House of Commons Hansard #57 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was inquiry.

Topics

Opposition Motion—Public Inquiry into the Mulroney-Schreiber Affair
Business of Supply
Government Orders

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

Robert Thibault West Nova, NS

moved:

That, in the opinion of the House, the government should end its delays and immediately commence the public inquiry into the Mulroney-Schreiber affair.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak about this very important issue, which has been on the minds of Canadians for a long time—around 20 years—and which has still not been resolved. The issue has to do with the likelihood that a government was influenced to engage in certain public activities, which should have benefited all Canadians. But individuals, groups of individuals or companies benefited unfairly from these activities.

We even know that when Mr. Mulroney's government was defeated, these activities continued and money was still changing hands.

It is a question of looking at what has to come to be known as the airbus affair but is much wider. It includes MBB. It includes Thyssen. It may include other deals. It includes commissions in the area of $25 million that were paid secretly through a company called International Aircraft Leasing, with some money given back, most of or a lot of it in Canada, through a very few individuals closely associated with the prime minister of the day, Brian Mulroney. We have seen that later some money was given directly to Mr. Mulroney himself in cash. It is a matter that remains unresolved.

The motion is quite simple. It is:

That, in the opinion of the House, the government should end its delays and immediately commence the public inquiry into the Mulroney-Schreiber affair.

The Prime Minister has been forced or shamed into saying that there would be such an inquiry but has been making every attempt to limit the scope of the inquiry. He has suggested that the inquiry could not begin until the work of the committee had been done.

The committee has heard its final witnesses and at one point shall put forward a factual report, but we know that the commission cannot have access to any of the work of the committee or the testimony of the committee, nor to the report. It must do its own work. The work of the committee is privileged and cannot be used in any other tribunal or forum.

At its base, this is a story of greed. It is a story of betrayal. It is a story of intrigue, and I believe of bribery, and of double-crossing and influence peddling. When we look at how it worked and the people who were involved in this, we see that it is quite complex and has many facets.

What we have here is a group of individuals who saw a void in the leadership of the country. They saw that the Liberal Party had been in power for a long time and that the public of Canada was ready for a change. They saw that within the Conservative Party there was a void in leadership. Joe Clark had to lead and had a minority government that did not survive.

So they arranged, including some offshore money--they were trying to get Conservative governments elected worldwide--to overturn the leadership of Joe Clark. They found what they believed to be a bright, young, perfectly bilingual gentleman with business experience, with charisma, with a certain panache, and they saw him as the vehicle to getting power in Canada. He was somebody who could align all who were on the right political side of the country and bring some people from the centre.

They were successful. They overturned Joe Clark's leadership. They got Brian Mulroney elected as leader of the Conservative Party. They immediately decided how they were going to set things up. What would be the structure? How would one do business with the Government of Canada in the upcoming Mulroney era?

They saw a gentleman very close to Mulroney, part of that group, Mr. Frank Moores, a former premier of Newfoundland. He had a company called Alta Nova that did lobbying in Ottawa. He would bring in new partners. He created a company called GCI, Government Consultants Incorporated. He brought Mr. Gary Ouellet aboard as a partner, another part of the Mulroney organization.

He also brought in Mr. Gerry Doucet. Mr. Gerry Doucet was a former minister of education from Nova Scotia. He was not always a supporter, I believe, not necessarily part of the inner workings of the Mulroney organization, but his brother Fred Doucet was. His brother was chief of staff for Brian Mulroney in opposition and it is my belief that Gerry Doucet was his proxy at GCI.

Mulroney then formed the government. In business, it was well known at that time that Fred Doucet was working in the Prime Minister's Office. He may say that he was attached to external affairs. Some people might use that argument, but I think if one talks to anybody who was around government in the days from 1984 to 1993, they would say that if one spoke to Fred Doucet one spoke to Brian Mulroney, that he was the Brian Mulroney operative, the person closest to Brian Mulroney. Where he was in the organizational chart would not matter too much. It was well known. It was the PMO and the higher reaches of the PMO.

They had it organized like that. That was how business was going to be done. If people wanted to do business with the government on major contracts in Canada, that was the corporation they had to go with.

One of the guys who was involved from the very beginning, brought in because he could bring German money into the leadership, was Karlheinz Schreiber. Karlheinz had been in the country for quite some time and even had Canadian citizenship. He was well established in the Bavarian region in Germany. He was known to Franz Josef Strauss, minister-president of Bavaria. He was well connected with Thyssen Industries, Airbus and MBB. He was well connected with all the industrial companies of that area.

Airbus was in great difficulty. A lot of money and political capital had been expended by the governments of France, Germany and other European nations in creating this company, so they had to get some major sales, and quickly, and the opening had to be the North American market.

Mr. Wolf was another operative, as well as Mr. Schreiber, and it became their job to get Airbus into Canada. They had built the political contacts. They negotiated a deal, an arrangement, as to how they would be getting paid. From Airbus they would be getting $20 million. They decided how to work it.

I remember a quote by Mr. Schreiber suggesting that Strauss had said that he was either “an idiot or a genius”, because what he devised was that they would go through a smaller company and get Airbus on the ground and flying. It would be so efficient, so much better on fuel and operating costs, that once they got some on the ground in North America, all the other airlines would have to buy it.

So they did that. They went to see Wardair. They went to see Mr. Ward. They did a deal with him according to Schreiber, but only a public inquiry can get us to the bottom of this, as I do not take all of what has been said by any of the witnesses at the committee as necessarily the full and ultimate facts.

But what Mr. Schreiber told us was that the same group I mentioned earlier around GCI and a couple of other operatives, who would later be on the board of Air Canada, went and met with Mr. Ward and said that Airbus was going to give him a great financing deal if he bought Airbus. Plus, he would get domestic landing rights for scheduled service in Canada and create a national airline. Wardair later became quite a valuable commodity and was sold to Canadian Airlines, I believe, at a good profit.

The first aircraft came about, so then there were the seeds to bring Airbus into Canada. They had them flying internationally, so not very long after that they would see other companies starting to buy it. The big one was Air Canada because it could get 30 of them. That was based on the value of the aircraft and the probability that Air Canada would buy it, but they do not take that chance. They changed the board, including putting Mr. Frank Moores on that board.

Mr. Moores will have argued that he had nothing to do with Airbus and Mr. Greg Alford of GCI told us that GCI itself had nothing to do with Airbus, but that is contradicted by evidence. We have a letter dated February 3, 1988, signed by Mr. Frank Moores, under GCI letterhead, and it is signed as the chairman of GCI. He was writing to Mr. Franz Josef Strauss, dealing with Airbus and the impediments for getting Airbus to Air Canada, so we have that contradiction already.

Eventually the Airbuses get sold, $20 million is generated, and it is starting to work. Then there is another deal on the go. It is the same group and the same people. It is called Thyssen. They created a company called Bear Head Industries.

The deal there was that they would go to Cape Breton, an area of high unemployment, and get the alliance of somebody like Elmer MacKay, who was the regional minister for Nova Scotia at the time and a close friend of Brian Mulroney. They would get his support and then mount a drive to get a factory in Nova Scotia building armoured personnel carriers for the Canadian military, the U.S. military and export generally.

The idea was that Germany would then be able to export into countries, which the German constitution and the law did not permit, through Canada or other countries, manufactured in Canada to an open market.

Twenty million dollars were generated by Airbus on sales of $2 billion. We are looking at potential sales of $7 billion. One can just imagine the commissions we are talking about, which would be a great deal.

The project required some assistance and some work. Part of it needed agreement by the Government of Nova Scotia and part of it needed agreement by the Government of Canada. The Government of Nova Scotia signed and $2 billion in commissions were generated.

However, there were some problems with the Government of Canada. The agreement was finally signed in November 1988 or in October when Mr. Perrin Beatty, the then a minister of the Crown, was told by Mr. Fred Doucet that he must sign.

There is no evidence and I do not make the suggestion that Mr. Beatty did anything untoward. He was told that the Prime Minister wanted the deal to go through so the deal was signed and there was a letter of intent with Thyssen Industries with the Government of Canada for the Bear Head project. This was in October 1988.

That generated $2 million in success fees and secret commissions that were paid. The money went to the international aircraft leasing account controlled by Karlheinz Schreiber. He has told us that it was not his company but we know he had control of it. The money then went to another account called Merkur. Some of it went to a Bitucan account in November 1988, a company registered in Calgary and held by Karlheinz Schreiber.

When we looked at how that money was distributed, we quickly found that a cheque for $90,000 was generated to Fred Doucet Consulting International. What is interesting is that Fred Doucet sent an invoice to Bitucan for $90,000 on November 2, 1988, just days after the agreement was signed. Fred Doucet told us that he had left the PMO late in September 1988. In a matter of a few weeks, Fred Doucet Consulting Corporation had generated $90,000 for what he termed as professional services.

Maybe he is incredibly good, but what is interesting is that on November 8 the same invoice in the same amount was sent to Bitucan on behalf of Frank Moores. Frank and Bett Moores' invoice for $90,000 was for the same thing, “Services rendered by Frank Moores on your behalf, $90,000”. This was coming out of the success fee. Frank Moores had been working on this for years, not four or five weeks like Fred Doucet. He received $90,000 on the same day at the same time.

We have Lemoine Consultants and Gary Ouellet, a partner with GCI: professional services rendered, $90,000 at the same time and the cheque went out the same day, November 15. His company had not worked on this for years but all of a sudden there was a success fee for professional services.

Gerald Doucet and Associates was another partner. Fred Doucet was not a partner but he received money under his company. Gerry Doucet, Fred Doucet's brother, received a cheque for $90,000. He had not left the PMO by the end of September but he had been working on that for years. Bitucan Holdings Limited received $250,000.

I know I will have the support of the government to table these documents later.

We also have a handwritten banknote from the banker in Zurich indicating that the Canadian $500,000 was put aside in an account called Frankfurt. The interesting thing to note is that the account in Frankfurt was the account the money came out of for Brian Mulroney in 1993-94. One could argue that was a coincidence but was it a coincidence that the amount was exactly one-quarter of the success fee? Was it a coincidence that earlier, when dealing with another project, Pelossi testified at committee that an account was set up in Germany in the name of Brian Mulroney called Devon to receive money on behalf of Brian Mulroney from their success fee? Was that a coincidence?

I will fast forward to the time when the government was going to change.

If we were to look at the testimony in the Airbus settlement, Brian Mulroney told us that, prior to the Airbus settlement in 1993-94, he had a couple of cups of coffee in passing with Karlheinz Schreiber. He said that he did not really know the guy and that they had no close association.

In 1993, Brian Mulroney was about to leave office. He was at the prime minister's retreat at Harrington Lake when all of a sudden a meeting was arranged. Karlheinz Schreiber was to visit the prime minister. I have had a close association with two prime ministers but I was never invited to a private family retreat a couple of days before they were to leave office, and I do not think very many people have been, and those who have would have been close friends.

Karlheinz Schreiber told us that the meeting had been organized by Fred Doucet. Fred Doucet appeared at committee and said that he had no recollection of setting up such a meeting. Then we received proof from Karlheinz Schreiber that he had set up the Montreal meeting. We then received a letter from Mr. Doucet's lawyers saying that Mr. Doucet had not said that he had not set up the meetings but rather that he had no recollection of doing it. This is a bit like Oliver North when he was before the senate investigating committee and said that he had no recollection but that if documents could be provided to the contrary they might refresh his memory. That was the situation we had with Mr. Doucet.

They did meet and the best we can figure out is that they agreed to do business in the future. No money changed hands and we have no evidence to prove that amounts were discussed. A short time after that, when Brian Mulroney was still a member of Parliament, they met at an airport hotel where Mr. Mulroney received an envelope containing $100,000 in cash. At two subsequent meetings, he received $100,000 in cash.

Opposition Motion—Public Inquiry into the Mulroney-Schreiber Affair
Business of Supply
Government Orders

10:20 a.m.

An hon. member

How do you know?

Opposition Motion—Public Inquiry into the Mulroney-Schreiber Affair
Business of Supply
Government Orders

10:20 a.m.

Liberal

Robert Thibault West Nova, NS

Karlheinz Schreiber said that it was $100,000. Brian Mulroney told us that it was only $75,000. This is a bit like the prostitute where the profession is not at question, only the price. The money changed hands and it was cash.

Arguments then develop among these individuals. Brian Mulroney feared that this could be proven. A meeting was held in Zurich, which, again, was organized by Fred Doucet, and he tried to convince him.

A letter, organized by Elmer MacKay, tried to show that there would be no lawsuits. Elmer MacKay brokered that for Harper so that Mulroney could show Harper that there would be no problem in the future, that the Conservatives would be safe and that it would not go to court.

Karlheinz Schreiber once told me that what has been set up now is exactly the same. Mulroney operatives, like Marjory LeBreton, a law partner like Yves Fortier, a lackey like Peter MacKay, the chief of staff and the minister of transport, all have close association to Brian Mulroney and all were connected with how the money was handled by the Government of Canada.

I hope we will have the full support of the House to get this public inquiry under way shortly.

Opposition Motion—Public Inquiry into the Mulroney-Schreiber Affair
Business of Supply
Government Orders

10:25 a.m.

Conservative

Ken Epp Edmonton—Sherwood Park, AB

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I think it is a little too late now because it already slipped out of the member's mouth, but you will note that he very flippantly used the name of a member in the House and all of us here know that is against the rules.

Opposition Motion—Public Inquiry into the Mulroney-Schreiber Affair
Business of Supply
Government Orders

10:25 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

I am sorry, I missed that. The hon. member for West Nova knows that referring to members by name is out of order. I am sure he would not want to repeat that mistake.

Questions and comments. The hon. member for Peterborough.

Opposition Motion—Public Inquiry into the Mulroney-Schreiber Affair
Business of Supply
Government Orders

10:25 a.m.

Conservative

Dean Del Mastro Peterborough, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member had many inaccuracies in his statement. On some of those things to which he alluded, there is absolutely no evidence whatsoever. Perhaps they came from his many dining experiences with Karlheinz Schreiber.

Mr. Schreiber, of course, cannot back any evidence up because he essentially provided us with three binders full of junk mail. I do understand the member for West Nova had a number of dinners with him dating all the way back to last August, according to Mr. Schreiber, when I guess a number of these conversations took place. Of course, the member for West Nova has taken those comments as fact.

What I take issue with is his point that a report from the standing committee would not be of any value and that it could not be considered. In fact, that is not true. The testimony cannot be used in a public inquiry but the recommendations of the committee are to be considered by Professor Johnston. That was the commitment that was made.

What this member is saying is absolutely inaccurate. I strongly encourage him to stand in this place and specifically commit that he will work to put recommendations in place that will form the basis of a public inquiry.

Opposition Motion—Public Inquiry into the Mulroney-Schreiber Affair
Business of Supply
Government Orders

10:25 a.m.

Liberal

Robert Thibault West Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, let me assure the House that everything I have stated here today has been said at committee in testimony and any documents that I referred to have been available to the committee.

We have received reams of documentation, most of it was without value but some of it had a certain value. As I have said from the beginning, the only way we will get to the bottom of this is with a public inquiry.

I would refer the member to a letter dated October 29, 2007, written by Mr. Schreiber to the Prime Minister. One could argue as to the validity or the truth of anybody's correspondence, and I do not make that case, but I will read one paragraph. It states:

During the summer of 2006, you again asked for a certain letter from me to be able to support my case, which I have sent to you on July 20, 2006 for your meeting on July 30, 2006.

The meeting of July 30, 2006 was a meeting between Brian Mulroney and the current Prime Minister at Harrington Lake.

The letter of July 20, 2006 is the letter that was shown at the committee that had been brokered by Elmer MacKay. He had done the first draft on the facts and that was modified by Mr. Schreiber prior to signing it.

What he stated again is, “able to support my case”. Those words are important. If we had only heard them from Mr. Schreiber, then perhaps we would need to cast them aside, but we also heard them from a close personal friend and long ime associate of Brian Mulroney, Mr. Elmer MacKay. He said, in my questioning, that the reason that he brokered the letter was that without it Mr. Mulroney could not be helpful to Mr. Schreiber.

There was clearly an intent, at least between those three individuals, that this letter would assist Mr. Mulroney in getting assistance for Mr. Schreiber from Mr. Harper in 2006.

The only thing I can imagine is that it could have been for the extradition matter. The only counterpart that I could imagine that Brian Mulroney would have had in it is that the lawsuit against him by Mr. Schreiber would have been dropped and all the facts based on the $300,000 would have gone the way of the editorial board of the National Post and would have been swept under the rug.

Opposition Motion—Public Inquiry into the Mulroney-Schreiber Affair
Business of Supply
Government Orders

10:30 a.m.

Bloc

Carole Lavallée Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, first of all, I thank my colleague from West Nova for the excellent background he provided and for his excellent summary. It will be very useful for the debates today. I am a bit surprised about the reaction of the member for Peterborough, who appears to deny the truths we heard and which are written down and have been documented all over the place. Perhaps the only explanation for this is that he represents the Conservative Party, which is currently under fire.

That said, my question is for the member for West Nova. What mandate does he think the public inquiry should have, and when does he think it should be set up?

Opposition Motion—Public Inquiry into the Mulroney-Schreiber Affair
Business of Supply
Government Orders

10:30 a.m.

Liberal

Robert Thibault West Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, I would first like to congratulate the hon. member on her fine work with the parliamentary committee.

I think it is important that the inquiry commission be given the broadest possible scope and that the chair of the commission be given every latitude required to follow the money trail. That is the most logical approach.

We know that $25 million in commissions was secretly paid on commercial contracts involving Mr. Schreiber and other people in Canada. If we can determine where all that money went, we will be able to uncover all the rats and mice.

Opposition Motion—Public Inquiry into the Mulroney-Schreiber Affair
Business of Supply
Government Orders

10:30 a.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opposition motion in one sense. People want to get to the bottom of what happened with Mr. Mulroney and others.

We have a commission of inquiry that is going to be set up. We just had a budget this week, which failed Canadians and my constituents. We have the Hogwarts pork barrel express coming from Peterborough. We have no housing. Why do we have to debate this, when we have a commission of inquiry about to be set up and we know it is going to happen? Why are the Liberals spending their time on this instead of the budget?

Opposition Motion—Public Inquiry into the Mulroney-Schreiber Affair
Business of Supply
Government Orders

10:30 a.m.

Liberal

Robert Thibault West Nova, NS

I do not know how to answer that, Mr. Speaker. Only a New Democrat would think that subverting the Government of Canada into signing deals on aircraft worth $2 billion and working on a project that would hit $7 billion, so that a few people get their commissions and influence government, would have no importance to the people of Canada, and that it should not be raised in the House. After that member's colleague brought a motion to the committee to study the Karlheinz Schreiber issue, I find it ridiculous and irresponsible.

Opposition Motion—Public Inquiry into the Mulroney-Schreiber Affair
Business of Supply
Government Orders

10:35 a.m.

Liberal

Brian Murphy Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Mr. Speaker, credibility is always an issue and there are sins of commission and sins of omission.

I want to ask the hon. member this question. Does he think that telling the truth by commission, saying positively what happened, and telling lies by omission is present in this case? The former Prime Minister of this country did not even tell his own PR people that it was $300,000. He lied under oath by omitting to refer to his meetings in detail with Mr. Schreiber and lied under oath with that discovery.

Does that set up the table for this commission of inquiry to look into the credibility of Mr. Mulroney and everything he said, including the reason why he accepted $2.1 million for lawyers fees and PR fees when he did not even tell the experts the truth?

Opposition Motion—Public Inquiry into the Mulroney-Schreiber Affair
Business of Supply
Government Orders

10:35 a.m.

Liberal

Robert Thibault West Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, it is understandable why the former Prime Minister would not return to the committee on invitation. It is because he could not clarify his comments. He could not contradict people who had stated that his comments were not factual.

Under oath he stated that it was that he had killed the Thiessen project in 1990. He told his chief of staff that, I believe, it was in 1990 or 1991 that he had killed the Thiessen project. Then we learned that there were meetings organized that Mulroney was aware of, with his top aides and the Clerk of the Privy Council, all dealing with the Thiessen project until 1993. He said under oath that he had no dealings with Karlheinz Schreiber.

We know he had been working with Karlheinz Schreiber throughout this time and that he had been meeting with him. He even brought him to Harrington Lake in 1993 just prior to leaving office. He sent him all sorts of correspondence and accepted money from him in 1993 and 1994.

He said in committee that he was working for Thiessen internationally selling tanks to China. I am sure that the Chinese government was encouraging the German military and defence corporations. That is exactly what China wanted to do. Thiessen told us it was not true. All his close associates who testified told us they could not confirm that he was doing that and they had no knowledge of him doing that.

More importantly, Mr. Lavoie, on behalf of Brian Mulroney, had called Karlheinz Schreiber “the biggest f”--and I will not finish the word--“liar we have ever met”. When I asked him if he still believed that, he said that he was in the top five. I believe I know the other ones he is referring to because he has heard all the mistruths and misstatements of his former boss.

Opposition Motion—Public Inquiry into the Mulroney-Schreiber Affair
Business of Supply
Government Orders

10:35 a.m.

South Surrey—White Rock—Cloverdale
B.C.

Conservative

Russ Hiebert Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs and Minister of Western Economic Diversification

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Peterborough.

I also want to thank the House for this opportunity to respond to the motion introduced by the member for West Nova. The motion simply states:

That, in the opinion of the House, the government should end its delays and immediately commence the public inquiry into the Mulroney-Schreiber affair.

I cannot in good conscience support this motion because to do so would in effect denigrate the efforts of our Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics, and the work of Professor Johnston.

In fact, this issue came up last night during our committee meeting as well and after some debate we had a vote on the question. I watched later that evening on the cable public affairs channel as our committee chairman suggested that there was unanimous consent in the committee to recommend an immediate public inquiry. There was not.

I believe it is important to correct the public record on this issue. Members of the government expressed that the public inquiry cannot commence immediately for some simple and logical reasons which I will explain in the coming minutes.

There was a vote. My government colleagues and I voted against the motion because of the hasty and intemperate language that would insist on forcing the government to act inappropriately.

As my hon. colleagues are well aware, members of the ethics committee have been hard at work for several months investigating the various allegations made by the former Prime Minister and Mr. Karlheinz Schreiber. To launch a public inquiry before this committee has had the opportunity to complete its work, table its report and recommendations, would not only show a great deal of disrespect for all those involved, but handicap the public inquiry before it even started.

As we all know, our committee has spent the last four months studying four aspects of this matter. We looked at the Bear Head proposal, the Airbus libel settlement, the consulting agreement between Brian Mulroney and Karlheinz Schreiber and the handling of correspondence by the Privy Council Office.

We heard from Mr. Mulroney and Mr. Schreiber, and we heard from a number of witnesses who had direct knowledge of their business dealings.

The government made a commitment to Canadians that we would work to seek out the truth in this matter. We asked every witness who appeared a series of questions. In fact, we asked each witness whether or not they had any knowledge of any wrongdoing by any public official regarding Bear Head, Airbus, the consulting agreement and the Privy Council Office. Not a single one did.

Every witness, including Mr. Mulroney and Mr. Schreiber, confirmed for us that there was no wrongdoing with respect to these issues. Somewhat ironically, after having made certain allegations, the only wrongdoing we became aware of during our proceedings was Mr. Schreiber's own failure to declare the importation of a large amount of currency into Canada and the United States.

Nevertheless, Canadians are still left with a bad taste in their mouths because a former public office holder took large cash payments. While there may have been nothing illegal about the transactions, it certainly created the appearance of conduct that falls below the standard we expect of former prime ministers, as Mr. Mulroney himself acknowledged in his testimony. He will have to deal with the shame of this matter for the rest of his life.

Surely, after each member of the committee, both government and opposition members, spent so much time examining this issue, it would be foolish to commence an inquiry before the committee has had the opportunity to give its report.

I anticipate that the committee's report will, among other things, identify some specific recommendations regarding the terms of reference for a potential public inquiry. Indeed, I would like to ask the opposition members who currently support today's motion what was the point of hearing the number hours of testimony and scouring through thousands of pages of Karlheinz Schreiber's submissions and numerous other documents if we are not going to offer the House the benefit of our counsel.

Holding hearings for four months is not an insignificant expense, yet that seems to be of no concern to the members opposite.

The opposition insisted in the fall, and we agreed, that a public inquiry was the best way to handle these allegations. Yet, in its haste, the opposition decided to pre-empt a public inquiry with the committee hearings.

We disagreed with that approach, but we respected the will of the majority and participated faithfully in those hearings. And now in haste once again, the opposition is attempting to have us ignore the work of our committee over the past four months and prematurely move to a public inquiry.

To insist on the one hand that the committee hold these hearings and then not take them to their logical conclusion is irresponsible.

Members should recall that the Prime Minister asked Professor Johnston to finalize his recommendations on the terms of reference for the public inquiry once the committee has completed its work.

Until we file our report and give the House and the public the benefit of our wisdom and counsel on this matter, our work will not be complete. Members need to be reminded that although holding hearings and gathering evidence is laborious and time consuming, it is not the full work of our committee. In fact, it is only half of our job.

The other half is to synthesize what we have heard and learned, and condense that knowledge into useful recommendations and conclusions. Often that process does not take as long as the information gathering phase, but it is no less important and that has not happened. Until it has, the committee has not completed its work.

When Karlheinz Schreiber made his allegations last fall, Canadians demanded to know what transpired between Brian Mulroney and Mr. Schreiber. At that time this government committed to securing the truth and sharing it with Canadians. We took timely and effective action on this matter.

The Prime Minister appointed an independent adviser to conduct an impartial review of allegations respecting the financial dealings between Mr. Schreiber and Mr. Mulroney. The mandate assigned to the independent adviser included four areas: first, to conduct a review of the allegations concerning financial dealings between Mr. Schreiber and the right hon.. Brian Mulroney; second, to make recommendations as to the appropriate mandate for a full and public inquiry into these allegations including the specific issues that warrant examination; third, to determine whether any prima facie evidence existed to suggest that criminal acts have taken place; and fourth, to indicate whether any additional course of action was appropriate.

To fulfill this mandate the Prime Minister appointed Professor David Johnston, the president of the University of Waterloo. Professor Johnston has impeccable credentials and is widely admired for his considerable legal experience and expertise. During his career Professor Johnston has served on numerous provincial and federal task forces and committees, so there can be no doubt that he is perfectly suited to conduct a thorough and thoughtful review, and provide sage independent advice to the government on this matter.

Nevertheless, soon after Professor Johnston accepted his mandate, the ethics committee initiated its own review of the matter. This move by the opposition pre-empted proceeding directly to a public inquiry because this government respects the sub judice principle. That means the government will not hold a public inquiry while a parliamentary committee is examining the same matter.

Over the past four months the committee subsequently heard the testimony of the two men at the centre of the affair and a number of other witnesses who have knowledge of some elements of this issue. Unfortunately, to its discredit, the opposition overreached its hand and brought witnesses who had no knowledge whatsoever concerning the matters the committee was studying.

Regardless, in honour of the commitment made to the Prime Minister, the independent adviser released a report in January of this year and the Prime Minister accepted it. To quote from the Prime Minister's statement of January 11, he said:

I have also asked Professor Johnston to finalize his recommendations on the terms of reference for the public inquiry on an expedited basis once the Committee has completed its work. I am pleased that he has agreed to do so.

In order to effectively complete the study the opposition insisted on last fall, the standing committee must have the opportunity to carefully analyze the testimony it has heard and render fair and accurate recommendations.

I am confident that once we have supplied Parliament with our recommendations and the full benefits of our work over the last four months, that the independent adviser will provide sound guidance and wise advice regarding a public inquiry into this matter.

The hon. member's motion, however, seeks to short circuit the process. It suggests that the current approach, studied, deliberate and respectful of the serious issues at stake should be immediately set aside and replaced by a public inquiry, but that public inquiry would not have the full benefit of the work we are doing and the knowledge we have gained as a result of these hearings.

The motion would have us ignore the informed counsel of the committee membership and the recommendations we would make based on the last four months of testimony we have heard and the evidence we have examined.

I therefore urge the House to reject this rash, impulsive action.

Opposition Motion—Public Inquiry into the Mulroney-Schreiber Affair
Business of Supply
Government Orders

10:45 a.m.

Liberal

Brian Murphy Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Mr. Speaker, I have a couple of questions because I found some internal contradictions in what the member had to say: Mr. Mulroney told the truth; Mr. Mulroney did no wrong; there were private dealings between private businessmen and we should not delve into it; yet Mr. Mulroney should bear the shame of what he did. Those are the member's words.

What shame, I might ask, is the member talking about? If it is shameful, certainly on this side of the House, that means probably it is something that is not good, something that perhaps cannot be excused. I want to know what he meant by that comment. Would he like to withdraw it? Would he like to say that outside the House? Maybe Mr. Mulroney might sue him.

All through this process, and I was there most of the time, the member and his colleagues decried the methods and the being of the committee as being ineffective, tautological and useless. Why is it now that he is holding up the work of the committee and saying it is a wonderful example of how Parliament works?

Surely he has enough faith, as was said many times by the ministers here, in Dr. Johnston and his acumen to see what happened before the committee and funnel it into good recommendations to go forward with an inquiry.

Why is he now for holding up the inquiry which his ministers on the frontbench wanted to get to so soon, so often?