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Brian Mulroney, or when dollars haunt a prime minister

Photo: Sean Kilpatrick The Canadian Press Brian Mulroney at the public inquiry led by Justice Jeffrey Oliphant, May 19, 2009, in Ottawa

The duty

March 1, 2024

  • Canada

He may have come from a modest family on the North Shore, but Brian Mulroney had tastes of grandeur that he would have been criticized for throughout his life.

As early as 1976, his costly leadership campaign earned him the title of “Cadillac candidate“. The label sticks so much that, on March 21, 1983, when he was about to announce that he was trying his luck again, he refused the car in which his collaborators had planned to take him to the press conference. He feared the stretched Cadillac — which he dubbed the “Elvismobile” in his memoir — would make headlines for him.

During his reign, Mulroney was criticized for his love of Gucci shoes. Controversy arose when the Canadian government offered to buy back from the Mulroneys at the end of their mandate the furniture and decorative items they brought to 24 Sussex Drive. The $150,000 bill — and in particular the $23,000 for the 50-place formal dinnerware set — fuels the column. He is criticized for his international farewell tour in 1993, at taxpayers' expense, which took him to Germany, Great Britain, Russia and France. He visited his friend François Mitterand in Paris, participated in a state dinner in Moscow given in his honor and even went wild boar hunting with Boris Yeltsin.

Even after the swearing in of his successor, Kim Campbell, Brian Mulroney will remain at 24 Sussex Drive because the renovations of his future Montreal home are not completed. Renovations which, according to rumors, were paid for in cash, writes journalist Stevie Cameron in her book On the Take, published in 1994. The work recounting what she calls out “corruption” and “greed” during the Mulroney years will become a best-selling book.

The Air Canada Affair

Because serious allegations weigh on Brian Mulroney. When in 1988, Air Canada, then a Crown corporation, purchased 34 Airbus aircraft at a cost of $1.8 billion (the largest contract in the history of civil aviation at the time), lobbyist Karlheinz Schreiber earns an $8.8 million commission from Airbus. Rumors have it that he then shared the windfall with conservative politicians who helped him influence Air Canada in the choice of its aircraft. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police opened an investigation that would last 14 years. In 1995, because of a letter sent by the Liberal government in Switzerland, we learned that Mr. Mulroney was the subject.

The former prime minister initiated a defamation suit, which was settled out of court in 1997 and resulted in the payment of $2.1 million in compensation. But here's the thing: During his pretrial interrogation by the government lawyer, Mr. Mulroney is asked about the nature of his relationship with Karlheinz Schreiber. To which he replies that it is “peripheral” and boils down to having “a cup of coffee”.

We know the rest. In 2003, we learned that Mr. Mulroney obtained envelopes filled with $1,000 bills from Mr. Schreiber on three occasions, in chic hotels in Montreal and New York. The amount paid was $300,000, according to the lobbyist; of $225,000, Mr. Mulroney will instead admit. Mr. Mulroney was still an MP when the first payment was made. The money was placed in safety deposit boxes at his home and in the United States and was not declared to the tax authorities until six years later.

The matter will be the subject of a highly publicized parliamentary committee study in 2007, during which Mr. Mulroney will appear for four hours. The parliamentarians will try to humiliate him, for example by asking him to show with his fingers the thickness of the envelopes received. There will then be a public inquiry led by Judge Jeffrey Oliphant.

Mr. Mulroney will not repay the $2.1 million he received in compensation. And we will never know exactly why he received money from Mr. Schreiber. To promote a pasta factory, as its spokesperson initially said ? For a mandate to represent Thyssen internationally with former leaders (all deceased at the time of the investigation), such as Mr. Mulroney later claimed this ? Justice Oliphant will accept this latest version, but will also conclude that the work was never done. And if the money did indeed come from a bank account called “Britan” in which Mr. Schreiber's bribes had been placed, the judge will accept Mr. Mulroney's thesis that he was unaware of it. , the provenance.

Nevertheless, the judge concluded in June 2010 that Mr. Mulroney had violated his own code of ethics and that his deliberate attempts to hide these transactions “were not acceptable”.

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116