Word on the street in Ottawa is that media expert, Barry McLoughlin has been burning the midnight oil prepping Mayor Larry O'Brien for the city's first trial of a senior municipal official in more than 100 years. (Trial of the Century?)
McLoughlin Media has a long relationship with Larry O'Brien and were responsible for developing image and media lines for the Mayor's successful election campaign in October 2006. Everyone remembers the now infamous "Zero Means Zero" slogan which got O'Brien elected and on which he's failed to deliver over three municipal budgets.
The 2006 election campaign is at the centre of the criminal charges of influence peddling against Mayor O'Brien and McLoughlin's media consultants were called-in as early as Tuesday last after the Mayor's less than noteworthy and impressive appearance, new wife in tow both dressed in funereal black, at the May 4 start of proceedings before Associate Chief Justice, Douglas Cunningam.
Of course the real show starts on Monday, May 11 when the Crown Prosecutor Scott Hutchison begins to outline the case against Larry O'Brien. I have noted before; some in high places hope that once the framework of the case and charges against the Mayor are outlined in public; he will choose to go for the "high-jump" and plead "no contest" rather than face his accusers. Even at this early stage the case appears inching ever closer to the highest office in the land. It's believed that one of the Crown's star witnesses is David Penner, who until recently was Director of Appointments in the Office of the Prime Minister. Until now, Penner's claim to fame was that he came-up with the candidates for the 16 Senate vacancies Prime Minister Harper hastily filled last December when his Government was in fear of imminent collapse. Senator Mike Duffy and others are doubtless grateful.
Oh Lord! - Would that the O'Brien case were the only one next week with connections to current or former Prime-Ministers. But Nay! - Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday the multi-million dollar Oliphant Inquiry into the relationship between Brian Mulroney and Karl Heinz Schreiber will hear from the focus of all the attention: Mr. Mulroney himself. Mr. Mulroney's testimony at a Commission of Inquiry is almost precedent setting. Since Confederation few former Prime-Ministers have ever been subpoenaed to testify at enquiries created by the Parliament they once ruled. In his now infamous "golf balls" testimony at the Gomery Commission, Jean Chretien, may have been the only other Prime Minister to face a subpoena of this nature in as many as 100 years.
The Mulroney imbroglio dates back to the 1988 purchase by Air Canada of more than 30 Airbus A-320 passenger jets. The former Prime-Minister as much as anyone else is responsible for keeping this sordid affair on the front burner for more than 20 years. It was he who accepted payments from Schreiber back in the early nineties and fudged the truth about them. Mr. Mulroney sued the Federal Government and won more than $2-million in damages over the Airbus allegations back in the late nineties. Now after appearing before a Parliamentary Committee a year ago, he's about to face the Oliphant inquisitors. Oliphant's "Terms Of Reference" forbid directly re-opening the Airbus Affair, but testimony so far into payments to Mr. Mulroney in the failed "Bear Head" light-armoured-vehicle contract has danced all over the commission payments of more than $20 million made to Schreiber in secret Swiss accounts over the Air Canada purchase. One thing has been made abundantly clear: Close friends of Mr. Mulroney - the late Frank Moores, and brothers Fred and Gerry Doucet - sure raked-in the big bucks for their lobbying efforts on "Bear Head" and in the purchase of those jet planes our national airline no longer uses.
As for Mr. Schreiber he seems to have bought himself a few more days' grace (weeks' ?) from falling into the grips of authorities in Europe. German police have been patiently waiting to collar Karl Heinz Schreiber for years over charges of fraud, tax evasion and bribery for those very same Airbus commission payments. The Minister of Justice ruled last year that he could remain in Canada to testify at the Oliphant Commission. With his personal testimony pretty much ended Schreiber figures the Harper Government will move to get him out of the country "pronto". Somewhat to the Commisoner's annoyance, Schreiber's legal counsel, Richard Auger, has given notice he may ask for an order to ensure Karl Heinz Schreiber will remain available, presumably in Canada, for any future proceedings. Justice Oliphant had little choice but to schedule legal arguments in the matter after Mulroney's testimony.
Oh God! The Schreiber fan club meets next in the phone booth at the corner of Smooch Avenue and Sleaze Boulevard.