brian Mulroney has failed in a bid to defang the inquiry into his dealings with Karlheinz Schreiber in the Airbus affair. The inquiry is scheduled to commence at the end of next month.

Mulroney's lawyers brought a motion before the inquiry chair, Associate Chief Justice Jeffrey Oliphant of Manitoba's Court of Queen's Bench seeking a ruling that the inquiry could not use the Criminal Code of Canada in assessing the former prime minister's conduct. The motion was rejected.

“I intend to determine, on an objective basis, whether Mr. Mulroney ... conformed with the highest standards of conduct,” the judge wrote.
“I believe that this standard is one that reflects the importance to Canadian democracy of the office of the prime minister, as well as the public trust reposed in the integrity, objectivity and impartiality of public office holders.”

The judge also pointed out that in 1988 Mr. Mulroney distributed a document to his cabinet titled Guidance For Ministers that warned them they had an obligation to go further than “simply to observe the law.”

Yesterday, Judge Oliphant ruled: “If the Prime Minister intended to hold ministers personally accountable to that level, then it follows that he himself would be accountable on the same basis.”

This ruling, while adverse to Mulroney, doesn't mean that the Oliphant inquiry will be any freewheeling review of the facts, particularly the link between the Air Canada Airbus purchase and the former prime minister.

The belief that Mulroney had no personal interest in the Airbus affair was based, in part, on exculpatory testimony by former Mulroney aide Fred Doucette. When he appeared before the Commons ethics committee, Doucette proclaimed, under oath, that he had nothing whatsoever to do with the Airbus business. Shortly afterward Schreiber released a raft of documents strongly suggesting that Mr. Doucette was directly involved in the Airbus deal.

The Globe & Mail reports that Schreiber, meanwhile, has dropped his lawsuit against Mulroney in which he claimed the former p.m. did nothing to earn the cash that changed hands between them. Schreiber has said he dropped the lawsuit rather than reveal documents that he'd rather present directly to Judge Oliphant during the inquiry.

The best thing Brian Mulroney may have going for him at this point is observer fatigue. We're on our fourth prime minister since these events happened. A lot of people think everything has been investigated, all the evidence has been examined. Too bad.

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