As lawyer Eddie Greenspan pointed out in the Hill Times recently, it would be foolish to forego the inquiry, because the House Ethics committee is not made up of trained lawyers. Lawyers have the skill set to get to the bottom of contradictory evidence. For example:
"If there was a safety deposit box, he had to go into it, and if he went into it, he had to sign in and sign out. So, you can put together the pattern and exact history of what happened," Mr. Greenspan said. "You would then get a lot closer to independently determining whether or not he ought to be believed or not believed."
Similar documentary evidence should also exist surrounding the voluntary tax disclosure Mr. Mulroney said he made in 1999, six years after he received the $225,000 in cash from Mr. Schreiber.
"If there's a voluntary disclosure, as Mr. Mulroney says there was, there's going to have to be a file at Revenue Canada," Mr. Greenspan said. "There's going to have to be documents back and forth at Revenue Canada. There's got to be a trail. Get it, and then that way you independently confirm what he's saying."
Don't forget that the Ethics committee hastily convened and called Karlheinz Schreiber because Prime Minister Harper was threatening to extradite Schreiber to Germany before he could give any testimony. If Harper now tries to cut off his promised public inquiry, the Ethics committee may need to adapt to get to the truth. They can use lawyers - if not directly, then in a preparatory way - and they can force Revenue Canada and others to give up privileged documents.
During his defamation suit against the government in the mid-90's, Mulroney claimed that he had never had any dealings with Schreiber. On the basis of that statement the government paid him $2.1 million and apologised. Last week Mulroney admitted to taking great wads of cash from Schreiber in the early 90's, but claimed he did nothing wrong. And Harper wants us to just take his word for it again. My answer is: No, no, no, no.
Make no mistake that it is Harper who is trying to kill the public inquiry, and he is doing so for purely partisan reasons. Recent polls have indicated that the majority of Canadians don't want an inquiry, but they have been fed a lot of horror stories about an inquiry being an expensive waste of time. The Hill Times reported,
NDP MP Joe Comartin (Windsor-Tecumseh, Ont.), who has been questioning Mr. Schreiber and Mr. Mulroney at the committee, said in an interview on Friday last week that the Conservative MPs on the committee have begun to signal that there is no need for an inquiry. He said he is concerned that the Conservatives on the committee, under tight centralized communications control from the Centre, are being told to make the suggestions by the Prime Minister's Office.
Conservative MP Russ Hiebert (South Surrey-White Rock-Cloverdale, B.C.) last week emerged from the committee meeting with Mr. Mulroney and read from a prepared statement, which said further committee hearings into the affair were not necessary because they amounted to a "partisan witch hunt." Mr. Hiebert said the views were his own, not scripted by the PMO, and were written during the committee meeting. But CP reporter Jennifer Ditchburn aptly pointed out that Mr. Hiebert read from computer-printed notes with bullets.