Smearing Mulroney - And The Companies He Serves

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National Post, Thursday, December 6, 2007

OTTAWA - A former national director of the Liberal party, one of the most respected figures in Ottawa's political class, was saying the other day that "incipient McCarthyism" was the most worrisome aspect of the Mulroney-Schreiber affair.

By way of illustration, consider Monday's question period, when the Liberals asked five consecutive questions concerning Brian Mulroney's corporate directorships, and whether those companies and their principals had benefitted from his connections with the present Conservative government. Every one of these questions was asked under the blanket of parliamentary immunity. Not one of them could be repeated outside the House of Common without triggering lawsuits from individuals and corporations concerned for their reputations.

For openers, there was Liberal MP Scott Brison asking about whether Quebecor Inc. obtained any inappropriate advantage in the government's decision to favour more competition, and new entrants, into the wireless spectrum auction.

Brison asked whether the Conservatives' previous industry minister, Maxime Bernier, "was shuffled out because he refused to give a billiondollar taxpayer gift to help out Brian Mulroney's company" (Mulroney is chairman of Quebecor World Inc.).

He added: "How could the minister say no to manufacturing, auto and forest workers, who are losing their jobs, and say yes to a billiondollar taxpayer gift to wealthy Canadian media families? Do you have to hire Brian Mulroney to set up meetings for you just to get some help from the government?"

And what is Quebecor? Only the largest newspaper group in Canada, the largest French-language television network in the country and the second-largest printing company in the world. The company is publicly traded but controlled by the Peladeau family, whose founding father, Pierre Peladeau, was one of the great Quebec business visionaries. His son, Pierre-Karl, has built a national company with international reach.

Who is Scott Brison to be slagging Quebecor and the Peladeaus? The same Scott Brison who sent e-mails after a Liberal Cabinet meeting to his friends on Bay Street assuring them they'd be happy with the Martin government's policy on income trusts. The same Scott Brison who, as a Progressive Conservative, went to Mulroney's home to seek his advice and accepted two major donations from Mulroney for his 2003 PC leadership campaign.

Then, John McCallum, the Liberal finance critic, asked about Mulroney's relationship with a Wall Street firm: "Mr. Speaker, Mr. Mulroney earned $100,000 a year for his work with the Blackstone Equity Group. Upon being named a director last June, he was given 10,000 deferred restricted common units of Blackstone, which became publicly traded last June. Blackstone is seen as a likely suitor for large-and mid-size Canadian telecom companies. Can the government tell the House if Mr. Mulroney or any agent working on his behalf made representations to the government on Blackstone's behalf ?"

This is called the drive-by smear. What is Blackstone? Only the largest private equity firm in the world. Its CEO, Steve Schwarzman, has been featured on the cover of Fortune as the king of Wall Street. And McCallum, as a former chief economist of Royal Bank, knows perfectly well the impropriety implied by his question.

Then, Liberal Marcel Proulx, noting that Mulroney was a director of Cendant Corporation and Trizec Properties, asked if Mulroney or any representative had been in touch "with the minister of public works, his parliamentary secretary or the Cabinet minister regarding Cendant Corporation or Trizec Properties, or any other transaction that could have been profitable for those businesses?" The insinuation was about government leases in office buildings. This just in: Barrick Gold sold Trizec a year ago, and Cendant has been broken up.

Moving right along, Liberal agricultural spokesman Wayne Easter wondered if the government's "obsession with destroying the Canadian Wheat Board will destroy farmer marketing power, but a fractured market of wheat and barley sellers will be a huge benefit and financial windfall for grain companies such as Archer Daniels Midland. Brian Mulroney serves on the board of ADM, and according to media reports, ADM pays him $200,000 a year in cash and options. He has shares worth about $3-million. Has Brian Mulroney or any representative had discussions with any minister?"

What is ADM? Only the largest company of its kind in the world. Its founder, Dwayne Andreas, is one of the most respected business leaders in America.

Finally, Liberal MP Maria Minna asked the following: "Brian Mulroney is on the board of Barrick Gold Corporation. According to media reports, Mr. Mulroney owns stock options in the company valued at US$3.7-million. Recently the prime minister added side trips to Chile and Tanzania to promote Barrick, despite the environmental and human rights controversies that dog the company internationally. Will the government release the details of any dealings the government has had with Mr. Mulroney or his representatives concerning Barrick?"

And what is Barrick? A Canadian world champion, the largest mining company in the world. The chairman, Peter Munk, is among the most generous philanthropists in Toronto.

What have any of these companies or their leaders done to deserve this? Nothing.

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