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What the Mulroney-Schreiber affair tells us about the Guergis-Jaffer scandal

Prime Minister Stephen Harper meets with former prime minister Brian Mulroney in Ottawa on April 20, 2006.


Brian Mulroney will be judged this afternoon with the release of the Oliphant Commission report into his business dealings with defence lobbyist Karlheinz Schreiber.

Although Mr. Mulroney has long ago admitted to poor judgment in accepting cash payments from Mr. Schreiber, there is another story emerging from this - the judgment of the former Conservative Prime Minister by the current Prime Minister, Stephen Harper. Some have compared Mr. Harper's treatment of Mr. Mulroney with that of his treatment of Helena Guergis. In fact, her treatment is being referred to by some as "Schreiber redux."

Ms. Guergis was kicked out of cabinet, caucus and the RCMP were called in, seemingly on the evidence of a private investigator, who later testified before a Commons committee that his evidence was misrepresented to the ethics commissioner.

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Meanwhile, Mr. Harper's treatment of Mr. Mulroney was based on allegations from defence lobbyist Karlheinz Schreiber, who is now in jail for tax evasion in Germany.

Mr. Harper had relied on Mr. Mulroney's wisdom and counsel during the merger talks between the Progressive Conservative Party and the Canadian Alliance. Had the two parties not merged, Mr. Harper would never have formed a government.

Mr. Mulroney has said that at that time he "didn't know the man (Mr. Harper). I took a gamble on him."

As a result of that, Mr. Harper came to rely on Mr. Mulroney's wisdom. In fact, Mr. Mulroney has said that the two spoke "twice a day."

And then, he said, "all of a sudden - POW."

The POW, being referred to by Mr. Mulroney, was Mr. Harper's sudden decision to call a commission of inquiry into Mr. Mulroney's dealings with Mr. Schreiber.

The decision to hold the inquiry was made only after Mr. Schreiber linked Mr. Harper to the affair in a sworn affidavit. Mr. Harper, who had been defending Mr. Mulroney was livid, according to sources. Both Mr. Mulroney and Mr. Harper have denied that there were any dealings between the two regarding Mr. Schreiber.

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Still, after that - this all took place in November 2007 - Mr. Harper had nothing more to do with Mr. Mulroney. In fact, he ordered his cabinet not to speak to the former prime minister, which was unprecedented.

Mulroney sources have noted that no such order was given to his ministers prohibiting them from speaking to Mr. Schreiber, who is now serving time in jail in Germany.

Mr. Mulroney has said that he believes that some of Harper caucus members believe that edict was unfair but their self-preservation instinct kicked in and they wanted to save their jobs. So Mr. Mulroney was cut off as Mr. Harper tried to make him a pariah.

In a true fighter fashion, however, Mr. Mulroney will be front and centre tonight. He is to appear tonight at a Synagogue in Toronto at the 2010 Spirit of Hope Benefit to moderate a panel on human rights and freedom of expression. Two high profile and dynamic speakers - Elie Wiesel, a Holocaust survivor and Nobel Peace Prize winner, is debating controversial British author Salman Rushdie.

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About the Author
Ontario politics reporter

Jane Taber is a reporter at Queen’s Park. After spending three years reporting from the Atlantic, she has returned to Ontario and back to writing about her passion, politics. She spent 25 years covering Parliament Hill for the Ottawa Citizen, the National Post and the Globe and Mail. More

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