Did we really need to spend $14 million to determine that former primer minister Brian Mulroney lied, breached ethics guidelines and acted inappropriately? Really, Mr. Justice Jeffrey Oliphant simply confirmed what most Canadians already knew, even when the man still occupied 24 Sussex Dr.
In a report released this week, he determined Mulroney carried on an “inappropriate” relationship with lobbyist Karlheinz Schreiber.
The Oliphant Commission began its work in 2008, years after allegations Mulroney accepted envelopes stuffed with cash from the shady Schreiber. Again, much of what came to light was not surprising.
“The conduct exhibited by Mr. Mulroney in accepting cash-stuffed envelopes from Mr. Schreiber on three separate occasions, failing to record the fact of the cash payments, failing to deposit the cash into a bank or other financial institution, and failing to disclose the fact of the cash payments when given the opportunity to do so goes a long way, in my view, to supporting my position that the financial dealings between Mr.
Schreiber and Mr. Mulroney were inappropriate. These dealings do not reflect the highest standards of conduct, nor do they represent conduct that is so scrupulous it will bear the closest public scrutiny,” Oliphant wrote.
More notably, he took Mulroney to task for his untruthiness in many facets of the Schreiber affair, from the nature of the relationship to what he did in return for the cash that for years he denied ever existed.
Aside from confirming what we knew to be true of Mulroney, and sealing his fate as a tarnished and much-disliked former PM, there’s a more practical use for Oliphant’s findings: the recovery of $2.1 million paid to Mulroney to settle a lawsuit.
In 1995, the RCMP began investigating allegations Mulroney and former Newfoundland Premier Frank Moores received money from Schreiber when Air Canada bought planes from the Airbus consortium.
Mulroney sued the government for $50 million, eventually settling for $2.1 million in 1997.
In light of this week’s report, there’s a renewed call for Mulroney to return the money.
As an aside, it’s interesting to note the Harper government, pressured into the inquiry, specifically prevented Oliphant from looking into the Airbus affair. Despite that intentional omission, there is still plenty of evidence to show the RCMP was on the right track 15 years ago. It was not their investigation that damaged Mulroney’s already-sullied reputation, but Mulroney himself. In that light, there was no basis for the libel suit launched by the former prime minister, whose statements at the time were contradicted by his own evidenced at the inquiry.
Finally extradited to Germany last August after years of legal wrangling, Karlheinz Schreiber is now in a German prison, serving a term for tax evasion. We may not see Mulroney behind bars, but we should see the return of $2.1 million at a minimum.