Friday, November 30, 2007

Shouldn't somebody ask Pete?

Impolitical has a comprehensive summary of the aftermath of the Mulroney/Schreiber hearing. So, go there and then pop on back. We'll wait.

Done? I know. It's a lot to absorb. There was so much happened around this whole affair yesterday that it's difficult to keep track of who's who. But several things occurred in rapid fire succession which might otherwise seem unrelated.

First is Justice Minister Rob Nicholson exercising power he previously said he didn't possess. While the Liberals have been pounding on him to explain, this would appear to be a poll-driven decision. This despite the fact that Harper has made a point of telling us he would not be driven to govern by polls.
On the eve of Schreiber's much-anticipated Thursday appearance before the parliamentary ethics committee, the Justice Department seemed to change its tune, according to the Liberals.

The department consented on Wednesday night to a judicial stay of surrender to give Schreiber time to appeal his case to the Supreme Court of Canada.

An agreement not to challenge the judicial stay of extradition suggested the Justice Department has "offered to use a power it claimed it doesn't have," Dion said Thursday.

"Obviously the department wouldn't even make such an offer if the minister didn't have the power to do so," he said.

Yes, well, if the Harperites were true to their word they would simply extradite Schreiber and let the German government have at him. To the peril of the Conservatives however. Public opinion is bent the other way. Canadians would like to hear what Schreiber knows and if there is indeed any link between Mulroney's dealings and the present crop of Conservatives. Booting Schreiber out would, in the eyes of those polled, present the appearance of a quasi-cover-up. So, despite Harper's words to the contrary, it would appear polls are the major influence in CPoC decision-making. Governance by knee-jerk.

One of the big surprizes though, was Norman Spector, former Mulroney chief of staff. From the sidelines of yesterday's circus Spector made a point of tossing Mulroney directly under a moving bus, tying the former prime minister into an even shadier deal involving Karlheinz Schreiber and linking them with then Nova Scotia MP Elmer MacKay. (Pete's dad).

I wouldn't begin to speculate as to Spector's motivation, however much of what he offered in yesterday's interview supports Schreiber's sparse testimony before the committee.

In 1990, Norman Spector says, the prime minister handed him a tiny white paper and told him to move ahead with a plan to build military vehicles in Nova Scotia.

The directive flew in the face of opposition from bureaucrats in the Department of National Defence, from military brass and from the most senior bureaucrat in the country, Spector told The Canadian Press in an interview.

They each had their own concerns about a proposal from German arms maker Thyssen Industries to open a plant in exchange for a federal grant and a contract to build light-armoured vehicles.

"There was tremendous opposition in the system," Spector said.

He says arms lobbyist Karlheinz Schreiber was embroiled in a bitter dispute with senior military officers, who were pleased with similar vehicles already being built by GM in southern Ontario.

Perhaps Spector isn't throwing Mulroney under the bus so much as he's tossing him into the wheels of a Thyssen-built LAV. Back in the day there was more than a little talk about the Thyssen attempt to build a plant in Nova Scotia and the fact that DND was, shall we say, violently opposed to the entire plan. Anywhere one went in the wardrooms and messes of the Canadian Forces there was a conversation about how the whole deal had the stench of someone in the Mulroney government getting rich.

There was also the question of use. Who would they be built for? The Canadian army was already in a deal with GM and the Thyssen LAV was hardly a necessary addition to the Canadian inventory. In fact, there was a strong rumour moving through the bazaars that any Thyssen Henschel LAVs would be delivered as a "Use once, mothball, sell" vehicle, the eventual end user being somewhere "over there". (Across the Atlantic, south of the Equator).

As I said, I don't know Spector's motivation for granting an interview like this on the same day as Schreiber's testimony, but it may have been an attempt to put all the dirt on Mulroney while dry-cleaning Steve Harper.

That won't work in any case because there is some linkage that needs to be brought into the light.

In the whorehouse that is the Conservative Cabinet it would do well to approach the bartender and the piano player. While they claim never to know what's going on upstairs, they have much more knowledge of this than they are willing to let on.

One was very close to the coal-face of the Thyssen attempt and while he may well have been bitterly opposed to the manipulations of Schreiber, he would have information pertinent to the events. I'll leave it to you to work out who that was because, for the time being, we're going to ignore him. The other one, however, needs to be put under a spotlight.

Given the machinations made public by Spector yesterday, Defence Minister Peter MacKay should be wondering when he is going to be hauled before a committee to testify.

The timeline offered by Spector (and Schreiber) suggests that things got hot around the Thyssen deal around 1990 and that it fizzled around 1991. Elmer MacKay had been very much involved and had organized meetings with Karlheinz Schreiber and Spector. Spector claims that his successor, Hugh Segal, still had an active file on the Thyssen Henschel proposal as late as 1992 or 1993, an attempt still being facilitated by Karlheinz Schreiber.

Let's see.... what was young Petey MacKay doing at that time?

You don't say! He was working for Thyssen Henschel company in Kassell, Germany. Right about the time Karlheinz Schreiber is working furiously for the same company trying to get an armoured vehicle plant built in Cape Breton, a deal that Mulroney has removed from the hands of the bureaucracy and handed over to his political staff. Schreiber, also at about that time is alleged to have payed-off Walther Leisler Kiep, the treasurer of the German Christian Democratic Party with 1 million Deutch Marks after a Thyssen deal to sell tanks to Saudi Arabia - an arms sale that was approved by then Chancellor Helmut Kohl.

So, maybe somebody should walk into the whorehouse and grab Petey. Ask him how it is that a brand new lawyer from Dalhousie Law School steps into an overseas job with the same firm trying to wangle a deal from a government in which his father (Elmer MacKay) is a cabinet minister, who, by the way, gave up his safe parliamentary seat temporarily in 1983 to make sure Brian Mulroney could enter parliament.

Harper wanted to capitalize on the Progressive Conservative legacy. There it is, and it's looking a little dirty.

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