Ghosts of Mulroney cronies past: Liveblogging Luc Lavoie and Elmer MacKay at the Oliphant inquiry - Macleans.ca

Ghosts of Mulroney cronies past: Liveblogging Luc Lavoie and Elmer MacKay at the Oliphant inquiry

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Right, so … this should be interesting: Former Mulroney spokesman Luc Lavoie takes the stand this morning to discuss the downright Shakespearean deterioration of relations between his ex-boss and the dapper German arms dealer who Lavoie once famously described as “the biggest [f’ing] liar the world has ever seen”. Who will, of course, almost certainly be glaring away at the witness from the other side of the room. Hopefully there won’t be another awkward Schreiber-on-witness confrontation following his testimony. This afternoon, meanwhile, the one and only Elmer MacKay is slated to make a virtual appearance by webcam, where he may be able to tie up a few of those loose ends surrounding the fate of the Bear Head project.

9:16:11 AM
Good morning, Oliphantiacs! Are we all looking forward to hearing from Luc Lavoie? Because he seems to be *more* than ready for his moment in the spotlight from what ITQ can see; unlike most witnesses, who head straight for the table, he’s been gladhanding his way through the media and lawyer encampments, sporting a sky blue tie and a smile. This is going to be *fun*.

9:29:07 AM
And – here we go, in French for the first time thus far, at least as far as ITQ’s liveblogging experience so far. The witness is sworn in, and the obligatory tabling-of-evidence goes on before — oh, a new commission counsel at the lectern today. Is that Battista? I think it is.

Anyway, he does the usual rundown with the witness — Luc Lavoie, This Is Your Life — starting with his forays into journalism, and then to the dark side, and — okay, this is going to be annoying: There is only one simultaneous interpreter doing both questions and answers, which tends to lead to confusion even during less potentially complex and complicated exchanges.

9:33:39 AM
Lavoie goes into a little more detail about his years as a prime ministerial hack-of-all-trades for the then-PM, from organizing conferences to managing PMO operations, as well as intervening “on an ad hoc basis” on certain files. Like when, the lawyer asks. Oh, you know, when a file isn’t moving swiftly enough, or if caucus or cabinet committees need to be reminded that time is of the essence.

He was not, however, involved in the Bear Head project at the time — he’d heard about it at the Operations committee, but didn’t pay much attention — “honestly”. He didn’t know Schreiber when he was at PMO, but he *did* know Doucet, who he met when he was still a journalist, and Doucet was staff-chiefing for that ambitious young newly elected opposition leader who woud one day take power. Other than the half hour or so after QP, the PM’s schedule was very formal and scheduled, Lavoie notes — but he did have that one block of time that was basically a free for all for hastily arranged meetings, handshakes and other events arranged by his *other* staffers.

9:41:25 AM
More timelining of the Mulroney-Lavoie relationship – both pre- and post-retirement, including his briefly becoming the “face” of the last iteration of Team Mulroney during his defamation case against the then-Liberal government. Lavoie points out that he first got to know the former prime minister as a journalist, not a flack or fixer — he covered the leadership race, he was on the campaign plane, but he didn’t see him “socially” — they weren’t, at that point, “friends”. When he *did* start to spend time with Mulroney in his post-journalistic capacity, he came to appreciate him highly — and, he notes, his opinion on that hasn’t changed.

It never fails to amaze me how many chiefs of staff — well, and before that, principal secretaries — Mulroney went through during his tenure.

9:47:40 AM
Although Lavoie continued to act as spokesperson up until December 2007, he didn’t receive a cent in compensation after — 2000, I think? He acted “freely”, out of fondness for the man he’d served for so many years. Battista then reads an excerpt from a Philip Mathias story, circa 2000, in which Lavoie — on Mulroney’s behalf — urged Schreiber to release the details of his Swiss bank accounts; he – Lavoie – also that fateful conversation with the CBC’s Harvey Cashore, sometime around Thanksgiving 1999, after Mulroney alerted him to a request from Cashore for an interview to discuss “new information” that had come to light.

Cashore, Lavoie notes, wanted to speak directly with the former prime minister, but this “was not an option”, so he offered to act as go-between, and that’s pretty much what happened; he would get the questions from CBC and then bring them back to Mulroney, and return with the answers, such as Mulroney provided.

Did Mulroney tell him about the secret bank account? No, he didn’t, Lavoie tells the inquiry: *he* was the one who told Mulroney about the “new approach” by CBC. “I’m trying to be polite,” Lavoie confesses, at least as far as the fifth estate’s agenda. Wonder how long *that* will last.

And – there’s the infamous quote – the one that isn’t suitable for a family-friendly liveblog – read out loud by Battista, who invites Lavoie to provide a little context for that diatribe. Schreiber, by the way, is staring daggers across the inquiry room — he hasn’t taken his eyes off Lavoie yet.

10:03:39 AM
Well, that got thrilling in a hurry — Lavoie just laid out the foundation of the Schreiber-as-thieving-con-artist theory for the inquiry, although in a deliberately abstract way, pointing out that he had asked the commission counsel, during his pre-appearance witness, if he would have the same immunity as he would before parliamentary committee, and was told that he would not. Huh. That’s odd. I’m assuming he means against a subsequent defamation suit, but still — I actually *did* think that inquiry witnesses had a certain degree of privilege.

Lavoie, meanwhile, calls the very notion of secret bank accounts stuffed by kickbacks “pure fiction”, and seems to be almost *daring* Battista to challenge his assertion.

10:05:01 AM
Battista turns his questions to the somewhat trickier business of those envelopes that the former prime minister received from Schreiber, and the money that Mulroney had received as part of his “commercial work” as an advisor. This was an advance, for services to be provided in the future? Yes — a “retainer”, according to Lavoie — just like he got from various clients during his years as a public relations executive. At the time, Lavoie notes, he was actually being sued for an enormous sum of money by none other than “the charming Mr. Schreiber”.

10:09:09 AM
There was, Battista notes, a “cooling” of the relationship between Mulroney and Lavoie — Lavoie, incidentally, seems distinctly unenthusiastic about this line of questioning, wondering whether it’s actually “relevant”. It is, according to Battista, who notes that he found out about the payments a few months before William Kaplan, and according to Kaplan’s notes, that he was “quite pissed off” — Kaplan’s words, not mine or Lavoie’s — but didn’t take it personally. Lavoie grudgingly admits that it’s an accurate account of his conversation with Kaplan, but definitely seems uncomfortable.

Oh, and he actually suggested that Mulroney be the first to go public on the existence of the payments — I nearly typed “cheques” there; that really would have made it so much less fifth-estate-trademark-ominous-background-music-friendly — and discussed various potential formats for doing so; a press conference, an open letter, an op-ed, you name it. Mulroney didn’t seem opposed to the idea — he was “interested”, according to Lavoie  — but they never got the chance to follow through. Meanwhile, however, journalists were starting to call, which is why he believed that Mulroney should make his move before the story came out. Which it almost inevitably would.

10:17:17 AM
It wasn’t so much the journalists “circling”, Lavoie notes – it was that *some* of those journalists had a source whose behaviour was — just not quite conducive to — Lavoie obviously wants to break out his timeless phrase to describe the “charming businessman” who had recently wound up in jail. “Some of his statements horrified me,” Lavoie recalls — when faced with such an “evil being”, he’s usually a bit more prudent.

Wow, Lavoie really, really, really isn’t a fan of his former boss’s former business partner, is he? You can see why he might have been somewhat thrown askance by the revelation that money had indeed changed hands between the two men, even if it *was* for entirely above board consulting – a contract of a sort that was “quite common” in our society.

Oh, and it will likely come as no surprise to learn that Lavoie is still deeply steamed by the original Airbus kickback allegations, and – oh, there’s the obligatory slam of Stevie Cameron, the “informant” who had spent so much of her career “attacking” the former prime minister, as well as Cashore. These were people who were “completely obsessed” with the notion that someday, they would “catch” Mulroney.

10:24:44 AM
Hey, look: a surprise special guest appearance by — Frank Magazine, which was the first publication to write about the payments; Lavoie, it transpires, did inform Mulroney of the news — “he didn’t read Frank”. It wasn’t long, however, before a “large, national daily” — the Globe, in this case — was publishing a series of articles on the payments, and “the secret trial” – and up-until-then even more secret payments,

Confronted by yet more Kaplan-written notes, Lavoie admits that he doesn’t recall it — although he doesn’t want to be mistaken with “one of those amnesiacs” — but he doesn’t deny that it took place; according to those notes, Kaplan was, to put it mildly, dismayed to learn of the existence payments.

10:37:04 AM
More trips down media memory lane – this time, Lavoie’s attempt to act as Mulroney’s metatron after reports of the payments had gone public, which Lavoie claimed Mulroney saw as a “colossal mistake” and “the silliest thing he’d ever done in his life”.

Lavoie is rubbing his chin somewhat intently, but doesn’t seem to have an answer for the question being posed by Battista, which is why he stated and restated the claim that the former PM had only gotten $100,000. Eventually, when the full details were know, Lavoie came out swinging against – of course – the fifth estate and CBC, and was adamant that the payments – now logged into the public record at the full $300,000 – had nothing whatsoever to do with Airbus, or anything else remotely unseemly. So there.

10:43:19 AM
More past quotes from Lavoie — gosh, this really has to be every pr flack’s worst nightmare; having to sit there under oath while someone reads back all the lines they’ve ever spun, from the vaguely overarching to the categorical.

Luckily for Lavoie, however, it’s time for the midmorning break — and then Battista will finish up with him, followed by whichever of the other lawyers want to take a crack at him. See you in fifteen!

10:54:06 AM
So, what have we learned so far? Well, other than the obvious – that there is no love lost between Luc Lavoie and the “charming businessman” — that the witness can do an admirable job of giving every impression that he regrets none of those retroactively maybe a teeny bit embarrassing media lines about how there was “no money”, but still believes that a press conference to get ahead of the story by scooping the nefarious CBC might have shut the whole circus down before the first dog on horseback cantered into the ring. Colour ITQ a wee bit sceptical on *that* point: Honestly, does anyone think that there was a graceful, dignified and low-key way for a former prime minister to pop up and confess that actually, there *was* money changing hands — cash money, at that, in a series of sumptuous hotel rooms and less so airport bars? Because I think that would still have landed above the fold, as they say.

11:00:28 AM
I’m surprised that Wolson wasn’t tapped to question Lavoie, although I guess that, too, is a language issue. When it comes to cross examining a witness, you really need that back and forth to be as direct as possible, not filtered through interpreters, no matter how scrupulously accurate the translation may be.

11:05:02 AM
We’re still waiting for the judge to return, and the witness is back in his seat, alternately poring over his BlackBerry or surveying the crowd, teeth not quite, but very nearly bared in a tight little grin.

11:11:14 AM
And – we’re back; ooh, and apparently, we have a Mulroney-related motion on the agenda for tomorrow — something about his eventual appearance before the inquiry, which will, it seems, putatively take place sometime in the not all that distant future, but that’s as much detail as we’re going to get now, apparently.

Back to that lengthy Lavoie email – which was, it seems, sent to Toronto Star reporter Bruce Campion Smith, in which the witness suggested that the reporter look at Schreiber’s statement of claim in his suit against Mulroney, in which Schreiber averred that the money was for consultancy services on a variety of issues, including “opening a chain of pasta restaurants in North America.” Wait, that wasn’t the infamous pasta business pitch, was it?

11:17:31 AM
Asked to comment on Mulroney’s immediate post-publicoffice cashflow difficulties, as originally described in his memoirs, Lavoie goes off on a brief tangent of apologia on the difficulty in going back to private life: it’s a shock, he says, for a former prime minister to discover that “the phones don’t ring anymore”. You suffer from anxiety and stress — not just his former boss, but others as well have experienced this. When you wake up without an entire logistical team dedicated to running your day, without staff or even a driver — it’s tough. Mulroney was used to living life “at 250 miles an hour” — seven days a week. As for the Mulroney memoirs, he notes, he was working from the draft report, not the edited version.

11:22:23 AM
Why did Lavoie feel the need to comment on the cash issue, Battista wonders. Because, as per Lavoie, it gave the necessary context to understand why Mulroney might have accepted Schreiber’s office.

11:23:32 AM
That’s it for Battista, as it turns out — it’s now Team Mulroney’s turn at the microphone, with Grandchamp – spelling may be wonky – taking the lead. There’s a short, spontaneous appreciation for Oliphant’s French comprehension skills — he doesn’t need to rely on the interpretation — and a few more documents put on the court record, and then Grandchamp kicks off his questions by asking for more details on his years as a paid spokesperson for Mulroney.

11:27:27 AM
Lavoie explains that he had to step back from his spokesman duties in December 2007, mostly because of the amount of time that was suddenly involved, and he felt he wasn’t able to provide the level of service that Mulroney suddenly required.

11:29:47 AM
Back to the Lavoie-Kaplan encounter, and Grandchamp gets Lavoie to confirm that Mulroney *never* asked him to *deny* the existence of the payments; Lavoie is still a bit fuzzy on the specifics of the 2002 conversation with Kaplan, which turns out to be an excellent vehicle for Grandchamp to repeat some of the more helpful comments that Lavoie made to the reporter, as far as Team Mulroney’s version of events.

11:34:36 AM
Luc Lavoie is glaring at the audience again. I can’t figure out if he has one particular target — other than the most obvious one, that is, who nevertheless doesn’t seem to be his focal point — or if he just likes to remind all and sundry that someone with whom it would be distinctly ill-advised to mess, and don’t even think about scrumming him after his appearance.

Grandchamp now reads a long excerpt from yet another news story, starring Lavoie as “a confidante” of the former prime minister, particularly vis a vis the possibility that there may have been a relationship between the two men before Mulroney had left office, which inspires yet another anti-Stevie Cameron rant from Lavoie, who dismisses her as an “incompetent journalist” who, even so, seems to have somehow orchestrated the events that led to that outrageous letter being sent to the Swiss authorities.

11:41:53 AM
Grandchamp then throws Lavoie a sufficiently open-ended question to allow him to clear up the matter of the *amount* — which Lavoie variously over and understated on a number of occasions; Lavoie confirms that he never asked for the exact sum, but Mulroney eventually told him that it was $220,000 during a “brief conversation” the two men had while being driven to the launch of Mulroney’s memoirs.

11:45:37 AM
Back to the Campion Smith email, which Lavoie dispatched in response to a voicemailed request, while holidaying in Paris with his daughter, just after the latest installment of the CBC “soap opera” on the affair, and without consulting with Mulroney. Apparently, Lavoie believed that Smith, a relative newcomer to the Schreiber/Mulroney saga, was somewhat confused by the timeline, and might not have been aware of all the details.

11:49:09 AM
Francois Grondin! That’s the correct spelling of the name of the Team Mulroney lawyer currently at the lectern.

Meanwhile, Lavoie is musing over the nature of “lobbying”, as an activity, as compared to “consulting” and the ever popular “staying aware of a file”. The idea of Mulroney “lobbying” Chretien seemed ridiculous to him, Lavoie tells the inquiry.

And — wow, not one of the other party counsels has any additional questions for Lavoie; Battista, however, has one or two short ones as part of redirect. He wants to know a little more about that discussion between Lavoie and Mulroney on the exact amount — Lavoie confirms what he told Grondin, which gives Battista an opening to wonder why, exactly, the former prime minister didn’t set him straight on the number before that day. Lavoie had, after all, been dealing with the CBC and other media outlets: Was he ever told to correct what was circulating, he wonders. This sparks an objection – gosh, we almost never get those – from Team Mulroney, yet another lawyer for which all-but-chides Battista for not giving Lavoie leeway to provide context in response to that ostensibly simple question. The judge shushes everyone and tells Lavoie to answer the question, which leads to — wow, the most vitriolic rant yet against the “crusade of destruction” by those feckless rumourmongers of the media. Even if he had *tried* to correct the record, “they could have used that to shoot us in the head again,” he thunders. So, that’s a no, inquires the entirely unmoved Battista. No. No, he didn’t.

12:00:26 PM
Had Mulroney *told* him to make a correction, Lavoie insists, it would have resulted in another front page story the next day. He also has an anecdote for us – oh boy, it’s apparently one of his favourites, and he uses it all the time — about a delegation of MPs who travelled to France following the election of the PQ, which led to a story about one of those MPs being “so frustrated” that he blew his nose in the curtains at the Lycee. The next day? The same paper had a banner headline clarifying that the MP used a napkin.

Wait, I don’t think I got that.

Anyway, he told Mulroney to “let it go” — after, that is, he was informed that there was something to let go *of*, mind you, since he didn’t know about the disparity until 2007 — and his client took the advice.

12:05:01 PM
With one last scathing aside over the “witch hunt”, Lavoie is released — as are the rest of us, but only until 1:30, when the Elmer MacKay Show hits the airwaves.

So — I’ll see you then!

1:20:44 PM
Ooh, it turns out that despite the fact that this afternoon’s witness will be making his appearance by videoconference, we won’t have to  spend the next few hours squinting at one of the two TVs stationed the front of the room; thanks to the miracle of image projection technology, a considerably larger than lifesized Elmer MacKay will be beamed, Star Trek-style, onto a makeshift wall screen. A few minutes ago, we got to watch local techs testing the two-way feed, but the camera is now zoomed in on a placeholder sign reading HALIFAX. No sign of the witness yet, but I’ll keep you posted.

I wonder if it’s trickier to question pixels than a flesh and blood human.

1:35:05 PM
Update! Update! We now have a tentative date for the much-anticipated Mulroney appearance! He’ll be up on Monday — yes, just a week away! — and will probably be on the stand for most of the week. Ooh! Exciting!

1:36:40 PM
And on that note, here’s Elmer MacKay, standing somewhat awkwardly behind what turns out to be a lectern with a HALIFAX sign on the front. The judge seemed as nonplussed as the rest of us at the fact that MacKay is *standing* — not sitting, that is — and offers him the option of taking a seat, but Elmer, it seems, prefers to stand.

1:39:04 PM
I win the bet! Well, if I’d actually turned our idle lunch hour musings over which counsel would take on MacKay into a wager — I suspected that Roitenberg would take the lead, as he tends to be the inquiry counsel’s go-to guy when the questions are likely to go into deep dark technical details on the Bear Head procurement efforts.

1:41:23 PM
MacKay gets the usual introductory questions on his resume and professional/political career, which turns into a perfect segue for Roitenberg, who notes that MacKay was not only the minister responsible for ACOA, but was a supporter of the Bear Head project from the start — and may still be, for all ITQ knows. Even so, he wasn’t aware that the signing of that fateful 1988 Understanding in Principle triggered payments totalling hundreds of thousand dollars to various parties — Doucet, Moores, etc. He didn’t learn *that* little tidbit until “a courtcase in Toronto”.

I can’t believe he’s going to stay on his feet for the duration of his appearance.

1:46:11 PM
Back to early 1989, and the memo laying out the plan to award the sole source contract to General Motors, which, Roitenberg notes, would have signaled profound implications for the Thyssen proposal, particularly since it meant there likely wouldn’t be a separate contract for the light armour vehicles. There were difficulties on the horizon, to put it mildly, Roitenberg avers, and MacKay concurs.

1:48:42 PM
Asked when he first became acquainted with Schreiber, MacKay confesses that he can’t quite put a date on it, although it was *after* Mulroney had become prime minister.

Roitenberg notes that MacKay agreed to do a pre-appearance interview by phone earlier this year; unfortunately, the witness didn’t bring his copy of the ensuing summary with him, so Roitenberg does a nondramatic reading: MacKay first become aware of the project when he heard about it from Sinclair Stevens, but Schreiber was soon in contact with the minister, wringing his hands over the hamstringing that was going on with the procurement process, and asking whether MacKay would be willing to bring the matter to the then-prime minister on his behalf.

“Would it be fair,” Roitenberg wonders, to say that MacKay and Schreiber began as acquaintences, but became friends? Yes, that sounds fair to MacKay. He – MacKay – calls Schreiber an “entrepreneur par excellence”, and recalls that he had bought into the company that was going to invest in pasta machines, and a chain of pasta restaurants, but he still doesn’t consider Schreiber to be a business associate. They were friends. This was all in the late 90s, right around the same time that Schreiber “found himself in some difficulties in Switzerland”, which prompted MacKay to fly there and back with Schreiber in tow. He also acted as surety when Schreiber ran into still more unspecified difficulties in Canada.

1:57:43 PM
While all this was going on, MacKay was also, of course, still friends with Brian Mulroney, the man for whom he had once stepped down as an MP to allow Mulroney to win his seat. Somehow, he has managed to stay friends with both parties, even after their relationship “deteriorated”. He also takes the blame for putting himself in the middle of the feud — that was his fault, he says.

1:59:56 PM
I’m not sure what it is – maybe the jaunty blue suit, maybe just the word HALIFAX – but at the moment, MacKay really looks like he should be behind the wheel of a yacht.

2:01:20 PM
MacKay maintains that he has no recollection of being asked to make a call on anyone’s behalf, as per a Mathas story, but he does confirm that Mulroney *may* have “mused” about setting up a meeting with Schreiber.

2:02:42 PM
Ah, the infamous outline – according to Schreiber, MacKay’s suggestion for the wording of a letter to Mulroney that could perhaps alleviate the growing tensions between the two men. MacKay denies outright the suggestion that Mulroney requested the letter, although he notes that Mulroney had at that point come to the conclusion that he couldn’t do anything to help Schreiber — not after those interviews, and that CBC report, and what Schreiber had said on television.

The facts, as set out in the letter, came from Schreiber, and MacKay felt that his proposed letter conveyed not only Schreiber’s feelings, but to some extent, his own as well.

2:07:58 PM
Schreiber, unsurprisingly, is transfixed by the sadly not holographic Elmer MacKay on the wall as the witness witness obediently goes through the draft letter, line by line. He denies, however, telling Schreiber anything about planned – or past – meetings between Mulroney and Stephen Harper, despite his claims to that effect — although he *may* have confirmed to Schreiber that Mulroney had gotten *a* letter from Schreiber.

2:12:47 PM
Roitenberg wonders whether MacKay suggested to Fred Doucet that he invite Schreiber over for a Christmas-y social visit; although it *may* have happened, he has no recollection of making such a pitch.

2:14:29 PM
And now, back to January 1990, and the Bear Head project, and that infamous memo that urged ACOA  – of which MacKay was at that point minister – to let Thyssen know that the company should basically give up on the military project and switch to environmental technologies. The document also included a draft of the Thyssen lawyer, and a personal note to MacKay exhorting him to bring the matter to the PM’s attention.

2:17:55 PM
A remarkably candid explanation from MacKay on the various reasons why the Bear Head file was so “unique”, most of which have been dissected in detail during these hearings — particularly the interdepartmental wrangling over the LAVs, and the apparent refusal of Defence to agree to buy the vehicles. Even within the military, there were conflicting opinions, according to MacKay, although he’s reluctant to into details on exactly who was on what side.

2:24:41 PM
As MacKay sees it, Thyssen was *strongly encouraged* to bring manufacturing business to Canada — not just military, although admittedly, that represented the biggest cunk — which is backed up by the next document brought out by Roitenberg: minutes from a January 22, 1990 meeting of the Operations committee, at which the suggestion again arose for MacKay to get in touch with Thyssen directly.

Is anyone else enjoying the fact that we’re getting all sorts of juicy cabinet confidences years before they would otherwise be released?

2:28:53 PM
Note-passing and midnight calls from MacKay to then-PCO clerk Paul Tellier — who appears tomorrow, I think — on his fears that Thyssen would pull up stakes – well, theoretical stakes – from Nova Scotia to the United States unless Schreiber was given a “letter of comfort”. Although MacKay seems to find the idea of a latenight chat with Tellier to be implausible — he just wasn’t that kind of guy, apparetly — he doesn’t seem to quibble much with the idea that he was the Bear Head project’s Man in Cabinet. “I don’t recall it, but it’s entirely possible,” he says of yet another depiction of his continual pro-Bear Head agitation.

2:35:03 PM
I wonder how much of the inquiry room MacKay can see from there. Or is Roitenberg – and anyone else who pops up, for that matter – just a polite, if disembodied voice from somewhere in the ether?

MacKay, meanwhile, looks inscrutable as he listens to Roitenberg read from yet another memo, this that attributes to him the opinion that Defence officials were being “muzzled”.

Meanwhile, there was also a letter of discomfort from Bombardier, of all parties, making claims of some sort of procurement “sabotage” by Schreiber against the company with the German government — sort of playing the two against each other — which doesn’t seem to come as much of a surprise to MacKay, who praises Schreiber’s “resourcefulness” in pitching his projects. That would not, however, extend to aiding and abeting an alleged attempt by Schreiber to scupper a German business opportunity for a ‘fine Canadian company’ like Bombardier.

Huh. Curiouser and curiouser. Did we know about this twist beforehand?

2:44:17 PM
And — oh, darn. Right at what is, at least from ITQ’s perspective, a fairly thrilling moment, it’s time for the afternoon break. See you in fifteen minutes!

2:52:27 PM
Update to the last update: Mulroney will take the stand on *Tuesday*, not Monday as previously reported. Apparently they’re not going to sit on Monday; presumably, the midnight oil wll be burning through the weekend in Legal Counsel Village.

2:57:18 PM
Hah! Elmer MacKay *does* have a chair stashed away behind the HALIFAX sign! He’s using it right now, in fact, which makes me think that the insistence on standing throughout the questioning is his way of asserting a teeny bit of control over the proceedings. I’ll say this, tho – general consensus amongst the assembled media masses is that so far, he’s acquitting himself very well, as far as maintaining credibility, which – after watching him at Ethics, is pretty much what I expected. Oh, and he’s also laying the foundation for what could be a very enlightening session with Paul Tellier tomorrow. Tellier *and* Lowell Murray – it’s like a Bear Head backer reunion!

3:04:35 PM
And we’re back – again. The witness is on his feet, and – oh, it seems that MacKay has something to say: He thanks the inquiry for allowing him to testify remotely while recovering from surgery. No bother, really, Oliphant assures him before handing the floor back over to Roitenberg, who asks MacKay if he’s aware of any thoughts or reflections that Tellier may have shared with the then-PM after the initial memo.

MacKay doesn’t seem to have any insight as far as that goes, but that’s okay — turns out there is yet another memo from Tellier, this one to Mulroney, in which he related the highlights of a meeting he had with MacKay and Schreiber, which once again noted that Thyssen had not yet provided a business plan for the project. Was there some frustration on the part of ACOA, Roitenberg wonders, at Thyssen’s apparent reluctance to “get on with it” and give the government the information that it needed? Maybe a little, MacKay allows, although Schreiber had assured him it wasn’t actually necessary, since there was so little money being requested.

3:11:07 PM
Soon after the memo came out, MacKay apparently sought a meeting with the PM — something he did often enough to perhaps “test his patience,” MacKay admits — but it isn’t clear if that actually happened; what did, however, was the Spector-convened gathering of the bickerers in November 1990, at which the whole thing was supposed to be thrashed out by the various ministers engaged in intracabinet battle over the project.  At *that* meeting, Spector proposed that everyone – ACOA, Defence, PCO, etc – come together and put together a “cooperative” document listing the pros and cons of the project; ACOA, however, was suspected of plotting an end run around the Spector prospective, and angling to take the matter directly to the PM.

3:15:59 PM
Oh, once again, the acronyms of Ottawa rear their fiendishly obscure collective head; the trickiest one – which not even MacKay gets right away – is SSC, prompting the entire row of reporters to hiss “Supply and Services Canada!” just as though we were talking back to the TV during a particularly lively gameshow.

Anyway, MacKay cheerfully confesses to being a Bear Head booster – no apologies,  no regrets – but can’t shed much details on the cost projection itself, which – if y’all will recall from last week’s hearing, was so unambiguous in its statement of the amount of money that would be required — $765 million — that it was enough to convince Spector that the project was doomed.

MacKay, however, muses that he is “filled with ironic thoughts” over this particular projection, since it seemed to him that the amount was being vastly overstated — but even at that number, it wouldn’t involve much more money than the helicopter replacement bid, which was cancelled midway through and resulted in no helicopters at all. He cops to having been “querelous” – but once again seems to sticking with his support of Bear Head, then, now and forever.

3:22:48 PM
Even after recosting the entire project at ACOA’s insistence, Roitenberg points out, it would still cost at least $500 million in what even MacKay admits was a “damning indictment” of the project by Tellier. Well, yes.

3:26:24 PM
More memo-reading by Roitenberg — really, he is definitely giving this one every dramatic flair — on the vice-president of ACOA’s mea procurement culpa on Bear Head, in light of the vast array of factors against the project — financial, logistical, political — to which MacKay reacts by pointing to the very next sentence in the document, which begins with the word “notwithstanding”. He’s not backing down — not even after all this. He and Roitenberg banter back and forth about the project — yes, the Bear Head battle rageth on, in inquiry form — but Roitenberg’s point seems to be that even with the deck stacking up against the project, MacKay fought onwards, taking his plea directly to the PM.

You know, I’ve honestly lost track of exactly which, if any party, will be helped by MacKay’s still passionate defence of the Bear Head project. It doesn’t hurt Schreiber, but what about the version of events that Mulroney will be putting forward next week?

3:32:14 PM
It transpires – or, at least, Roitenberg puts forward the notion that it transpired – that MacKay was made aware that there was an “alternative route” to the process that Thyssen might be able to take — an alternative to the Operations committe, that is, “a channel different than the ordinary channels.” MacKay seems genuinely baffled — he just doesn’t know what that route would be, other than it going before cabinet. “Maybe the answer lies in the next paragraph,” Oliphant suggests — which refers to the potential involvement of the finance minister, Michael Wilson. “This particular initiative was hard to terminate,” MacKay notes, in what will probably win as the understatement of the day (as for TieWatch, Lavoie took *that* one easily). He denies having made any proposal that would have ostensibly have absolved the taxpayer – just not possible – and rather charmingly admits that he may be just being obstinate or “stupid”, but he still doesn’t see why Defence “heaped” such high theoretical costs on the proposal.

3:40:57 PM
More document shuffleage eventually results in the Defence memo from November 1990, and oh, of course – if the project really *was* dead, and Mulroney knew it but both Schreiber and MacKay thought there was a spark of life in the old girl yet, it would raise questions as to just why the eventually former prime minister would agree to lobby on Thyssen’s – internationally, that is, of course. Meanwhile, MacKay is unable to fill Roitenberg in on how he had received the necessary authorization to sign the Memorandum of Understanding alongside Schreiber. Sorry, it always takes a day or two to get back to full capacity as far as inquiry administrivia goes.

Anyway, the MoU, according to Roitenberg, had some other unusal aspects — no legal clearance, and was not to be circulated within ACOA, according to Roitenberg, although MacKay can’t recall making that call.

3:48:06 PM
More Bear Head meetings — this time, with Marcel Masse — at which MacKay was once again boosting the project, even when the idea of moving the plant to Montreal was on the table. Roitenberg is puzzled by the apparent lack of “hue and cry” at the prospect of Bear Head leaving Nova Scotia for Quebec; MacKay acknowledges that such a switch would have little direct benefit to Nova Scotia, at least as far as job creation, but reminds Roitenberg that Quebec “is still part of Canada”, and if his cabinet colleagues were convinced it should get the Bear Head plant, he’d not be a dog in the manger.

Was he aware that Schreiber stood to make a surprisingly hefty sum of cash if Bear Head *had* gone forward, whether in Quebec or Cape Breton? It didn’t even occur him, MacKay says.

3:53:20 PM
Ooh, the Manhattan meeting! Finally! I was wondering when we’d get here. Roitenberg recaps the putative itinerary on that December 1994 day; he was supposed to have lunch with Schreiber and his wife, only to be confronted by two surprise guests: Fred Doucet and Brian Mulroney, who, according to MacKay – and now I’m remembering why it is that his account of this particular meeting was similarly surprising and less than welcomed by Team Mulroney when it came up at the Ethics committee. Anyway, as far as *he* remembers, Mulroney and Doucet just dropped in for a short time, and made no mention of the Bear Head project — or the payments made to Mulroney, including the envelope that was handed over at meeting that took place just before that very lunch. This, despite his years of fighting the good fight on behalf of Bear Head. Roitenberg tries to get MacKay to admit that it is, at the very least, a little odd that neither Doucet nor Mulroney would even have mentioned the “watching brief” that was ostensibly the subject of their discussion, but MacKay isn’t going to get into that: this is his testimony. It is what it is.

4:02:07 PM
More about phone calls – or theoretical phone calls – and conversations between MacKay, Doucet and Mulroney that may or may not have happened. Roitenberg, however, points out that on the dates the payments were made, there are notations in Schreiber’s diary that reference “Elmer”, including the enigmatic “Elmer do books”, albeit in German. Suddenly, there are Swiss bank accounts in the mix, and — wow, it sounds like the forensic accountants up on Wednesday will have a fascinating tale to tell, involving the creation of the “Briton” account, and the subsequent note to “telephone Elmer”. MacKay doesn’t remember the call, but praises Schreiber for his “excellent memory” — if he says he called MacKay, he did.

4:07:28 PM
On that note, Roitenberg brings his questioning of MacKay to a somewhat suspense-inducing close — what, oh what will the forensic accountants tell us on Wednesday? — and hands the floor over to Auger, the only lawyer, apparently, with something to add. He clarifies a few minorish points — mostly posing questions that will give MacKay the opportunity to shore up Schreiber’s credibility as a businessman.

4:11:53 PM
Mr. Schreiber, MacKay reminds Auger, is a “straightforward and impatient man”; he doesn’t want to go into more detail than he can about the business plan that he discussed with Auger’s client, so he politely declines to elaborate.

That’s it for Auger; Wolson tells him that there will be no re-examination, and with that, MacKay is released — with best wishes for his recovery from the judge, even.

Wolson gives a quick rundown of the witnesses scheduled for the rest of this week; apparently, Team Mulroney wants the former prime minister to testify from Tuesday to Friday, rather than being held over the long weekend – figuratively held, that is, not actually in custody. There’s also a bit of a – not quite a dispute, but an ongoing discussion between the parties over the order of questioning, particularly as far Pratte’s ability to redirect his witness when necessary. Apparently, they’re going to continue to work towards resolving the issue, but if necessary, they’ll have to come back to the judge.

4:17:55 PM
With that, the inquiry adjourns for the day, leaving us to speculate wildly as to what it all means, which means ITQ will be signing off for the day. Meet you back here tomorrow!