Monday, August 3, 2009

 

THE VERDICT

Back in early May students of the dark side of Ottawa politics salivated over two salacious simultaneous headline grabbing local court proceedings. (See: "WHEN EGOS OBFUSCATE", May 4, 09). - Who would have thunk their denouement would be simulcast?

After almost twenty years on Canadian soil, Karl Heinz Schreiber has been extradited to, and now jailed in Germany on charges of bribery and tax evasion stemming back as early as the 1980's. Several of the charges are related to pay-offs from Europe's aircraft manufacturer Airbus Industries, something most Canadians know too much (or too little) about. Although he has traded the safety and security of his Ottawa Rockcliff home for a German jail cell, I suspect that we have not heard the last of Mr. Schreiber.

Meantime I think that I will actually miss the rascal. Whatever the opinion, he was tenacious in his accusations that a former Prime Minister, Brian Mulroney, had been less than forthcoming about the truth of their relationship. It may have taken him twenty years of dogged and often misguided (if not misguiding) efforts, but we now know from Mr. Mulroney's own mouth that Schreiber had been right all along. Yet another blow against Mulroney's tattered reputation. We take little comfort from the fact that had it known earlier, the Government would probably not have been as forthcoming in forking-over $2-million in compensation to Mulroney for sullying his legacy over the so-called Airbus scandal.

As to the court's other matter: Astute observers of Ottawa's judicial scene (surely an oxymoron), believe that the city's Mayor, Larry O'Brien, will be exonerated on Wednesday when Ontario's Associate Chief Justice, Douglas Cunningham, delivers his much anticipated verdict on charges of influence peddling. O'Brien will walk away a free man...er...okay - In Larry's case he'll "swagger" away - because the Crown failed to convince "beyond a Shadow of a doubt" on the counts of criminal influence peddling. There is little doubt heading into the fall 2006 Mayoralty campaign that O'Brien tried his damned best to rid himself of the city's second "right of centre" candidate, Terry Kilrea. He eventually succeeded, but there is no smoking gun evidence that he did so in a criminal way. Fortunately for us all, our judicial system demands more than conjecture, misunderstandings, winks and nudges.

City leaders have in place contingency plans to replace Mr. O'Brien in the unlikely event that he is pronounced guilty on Wednesday and thereby stripped forever of holding elected political office in Ontario. Justice Cunningham has reached his conclusion and will in fact deliver the verdict one week earlier than first scheduled. Perhaps he too just wants to walk away from this imbroglio.

Down at City Hall, ironically just across the yard from the Courthouse, O'Brien's return will signal an all too familiar return of the conflict of inflated egos between the "left" and "right" of centre elected councillors some of whom already plan to run against and unseat O'Brien in the fall 2010 election, less than 14 months away. At its very best the municipal administration in the nation's capital is dysfunctional. Never any more than during Mayor O'Brien's tenure to the city's highest elected office.

The judicial verdict may exonerate Larry O'Brien on Wednesday. Though through his absence since the end of April, the knives at City Hall have clearly sharpened and the tumult of his first 2 1/2 years in office may foreshadow the misery that waits till electors post the final verdict in October of 2010.

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