The long awaited inquiry into the business dealings of former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney and arms dealer Karlheinz Schreiber begins on Monday. From the get-go, it looks like it will be a waste of time and money.
Justice Jeffrey Oliphant has said he will not seek to hold anyone criminally or civilly liable for any wrong-doing that may be uncovered. Furthermore, he said that if he suspects any ethical shortcomings by Mulroney he will give the former prime minister a “full opportunity to respond before any report is issued.”
Oliphant seems to be bending over backwards to ensure that Mr. Multoney does not have to account for any misdeeds that might be uncovered. According to the Canadian Press: “In a ruling last month, the judge said he must also be free to take account of the ethics provisions in federal statutes such as the Parliament of Canada Act, the Financial Administration Act and the Income Tax Act. He initially included the Criminal Code in the list as well, but had second thoughts about that Thursday. “Upon reflection I must state that the Criminal Code is of little if any value in this endeavour,” Oliphant said.
The Criminal Code of Canada contains stiff penalties for politicians proven to have accepted bribes or kickbacks.
119. (1) Every one is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding fourteen years who
(a) being the holder of a judicial office, or being a member of Parliament or of the legislature of a province, directly or indirectly, corruptly accepts, obtains, agrees to accept or attempts to obtain, for themselves or another person, any money, valuable consideration, office, place or employment in respect of anything done or omitted or to be done or omitted by them in their official capacity, or
(b) directly or indirectly, corruptly gives or offers to a person mentioned in paragraph (a), or to anyone for the benefit of that person, any money, valuable consideration, office, place or employment in respect of anything done or omitted or to be done or omitted by that person in their official capacity.
Given that Mulroney and Schreiber have both admitted that Schreiber paid large sums of cash to Mulroney while he was still a Member of Parliament (they disagree on the amount and the purpose), it is more than strange that Justice Oliphant would rule out, in advance, any findings that could point to the need for criminal charges.
The Airbus Affair is a lengthy and complicated story that I won’t even attempt to summarize here. The CBC’s Fifth Estate, which incidently is one of the CBC programs affected by the latest round of funding cuts, published a revealing account in 2006.
We might have to be content with the Fifth Estate account because it looks like this public inquiry is being set up to ignore the most important question: Did Brian Mulroney violate the Criminal Code of Canada when he accepted money from Karlheinz Schreiber?