OTTAWA Former prime minister Brian Mulroney is preparing specific answers for MPs to all of the serious allegations against him, says his spokesman, in advance of what is expected to be a dramatic appearance before the House of Commons ethics committee Thursday.
Joseph Lavoie told The Globe and Mail yesterday that Mr. Mulroney is willingly and voluntarily appearing at the committee to provide clear responses. "Mr. Mulroney does take this very seriously, so I wouldn't expect him to be brushing off everything," Mr. Lavoie said.
"He does want these questions answered and he's going to do his part to make sure this gets done."
Carleton University professor Norman Hillmer, who co-authored a 1999 book ranking Mr. Mulroney as the country's eighth-best prime minister, said he could not recall any other prime minister being called back to Parliament to answer questions about a possible scandal.
"History was coming Mulroney's way. Now all of that is in question," Dr. Hillmer said. "Unless he can clear the air, his reputation is sullied for the foreseeable future. And those are very big stakes for a man who cares so deeply about his public reputation."
Direct answers to the handful of specific questions surrounding the $300,000 in cash payments he received from Karlheinz Schreiber in 1993 and 1994 would mark a new approach for Mr. Mulroney.
The former Progressive Conservative prime minister has been criticized of late for a series of public appearances in which he appeared to laugh off the allegations.
When asked by a reporter prior to the September release of his memoirs whether the book would discuss the cash payments, Mr. Mulroney said: "Buy a copy. Buy a copy."
But there was not a single mention of the German-Canadian in Mr. Mulroney's 1,121-page memoirs.
Mr. Mulroney later promised that his version of events on the Schreiber affair would come in a second book.
After Mr. Schreiber's affidavit triggered Prime Minister Stephen Harper to call a public inquiry, Mr. Mulroney remained coy in his public comments.
"I want to tell you tonight that I, Martin Brian Mulroney, 18th prime minister of Canada, will be there before the inquiry with bells on because I've done nothing wrong and I've got absolutely nothing to hide," he told a Toronto audience last month.
Panelists speaking yesterday on CTV's Question Period agreed that Mr. Mulroney must provide answers Thursday to the details surrounding the $300,000 cash payments and his relationship with Mr. Schreiber.
William Kaplan, a Toronto lawyer and author who has written about the cash payments, told CTV the most important questions for Mr. Mulroney are why he accepted the money, under what conditions, and why he did not disclose them when testifying under oath in 1996 as part of his lawsuit against Ottawa.
"Mr. Mulroney sued the government of Canada for $50-million for saying that he'd taken cash from Schreiber, when in fact he'd taken cash from Schreiber. So what was he thinking there?" Mr. Kaplan asked.
Mr. Mulroney's spokesman, Mr. Lavoie, said the 1996 lawsuit transcripts clearly show the former prime minister was answering about a specific point in time.
Mr. Mulroney testified under oath that, "When [Mr. Schreiber] was going through Montreal, he would give me a call. We would have a cup of coffee, I think, once or twice."
Mr. Kaplan said Mr. Mulroney should also be asked about the $100,000 cash payment he received in New York and whether he brought that money back into Canada undeclared.
The author said Mr. Mulroney will also have to explain why he did not declare the cash payments as income in the years he received them.