This is from ctv. I am a little bit surprised that Harper acted. I thought he would continue stonewalling but I guess the affidavit filed by Schreiber made it difficult to continue as if everything would go away in time as people lose interest in the affair. It will be interesting to see how independent the person appointed by Harper to look into the issue will be.
PM announces probe into Schreiber allegations
Updated Fri. Nov. 9 2007 6:45 PM ET
CTV.ca News Staff
Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced a probe into allegations surrounding cash payments made to former prime minister Brian Mulroney and his actions while in office.
Harper, who had previously refused to investigate the matter, announced that he would be appointing an independent third party to look into business dealings between Mulroney and Karlheinz Schreiber.
The probe, he said, would decide whether action should be taken by the Prime Minister's Office.
"We can't ignore the allegation,'' he said at a press conference on Friday."We always have to protect the office of the prime minister.''
The review comes after an affidavit filed by Schreiber on Thursday implicated Mulroney in inappropriate business dealings while he was prime minister.
The Tories have been under pressure to investigate Mulroney's financial dealings following new details about $300,000 he allegedly received from Schreiber, who was tied to Airbus.
The affidavit also named Harper, claiming he and Mulroney met at Harrington Lake, Que., last summer to discuss the matter.
It is a claim Harper denied Friday.
"I was surprised to learn that my own name was mentioned in the affidavit," Harper said.
Harper said his family hosted the former prime minister but did not discuss Mulroney's dealings with Schreiber at the time.
Harper said the independent party will look into how serious the allegations made by Schreiber are, and whether -- if the allegations are true -- they had any impact on a settlement paid to Mulroney after he sued the government in the wake of past allegations.
In his sworn affidavit Thursday, Schreiber mentioned Harper for the first time, saying Mulroney suggested he write a letter for him to pass to Harper.
An excerpt from that affidavit reads:
"At the special request of Mr. Mulroney, I wrote a letter to him on July 20, 2006 suggesting to Mr. Mulroney that the public rhetoric regarding the sale of Airbus planes by Airbus Industries G.I.E. (the `Airbus Affair') and the conspiracy against me personally amounted to the largest political scandal in the history of Canada ...
"I wrote the July 20, 2006 letter at the request of Mr. Mulroney because he told me that he was going to meet with The Right Honourable Stephen Harper, the current Prime Minister of Canada, by the end of July, 2006 at Harrington Lake, and that he (Mr. Mulroney) was going to show that he and I were on good terms.''
Harper said on Friday that the probe was called not because his name was brought into question, but because for the first time there were real allegations, made under oath, suggesting inappropriate action by Mulroney while he was prime minister.
"That is a new development, and I think that we have to respond to this development," he said.
"I think it's interesting that Mr. Schreiber talked about a meeting where he was not in attendance."
Schreiber, a German-Canadian citizen, is currently in jail fighting extradition to Germany, where he would face charges of tax evasion, bribery and fraud.
Harper said the allegations stem from a personal "nasty litigation" between Mulroney and Schreiber, but as they stem from Mulroney's time in office they should be reviewed.
In 1997, Mulroney was paid $2.1 million in an out-of-court settlement after he sued the federal government.
The suit was over RCMP allegations in a letter that he was under investigation for a kickback scheme involving Air Canada's 1988 purchase of Airbus planes.
Schreiber is currently suing Mulroney for $300,000, an amount he says he paid Mulroney in hotel room dealings.
He also alleged that Mulroney's advisor Fred Doucet asked him to transfer funds to Mulroney's lawyer in Switzerland.
Harper said no Conservative member should have any dealings with Mulroney until after the inquiry is complete.
The Tories had been refusing to say whether any of their ministers have looked into the Airbus affair or cash payments made to Mulroney.
The Liberals say that by avoiding looking into the affair, Tories can claim ignorance on the file and avoid taking action against a former Conservative prime minister.
Harper said Friday the independent third party would "review what course of actions may be appropriate," and will recommend the most appropriate way to proceed.
He said he will name that person soon, likely next week.
Pat Martin, the NDP's privacy and ethics critic, said the announcement was made to buy time for the prime minister.
"Honestly, the public has demanded that we get to the bottom of this and not a delaying tactic of this independent third party," Marin said on CTV's Mike Duffy Live.
"Otherwise there will be a firestorm on the floor of the House of Commons on the first question period, and Harper needed something to be able to say."
The ex-prime minister has never been charged, and Schreiber's allegations have never been proven in court.
But Liberal MP Ralph Goodale said the allegations themselves have publicly smeared the office of prime minister.
"Those are issues that are profoundly troubling, and they go to the institution of the office of prime minister. And that really should be an office that is beyond question and above reproach," Liberal MP Ralph Goodale said on Mike Duffy Live.