Richard J. Brennan
OTTAWA—A chorus of voices is demanding former prime minister Brian Mulroney pay back the $2-million libel settlement he was awarded in 1997 in light of an inquiry that says he was less than forthright while testifying under oath.
“I think this money was acquired effectively through false pretenses, and Canadians feel it’s wrong,” Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff told reporters Tuesday.
“I think Mr. Mulroney’s let Canadians down, and I think (Prime Minister Stephen) Harper as a close friend, apparently confidante, should tell Mr. Mulroney to give the money back,” Ignatieff said.
Others say Mulroney should pay back the money with interest.
In his report on the Mulroney-Schreiber affair released Monday, Justice Jeffrey Oliphant said Mulroney had an obligation to tell the truth about his business dealings with German-Canadian arms dealer Karlheinz Schreiber, who gave him three envelopes stuffed with at least $225,000 cash for lobbying work that was never done.
“Mr. Mulroney was well aware when such disclosure was clearly called for,” Oliphant said.
When pressed during question period about whether the government is prepared to go after Mulroney for the money, Justice Minister Rob Nicholson was vague.
“The report is now with the appropriate authorities who will study it. And the government will respond to any recommendations in this area in due course,” said Nicholson.
While Oliphant’s extensive report does recommend ways this kind of conflict of interest can be avoided??, it does not specifically direct the government to seek to retrieve the money from the former prime minister.
“Of course Mr. Mulroney should have to pay back the money. It’s very clear from what emerged in that report that that’s what he should do, the legal fees as well,” NDP Leader Jack Layton told reporters, referring to the $1.8 million Canadians had to pay for Mulroney’s legal fees in the libel suit.
Layton and Ignatieff agreed moral suasion should be tried first. If that doesn’t work, then they say legal action should be investigated.