Mr. Speaker, I move that the third report of the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics presented on Friday, February 29, 2008, be concurred in.
The particular report from the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics states, in part:
As your Committee has now completed its examination of witnesses in this matter it recommends...“That the Government immediately initiate a formal public inquiry into the Mulroney—Schreiber affair.
The committee has been the subject of much news and the last report I saw was that we had conducted four months of hearings. The fact is that we only had 11 hearing days, only heard from 12 witnesses and only had 25 hours of testimony from those witnesses. We did, however, receive some 3,000 pages.
Having said that, I can think of no other proceeding at a committee that I have been at where I have heard more contradictions, more discrepancies and more situations where people are clearly not being truthful with the committee. This is very important because we have now had a situation where the government has indicated that there will be a public inquiry and that the matter will be going back to Dr. Johnston, who will formalize the terms of reference and the scope.
Dr. Johnston also issued an interim report in which he laid out some of his preliminary thinking based on what he had heard from the ethics committee witnesses up until, I think, December 13. Subsequent to this, we heard from probably some of the more significant players in this matter.
I was prepared to start talking about some of the things that we found which would demonstrate why it was necessary, not just to have a public inquiry but to have a formal public inquiry under the Public Inquiries Act, which would give the Speaker the opportunity to subpoena or the power to subpoena. That is an essential element because we found in our proceedings that there were witnesses who were reluctant to appear. In fact, the committee granted to the chair, myself, the authorization at my discretion to subpoena any witness at any time.
The committee was very aware of the problems that it was having with witnesses and, indeed, it was the situation even with former prime minister, Brian Mulroney, who had declined our offer to come back for a second appearance so that he could answer the questions. That was so serious that in his initial appearance before the committee on December 13, he was asked, and agreed, to provide certain information related to what he did for the moneys that he received from Karlheinz Schreiber.
Mr. Mulroney had indicated that this had to do with international business, not with domestic affairs and nothing related to the government. He also indicated that he visited China, Russia, France, had planned to go to the United States and even to have a meeting with the secretary general of the United Nations to promote light armoured vehicles built by Thyssen Industries.
After two months of waiting, asking and reminding, there was still no response from the former prime minister as to who he had met with, the dates, the locations and the outcome. Those were vital pieces of information, because if the activities were not international, i.e., they were then domestic and may be related to government contracts or other items, such as Bear Head Manufacturing Industries, that would have put the former prime minister in a situation where he would have been in violation of section 41 of the Parliament of Canada Act related to influence peddling.
This was very important and, as a consequence, the committee authorized me, as the chair, to issue a summons for that information to be provided by a certain date before our hearings resumed. That summons was not respected by Mr. Mulroney. He refused to answer and, in fact, the message from his lawyer was to the effect that these were private matters and none of the business of the committee.
If we consider those two issues alone, the failure to honour a summons from the committee which has the right to call for a person's papers and records, as well as not being willing to come forward to give testimony when there were clearly ample questions to ask of Mr. Mulroney after we had heard from 10 other witnesses, this in my view is a very important consideration to take into account when determining the form of the public inquiry. Should it be a formal public inquiry under the Public Inquiries Act? Should it be informal and simply under the Inquiries Act alone which does not have subpoena power? Should it be somehow limited? Or should there maybe even be no inquiry whatsoever?
It is extremely important that questions be answered. People will look at the evidence that has been presented to the committee which is on the official website of the standing committee. There is a litany of contradictions, discrepancies and disputes of information. I cannot think of any issue that people actually agreed upon. There were contradictions on almost every point raised.
The committee could have called more witnesses. It could have tried to corroborate this information and find out who was not being truthful with the committee. It would then have had the option to deal with this matter directly with the House and recommend that certain persons be considered to be in contempt of Parliament for having misled or lied to a committee. That was an option.
However, in the environment that we have come through, it was very clear that the committee was not going to have the time nor the resources or expertise to call the necessary expert witnesses and forensic accountants, to call for banking records, tax returns, and the like. Those activities are best done in a public inquiry.
As a consequence, instead of considering a list of some 40 witnesses, the committee decided to reduce it down to 12 witnesses. Some of the principal witnesses would be able to give us an idea of the dimensions of what was going on and why.
I do not believe for a moment that this matter is simply to do with whether or not Mr. Mulroney received $225,000 or $300,000. That amount of money is inconsequential when we consider the relationship between Mr. Schreiber and Mr. Mulroney which goes back some 20 or 25 years. In fact, Mr. Mulroney and Mr. Schreiber were meeting even before Mr. Mulroney became the leader of the Conservative Party. When he was still a lawyer with Ogilvy Renault they were having coffees back in the early 1980s.
That relationship grew. In fact, Mr. Schreiber was involved with dumping former prime minister Joe Clark. Mr. Schreiber was also involved with getting the leadership of the Conservative Party for Mr. Mulroney. This is the way that Mr. Schreiber does business. It is clear.
As an example, he was involved with the Saudi government in a $440 million project to sell tanks to the Saudis, special tanks made by Thyssen Industries. About half of that money was grease money, bribe money for officials. In fact, when we look at that particular case we will find that a number of senior government officials were prosecuted and found guilty of influence peddling, bribery, et cetera.
This is the pattern. This is how it is done. Mr. Schreiber clearly was establishing a close relationship with virtually everyone that he possibly could in the Conservative Party. It was not only federal. It was also provincial. There was a lot of activity going on in Alberta. At that time members will know that there were some people who got involved in some activities which turned out to be bad and there was a lot of bad blood. Some deals just went bad.
When we consider some of the activities that went on, such as the former prime minister when in Davos, Switzerland taking a two-hour limousine ride to Zurich to have lunch with Mr. Schreiber and then going back to Davos, we have to get the sense that this is a pretty serious relationship.
Then there is the situation where Mr. Mulroney sued the Government of Canada for $50 million and ultimately settled for $2.1 million. During his examination for discovery under oath, and this is very puzzling, he was asked about his relationship and whether he ever did any business or got any money from Mr. Schreiber. His answer was that he barely knew the guy, that maybe they had had a coffee or two. This was in 2005.
We know now that Mr. Mulroney had accepted, he says, $75,000. He had stepped down as prime minister, but he was still a member of Parliament. This was in August 1993. Subsequently he received at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel another $75,000, he says, and at the Pierre Hotel in New York, another $75,000. We have to ask why. Mr. Schreiber says he was helping us with the Bear Head project. We wanted to promote light armoured vehicles. We wanted to build this plant in Cape Breton. It was going to create jobs. All of a sudden people started to get involved and many people were asked about this.
I found it very interesting to note that in Dr. Johnston's report he considered matters such as Airbus, and the Eurocopter case, and the Bear Head case to be well-tilled ground.
This is a 20 minute spot, Mr. Speaker. Maybe you could advise me how much time I have left.