Tag Archives: Trust

Brian Mulroney – Misunderstood and Persecuted?

Canada’s one-time Prime Minister Brian Mulroney is not stupid. He may be arrogant, slick and self-serving, but he’s not stupid. Like any professional lawyer/politician he’s all of those things and more, but not stupid. But is he clean?

After over a week of testifying in the Karlheinz Schreiber inquiry some of the Teflon that he has been wrapped in has become a little smudged. A light coating of mud seems to be sticking and the gist of his testimony reminds me of another national leader’s proclamation: “I am not a crook!”.

I met Mulroney when I lived in Whitehorse, Yukon. He came to speak there before he was elected Prime Minister and I was invited to go by a lawyer friend who also wanted me to become active in the Conservative party. I was impressed by what Mulroney said, how he said it and how he answered questions. I thought to myself that this guy’s really got what it takes. I’ll work for him and vote for him. Mea culpa.

Today I say this guy’s had it. At best he’s a very tarnished ex-Prime Minister. As elicited point by painful point by Mr. Wolson, the Oliphant inquiry’s counsel, if Brian Mulroney is not outright dishonest then he is the next legal thing to it.

“Smarmy” is probably a good description of his overall performance in the witness chair. While there are discrepancies in his testimony with others testifying and with the public record, it’s all history anyway, so what’s the big deal? I agree, but the money he received from Mr. Schreiber still intrigues me.

He received a total of $225,000 in cash in three brown envelopes, split among three occasions, in hotel room meetings with Mr. Schreiber. Then he stashed them away for six years out of sight in a safe and a safety deposit box. Why squirrel the money away and admit only under pressing circumstances that he received it? What’s the problem If everything was above board, clean and without fault?

Hmmmm….. Reminds me of other, earlier testimony by Mulroney. Wolson asked him why he had not mentioned the money then – it was pertinent to the line of that inquiry. Mulroney answered that the lawyer who did the examination had not asked the right question, so he was technically correct in not mentioning the money. Hmmm… again. What happened to the concept of “the whole truth and nothing but the truth”?

Ok, maybe it was all technically legal as Mulroney claims, but does that make it right for an ex-Prime Minister to get into a situation where he gets tarnished with a major whiff of scandal? Shouldn’t an ex-Prime Minister deport himself in a way that his actions are always not only legal but also above reproach? Maybe I expect too much. After all, he was a politician…

If you boil the money part of the Mulroney/Schreiber affair down to a few key points, then this is what remains:

1. ‘Way back when, Brian said he had hardly heard of Mr. Schreiber.
2. A little later in testimony on another, earlier occasion, he claimed that he never had business dealings with Mr. Schreiber.
3. Later yet, he admitted that he may have met Schreiber several times over a cup of coffee.
4. During the present inquiry it turns out that very shortly after he left public office he met Schreiber three times in anonymous hotel rooms, where Schreiber gave him a total of $225,000 in cash, bundled in brown envelopes. A bunch of thousand dollar bills, no less.
5. Mulroney then put this cash in his cottage safe and into a safe deposit box in New York and let it sit there for six years. Even in an ordinary savings account, he would have made a minimum of $50,000 in just five years. Invest it for a reasonable return of around 10% and that’s a whole different, several-hundred-thousand-dollar-ballgame. I guess he wasn’t interested in money….. Or was there more at stake?
6. Then, when he heard that Schreiber might raise a stink and claim that Mulroney evaded taxes, his lawyers hurried to make a deal with the taxman where Mulroney paid taxes on only half of the amount. The money finally came out of the closet six years after being paid.
7. He also sort of claims that he should have had to pay zero taxes on the amount because this was just a retainer and he did no work for it. Whether he did or didn’t do work for it, as well as exactly what that work might have been, is unclear. It is, however, completely clear that he must have given something in return. The only question is what.

So was Mulroney dirty and underhanded? We don’t know, and the hard evidence is missing. Would I trust him? Not likely. Would I hire him as my lawyer/advisor? Absolutely, if I had to wiggle out of something and had lots of money.

Am I sorry that I voted for him? Not really, because several good things happened under his administration. To name just a couple, he presided over the implementation of the NAFTA and he introduced the GST, a very sensible tax on consumption and not income.

My opinion of Brian Mulroney has certainly hit the cellar, but overall, my opinion of politicians has not changed. The profession attracts the slickest of the slick – did yesterday, does today, and probably always will. That’s politics and that’s Brian Mulroney.

© Copyright George Salmins 2009

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The Story of George Jr. and Benedict – Should We Trust and Respect Them?

There is an organization I know that considers their leaders to be “trusted servants”. Quaint? Idealistic? A little “churchy”? OK for the fringe but not for the mainstream? If that’s what you thought, you’re wrong: actually this is a very large and growing group spanning the continents, where the concept of a trusted servant in charge works exceptionally well. Don’t you wish that this were true of the governments and many organizations that purport to serve us?

So here are just a couple of the many questions that could be posed: how many “trusted servants” do you know in politics? In organized religions? And specifically, can you point out a few near the top of the pyramid?

True, there have been leaders over the years that demand respect. Most had faults but they all did what they thought was best for the society they were in and changed that society for the better: Gandhi, Mandela, Churchill, Lincoln and more.

Unfortunately there are many more on the opposite side of the divide. Most are somewhere in between – dogmatic and with personal axes to grind and their leadership often results in unnecessary pain and suffering. Pope Benedict XVI and the misspoken George Bush Jr. fit well into this crowd. Their influence has been huge and, if only for that reason, they stand near the top of my list of leaders undeserving of anything close to unreserved respect. President Ahmadinejad of Syria is, of course, another, but he lacks the huge audience and therefore influence of the other two. I shudder to think of the embarrassment if any one of them were a relative and asked to stay over at my house.

Now for a little digression where I want to draw a very unfair comparison – unfair to the dogs who have lived with us for many, many years. Our dogs have not only been always welcome in our house but they are family and sleep right in our bedroom. I respect their intelligence, their ability to learn, their communication skills, the fact that they have no bone to pick (lousy pun, I know) and do not have any ideologies or hidden agendas to shove down my throat. So yes, I value our dogs the way I value other family members. The Pope and George Jr. take a very distant back seat.

The reason I chose to pick on the current Pope and the recently ex-president is because these two were elected to two of the highest offices in the world, each with the power to affect the welfare of millions.
George, easily influenced by people like his daddy, Cheney and a motley crew of oil and arms related businessmen and politicians who depend on them, decided to show Saddam Hussein that George’s toys are bigger and better than Saddam’s. As a result the U.S. has sustained huge casualties, has legions of severely mutilated and damaged ex-military people in the population and has lost the respect of many nations and people of the world. Deficits soared under his regime, the economy got shoved aside, doubtful banking practices and even more doubtful securities proliferated under his watch and were probably the major reason for the economic collapse which all of us are now experiencing. Yea, George W.! What a guy! Really looked after everyone, didn’t he.

And Benedict? Actually there is one topic on which the Pope and George W. have both expressed public opinions – on opposite sides – AIDS.  And George was actually the good guy!

George W. was instrumental in starting the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), a plan which has resulted in millions of Africans receiving treatment and prevention from the disease. Definitely an unusual “A” for George.

What has the Pope done or said, referring to AIDS and the spread of HIV? I quote: “You can’t resolve it with the distribution of condoms. On the contrary, it increases the problem.” Go figure this comment by a “trusted” servant of humanity.

And then there was the case of the 9-year-old girl in Brazil who was abused and raped by her stepfather and became pregnant. The Church under Benedict XVI excommunicated the girl’s mother and the doctors who performed a life-saving abortion, all according to Brazil’s law. Not good enough for the Catholic Church, though, where dogma must rule.

But that’s not all, folks: on the very next day, on March 8—International Women’s Day—Pope Benedict stated, “Today’s date invites us to reflect on … our commitment that always and everywhere every woman can live and fully manifest her particular abilities, obtaining complete respect for her dignity.” There’s a word for that: hypocrisy and lip-service. To me it’s also very insulting to my intelligence, coming right after the excommunications.

Both probably think they are great men, but I look at them and see the Peter Principle in action. Both have risen way beyond their abilities. Both have shown abysmal judgment and lack of humanity in their words and actions.

How do you feel about our trusted servants now? Can you think of others? I can.

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