Monday, January 14, 2008

Cat and mouse; the Schreiber games continues

The demand for a full public inquiry was seeded in the notion that if enough mud was kicked around some of it would stick. The Liberals and NDP were looking to connect the scandal to Stephen Harper and the 1983 Conservative Leadership Convention that brought Mulroney to power. The NDP wanted to take it further by connecting the scandal to the former Liberal government. This would not be a huge stretch considering most of the current scandal revolves around the actions of Mulroney after the Liberals took power.

Out of fear that Schreiber would be deported before a public inquiry the Parliament Ethics committee (one of only four chaired by the Liberals) decided to launch an investigation of their own. Their ability to control their investigation and remain focused on the interests of Canadians has been embarrassing.

On Friday, David Johnston submitted his report about the terms of reference for a public inquiry. He noted that the RCMP had examined the evidence and decided not to reopen their investigation. The purpose of a public inquiry is for fact finding. Considering there are more than 100,000 documents of evidence, there is very little new information that an inquiry could uncover. The questions that are still up in the air have been asked (or could still be handled) by the parliament ethics committee. Mulroney has already paid taxes on the money in question. A lawsuit by Schreiber to recoup the money given to Mulroney for failing to provide any services has been thrown out of an Ontario court for lack of juristicion. There must be cost/benefit analysis on the value of the information the inquiry will produce. As a result he recommended having a limited inquiry focused only on the scandal at hand.

Mr. Johnston has hit the nail on the head. Outside of political opportunity there is very little benefit to a public inquiry. There are no criminal charges that will be laid against Mulroney. Schreiber is set to spend the rest of his life behind bars in Germany once this scandal blows over. At most the government might be able to recover the $2.1 million paid to Mulroney to settle the liable suit over the airbus scandal. Such an inquiry will cost significantly more. The laws on ethical standards for politicians and lobbyists have been strengthened over the past 15 years. It is unlikely any substantial new recommendations will come out of the inquiry.

Canadians want a government who is able to deal with the challenges Canada is facing both now and in the future. While history is very important part of the future, there are no practical implications going forward for dragging out events of 15 to 25 years ago. The worst thing that could happen is having the next government chosen based on this relatively unimportant election issue.

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