Mulroney letters to Szabo

Here’s the first letter drafted from former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney’s lawyer to the Chair of the Ethics Committee of Parliament Paul Szabo.

MBM Letter Szabo – Get more free documents

The letter blames Szabo for allowing questions to be posed which extend outside of the mandate of the committee (which was to investigate the Mulroney Airbus Settlement, not any issues pertaining to the Wireless Spectrum auction and MBM’s involvement (or lack thereof) in that matter). The letter labels the actions of Szabo as “the clearest breach of natural justice possible”. The letter goes on to express injury to Mr. Mulroney by violation of his privacy regarding his personal income tax records as Mr. Szabo had requested them from the Auditor General.

Last night, Mulroney’s lawyer sent another letter to Szabo:

This letter demands that Szabo limit testimony to relevant matters and to within the scope of the Committee’s business as defined by the original mandate. The letter also requests that Mulroney be allowed to refuse any answer to any question outside of the committee’s defined boundaries.

Both Mulroney and Schreiber are expected to reappear before the committee soon and it’ll be interesting to see how the committee and it’s chair will rule (and how Mulroney will react) on wide-reaching testimony expected to be given by Norman Spector, Mulroney’s former Chief of Staff in the PMO.

Krista Erickson reassigned

CBC just sent out this release:

TORONTO, Jan. 21 /CNW/ – CBC News today released the following letter:

Doug Finley,
Director of Political Operations
Conservative Party of Canada

January 21, 2008

Dear Mr. Finley:

This letter is in response to your complaint to the CBC Ombudsman about “collusion” involving one of our reporters during the recent Mulroney/Schreiber hearings in Ottawa, during which questions were asked about lobbying efforts by Mr. Mulroney directed toward the current federal government.

Following an investigation by senior management of CBC News, we have determined that our reporter Krista Erickson did, in fact, provide questions to a Member of Parliament in the lead up to the Ethics Committee meeting in December. Those actions, while in pursuit of a journalistically legitimate story, were inappropriate and inconsistent with CBC News policies and procedures, specifically under our Principles, Sec. 3:

“Credibility is dependent not only on qualities such as accuracy and fairness in reporting and presentation, but also upon avoidance by both the organization and its journalists of associations or contacts which could reasonably give rise to perceptions of partiality. Any situation which could cause reasonable apprehension that a journalist or the organization is biased or under the influence of any pressure group, whether ideological, political, financial, social or cultural, must be avoided.”

Our investigation determined there was no bias in related news coverage.
However, our reporter, acting on her own, used inappropriate tactics as a
result of journalistic zeal, rather than partisan interest. CBC News
management has made the decision to reassign its reporter from the story and
to Toronto, effective Jan. 21.

Given the potential risk to the journalistic credibility of our Ottawa bureau, its reporters and CBC News generally, we have chosen on an exceptional basis to make the detailed outcome of our disciplinary process available to you, our employees and the public at large.

I trust this addresses your concerns.

It is also my responsibility to inform you that if you are not satisfied with this response, you may wish to submit the matter for review by Vince Carlin, CBC Ombudsman. The Office of the Ombudsman, an independent and impartial body reporting directly to the President, is responsible for evaluating program compliance with the CBC’s journalistic policies. The Ombudsman may be reached by mail at the address shown below, or by fax at (416) 205-2825, or by e-mail at ombudsman@cbc.ca

Sincerely,
John Cruickshank
Publisher
CBC News

Box 500, Station “A”,
Toronto, Ontario
M5W 1E6

cc. Vince Carlin, CBC Ombudsman

CBC journo out?

Tonight, I’m hearing from a very well-placed source that Krista Erickson has cleaned out her desk and is going on “stress leave”. Whether this indicates a hushed firing or a quiet reassignment outside of Ottawa politics after a short leave is unclear. (see update)

UPDATE: I’ve heard that she is moving to CBC Sports. (see update)

I should also mention that everyone that I’ve spoken to at the CBC about this has, for the past few weeks, told me that they do not approve of the ways by which Erickson pursued this story. From an outside source I’ve heard that she will issue an apology tomorrow.

I think it would also be important to note that the Liberals should shoulder a lot of the blame for this. Erickson’s pursuance of the story, while over-zealous and inappropriate, would never have made the floor if a Liberal had not raised the issue. It was Pablo Rodriguez, Robert Thibault and Chair Paul Szabo, not Krista Erickson, that tore up the mandate of the ethics committee.

I should also say that I emailed Erickson the weekend after the Mulroney testimony for her comment on the story, but received no reply. Frankly, a frustrating element of this story was the silence coming from the CBC on this. While I don’t blame Erickson for not commenting on the story (in fact, she probably received some sage advice not to talk to anyone), CBC did not respond except to release a tu quoque-ish letter in response to Conservative concerns. CBC management owed it to other reporters (especially in the Ottawa office) to dispel the dark cloud which hung unfairly over their heads. Yet management was quiet. As I’ve said before, there are a number of good professional people that report and produce news for CBC. Management that writes their cheques paid with our money should not use these people as a shield for its own comfort. Management should never shirk accountability.

So, will the Liberals now be called to answer for the damage that they have precipitated? While it was inappropriate for Erickson to hope that they would have contempt for Parliament, it was wholly inappropriate for the Liberals to go through with turning the committee into a free-for-all.

We should always demand better of our public institutions, especially the CBC. The state-funded broadcaster should always seek a balanced product when it reports the news. But it should go without saying that the institution of Parliament should never be abused.

UPDATE 1/9, 5pm: A well-placed source at CBC has amended some of the details given above. Erickson’s reassignment to sports (or anywhere else) has not been confirmed (reassignment has not been acknowledged by CBC management). At this time, I believe that a reassignment to CBC Sports will not happen. Further she’s on vacation (not stress leave) and still has her desk at CBC Ottawa and that she has not yet issued an apology today.

Outside of that, what remains is that Erickson has been the topic of meetings held by senior management for the past couple of weeks and that a disciplinary review has been held. She was the reporter who passed on questions to Liberals regarding the wireless spectrum (well outside of the committee’s mandate on the Airbus settlement). CBC senior management has been very tight lipped about the proceedings of those meetings. What is known is that management must consider the appropriate balance between Canadian Media Guild concerns, political fallout, and details of the employee contract with respect to discipline. I expect a decision to be announced soon.

Schreiber’s threatening letter to Mulroney

Karlheinz Schreiber claims that he paid former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney $300,000 to lobby his successor Kim Campbell and her government for the Bear Head Project. Schreiber never got his was as he must have been somewhat ignorant to evolving Tory fortunes. We later learned that Schreiber sought the services of Trudeau cabinet minister Marc Lalonde to lobby the Chretien government on the same project.

In the letter below, concerning Schreiber extradition scrambling, he attempts to leverage Mulroney claiming a tell-all of all alleged misdeeds. Schreiber’s frustration at Mulroney’s inability (or unwillingness) to pull some strings with the Harper government on Schreiber’s behalf is explicit. The language is frank:

“The time has come that you bring the whole battle with me to a peaceful and satisfying end. This is my last warning. I am prepared to disclose [laundry list of alleged misdeeds] and more.” (!)

“It is in your hands what is going to happen. My patience comes to an end.”

Schreiber, it seems, has the unfortunate mindset that Mulroney is his only hope and by extension of MBM’s involvement, hopeful interference by Harper/Nicholson in the extradition process.

I obtained a copy of the letter yesterday. Here it is. There are some privacy concerns surrounding the material that Schreiber disclosed in committee yesterday. As such, I’ve blurred private information, including Schreiber’s Rockcliffe address, phone, fax and email. I’ve also blurred out Mulroney’s address.

schreiber-mulroney-letter.jpg
Click to enlarge

Shreiber Mulroney letter (PDF)

Question of the day

Who do we think we are, putting, for more than eight years into limbo, the German judicial process that seeks to prosecute allegations of bribery and corruption involving the administration of former German chancellor Helmut Kohl? Schreiber faces no charges in Canada and neither does Mulroney. The only serious matter these two face in this country, is nebulous speculation and partisan interest from the Liberal Party and the Fifth Estate. Given that Schreiber charmed, offered a hypothetical bribe to a Bloc committee member yesterday, the former arms dealer seems not to show any regard for the serious charges that he faces in Germany.

Do we?

Supplementary: And since when did the Liberals start favouring the idea of Parliamentary supremacy over that of the courts?

Notes about the Schreiber Show

Karlheinz-Schreiber.jpg
Today, I was able to make the House of Commons committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics at Parliament. Here are my notes about what happened.

– Schreiber arrived in committee escorted by the RCMP. During the closing minutes of the committee he was flanked by four suited ear-pieced Mounties. Outside, on Parliament, police cruisers were on standby. Schreiber insisted that he be allowed to appear in committee in plain clothes instead of an orange prison, the police presence quickly reminded people about the serious allegations surrounding Schreiber.

– The last item during committee was a debate concerning whether or not Schreiber would be held in an Ottawa detention centre or in his private estate under house arrest in Ottawa. One Liberal committee member expressed that he wanted to ensure Mr. Schreiber got a good night sleep so that he’s able to testify. Prior to the committee, Schreiber was escorted to Parliament Hill by police in handcuffs.

– Main sticking point of the committee is Schreiber’s “inability” to testify because he hasn’t had access to his notes and that the German-Canadian businessman wouldn’t be able to recall specific details. One Conservative member complained that Schreiber was able to write an 80+ page affidavit and that Schreiber has had about 8 years to recall the details of his dealings with former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney.

– At first, Schreiber read from a hastily scribbled note that he struggled to read that he would not testify until given access to his notes which are located in Ottawa, Toronto and Switzerland. The last locale elicit laughter from those in attendance as it almost seemed like wishful thinking that Schreiber would be able to travel outside of Canadian (or German) jurisdiction to access his notes.

– Later, after being told to defer on answers from which he would need his notes, Schreiber eventually answered in the definitive to earlier questions on which he was unclear. This inconsistency seemed to wash over those in attendance as if they came to expect dodging from this star witness.

– I counted five CBC/SRC journalists in attendance and four of them were front-row-centre. The involvement of the state-funded broadcaster may come under more intense scrutiny when Dr. Johnston delivers his terms of reference. If Mulroney, who himself has called for a full inquiry, gets his way, the CBC – particularly the Fifth Estate – will be called before the inquiry to answer for what he has termed a vindicate character assassination campaign.

– Headlines, if any, will include the new information that Schreiber arranged $500,000 for Mulroney’s services, however, he only paid $300,000 because he was unsatisfied with Mulroney’s work.

– Every reporter that I’ve spoken to about this have a feeling that Harper’s office is not directly tied to the Mulroney-Schreiber affair and of course, implying such a connection is the strategy of the Liberal party. One reporter remarked that the meeting was the biggest press circus that he’s ever seen for a committee witness.

– With respect to the delaying tactics of Schreiber, both he and the Liberals can easily serve each other’s agenda. Schreiber seeks to delay extradition to Germany to face bribery charges, while the Liberals don’t mind stretching the process out over weeks and even months. The Liberal chair was quite accommodating to Schreiber’s dilemma of not being prepared to testify. Schreiber will continue to appear before committee meting out small portions of his story until the committee is satisfied with his testimony. Conservatives are receptive to full testimony by Schreiber, but want the man to get on with it and wrap up as soon as possible. The Liberals aim to tar Mulroney and the Conservative Party with the same brush as they have inquired into past donations to the PC Party by Schreiber. Elizabeth Thompson reports this morning that the Liberals were also recipients collecting $10,000 in donations from the former arms dealer. The Conservatives made an effect to insulate their party from Schreiber as they point out that he has not donated to the Conservative Party of Canada.