Tuesday, November 13, 2007

History vs. Brian Mulroney

Unless Brian Mulroney can show that he didn't take $300,000 in cash from Karl Heinz Schreiber, his name will be forever tarnished. The fact that a notorious douchebag who greased the wheels of the arms industry by bribing government officials (in Germany, at least)had access to Brian Mulroney and a large number of Canada's political elite -- many of whom, like Elmer MacKay and Marc Lalonde, actually vouched for his bail -- makes this country look bad enough. The handing over of money in cash to a former Prime Minister is something that absolutely begs for an explanation, and I can't imagine one that will satisfy. Honest people simply don't do business this way. I can't imagine any lawyer or lobbyist I know even considering taking an envelope full of cash, for many reasons. They send invoices. They get paid by cheque. Their fees go through their firm and are dep;osited in a bank. They pay GST on fees for professional services and they make sure the accountants who handle their business affairs pay their taxes in full and on time.


Anonymous said...

I think your post sums it up nicely. The very fact that Shreiber appears to be one shady character with a history of corrupt lobbying practices begs the question - why did Mulroney get paid by him in the first place and why in cash?

My bet is that the payments probably do not have anything to do with the Airbus scandal. More likely, Shreiber may have been seeking some help with immigration to Canada for himself or someone else. Either way, the clandestine meetings in hotel rooms with envelopes of cash and Mulroney's conflicting statements on his relationship with Shreiber demand further investigation.


Anonymous said...

Cripes, even Mulroney hated the GST ... and it came on his watch.

It riles me to no end that he also got $2.1-million of your and my money. As Mark notes, there is no way to explain/justify the way that $300-g was passed over that would pass the smell test.

We seem to be big on revisionist history these days, which will explain - in part - how people have forgotten the whiff of taint and scandal and porkbarrelling and patronage that hung over the Mulroney years. I guess when he roasted Turner's feet over the fire with that "You did have a choice, sir" address, he was excluding himself.

Damn. How low do you have to go to be in politics?

Anonymous said...

Maybe, but is it really any different than Crouton leaving Parliament for private law "practice" after losing the leadership race to Turner, after decades as an MP and decades after getting his shit-kicker law degree from Laval, and becoming a millionaire...or as noted here http://www.smalldeadanimals.com/archives/001622.html

"he was earning around half-a-million for a very light load at the law firm Lang Michener, another hundred grand from the brokerage firm Gordon Capital, where he was an "advisor", and various other sums from boards, investments, etc. He was also a director of Viceroy Resources, a mining company in which he held options on 50,000 shares and whose boss, Ross Fitzpatrick, Chretien later appointed to the Senate.
What were all these high-rolling clients paying him for? �Judgment and experience,� he said. �I have seen so much in government, Trudeau got me involved in so many areas, that I know what is necessary for them to do.� That�s one way of putting it.

Who were his clients? Well, at Gordon Capital, he handled negotiations with Power Corp, whose co-chief executive is his son-in-law.

Let's just pause there for a moment. In the modern Canadian state, it is not necessary for M Chretien to do anything illegal. As he has said, after years in government, he's a well-connected guy with a fat Rolodex who knows the wheels that have to be oiled: he can tell his clients "what is necessary for them to do". That's something folks will pay for, as out-of-office politicians in many western democracies have discovered. But very few have the opportunities of patronage that exist in Canada: unlike M Chretien with Senator Fitzpatrick, Mr Bush cannot install a boardroom buddy from his ball-team days in the US Senate.

Second, there's no way of knowing at what point the relationship between M Chretien and the Desmarais clan of Power Corp crosses from mere family friendship to something more. The amount of hospitality the Prime Minister has enjoyed at, say, the Desmarais fishing lodge would be regarded differently if his daughter hadn't married into the family. On the other hand, he seems to be a lot closer to his daughter's parents-in-law than most parents are to their children's in-laws.

Given Power Corp's proximity to so many issues before the government -- not least the fact that they're the biggest shareholder in the oil company with the closest ties to Saddam-- his closeness to the company would attract attention in any other circumstances.

Third, it's interesting to see how M Chretien's business deals --like the Grand-M�re - circle back to the government, in the form of one agency or another. He was able to tell M Duhaime "what it is necessary for him to do" -- ie, put him touch with the BDC -- and also able to tell the bank "what it is necessary for them to do" -- ie, pony up the dough to M Duhaime. In a one-party state, he is in the fortunate position of being able to tell all parties "what it is necessary for them to do".

Fourth, the justification for this nexus of politics, business and patronage is that, well, M Chretien has spent his entire life in "public service", which, as we all know, is very poorly paid, and one shouldn't begrudge him making a little money while he can. Granted, M Chretien is not a wealthy man by comparison with M Desmarais, but then 99% of all Canadians are not wealthy by comparison with the Prime Minister - not the PM as loaded down with his various investments and private-sector income, but the PM as defined by his basic salary: 260,000 bucks a year. That puts him in the top 1% of Canadian earners, and in real terms a little higher, since most of those high-earners don't enjoy the car, driver, public housing, tax perks, etc. So the idea that politicians are making some huge sacrifice for the country and are entitled to take a couple of years to work their contacts and make some "serious money" is not one that would resonate with most Canadians.

Let me develop that a little further. You might think that M Chretien is such a uniquely gifted figure he's a bargain at a quarter-million plus per year. But these income inequities carry on right down the scale. For example, Lyle Vanclief, the Federal Minister of Agriculture, earns a little less than M Chretien -- $216,000. Mr Vanclief says that's only so politicians' salaries remain "competitive" with the private sector. It would be interesting to know who's competing for Mr Vanclief's services. Your average Canadian employed full-time in the private sector earns about $40,000 per. In the industry for which Mr Vanclief is responsible, the average farm manager earns $26,000, the average farm worker $18,000. Mr Vanclief's remuneration seems entirely unrelated to pay scales in Canadian agriculture. Members of Parliament are supposed to be representative of the people, and there's nothing very representative about Mr Vanclief�s paycheque.

Here's another example: Denise Tremblay, formerly a Liberal Party riding secretary to -- who else? -- M Chretien. Two years ago, Mme Tremblay was appointed to the Veterans Review and Appeal Board, a position that pays a salary of $100,200 per annum -- that's the big time in Shawinigan terms, but evidently still not enough to keep a riding secretary riding high. In the 26 months she's been on the board, Mme Tremblay has run up expenses of over $160,000 - $106,000 in transportation expenses, $34,747.55 for accommodation, $13,317.95 for meals, etc. This seems an unusually high rate of expenses for the position Mme Tremblay holds.

The 29-member board is charged with hearing appeals of the decisions of the Minister of Veterans Affairs. Three million dollars in member salaries for a board that hears about 6,000 appeals a year from persons of modest background sounds a little excessive to begin with. And, while Mme Tremblay runs up her tab, the government has decided it can't afford to accord 23,000 veterans' widows the benefits of the Veterans' Independence Program.

But who cares about veterans' widows, right? They're too old and lame to march, never mind rampage through the streets. So you can screw 'em over with impunity.

Here's another comparison: remember last year when Her Majesty The Queen dropped the Golden Jubilee puck at the Canucks game? It subsequently emerged that the cost of this event had been calculated at a hundred thousand bucks -- for the Royal hotel room, laundry bill for the red carpet, etc. The Montreal Gazette and other papers were so scandalized they splashed this outrageous cost across the front page. A hundred grand for a once-a-half-century celebration of Canada's head of state is a public scandal, but a hundred grand in "transportation expenses" for a minor Liberal patronage appointment is business as usual."

Yeah--BUSINESS AS USUAL. But keep after Muldoon...that's what deserves all the attention.

What a silly little country.

Ottawa Watch said...

Good points.
It's hard not to be cynical.

Anonymous said...

Jaysus - who is defending Chretien? I thought we were talking about Mulroney. So the point is, what - Chretien made out like a bandit, so all else should be forgotten?

Anonymous said...

Um, no. I thought we were talking about corruption and senior politicians receiving money for no apparent service rendered. And Chretien's sordid history far eclipses anything Muldoon is alleged to have done. Chretien traded on his office(s), and exploited his power as PM to reward those who had bought him earlier.

I didn't see Muldoon put Schreiber in the Senate.

Anonymous said...

My mistake. I interpreted the title of this thread - History vs. Brian Mulroney - to mean we were talking about Brian Mulroney. I have no doubt Mark is quite capable of firing up a thread that covers Corruption Since Confederation. In the meantime, I was trying to avoid obfuscation by staying focused. By the way, during the days leading up to his $2-1-million settlement, didn't Mulroney claim that he had no business dealings with our generous German?

Anonymous said...

Is the amount of hospitality Chretien has enjoyed at, say, the Desmarais fishing lodge a "business dealing"?

Anonymous said...

Damn, I'm thick. I guess to help me over my confusion, I will ask Mark to fire up a Chretien Crooked thread. Then, I can hop over there and use the "If you think that's bad, you should seen (fill name in space here)" defence as well.

Anonymous said...

You are thick. Crouton has received a hell of a lot more than 300G outside of any "business dealings", and corruptly put providers of said largesse in the Senate. There are people who'll pay 300G just for facilitating an introduction, calling it a gift. If it was business, presumably Schreiber has the invoice he submitted to Muldoon. Otherwise it was, at worst, a "gift".

Anonymous said...

And you call me thick?