Hey everybody, I’m back! Did you miss me? Because I missed you — not to mention, of course, a whole week of testimony at the Oliphant inquiry, which is why I’ll be heading back to Old City Hall this morning just in time for Fred Doucet takes the stand. Check back at 9:30 a.m. when Doucet — Mulroney’s longtime senior advisor, who has standing at the inquiry in his own right — gives his account of the decades-long relationship between his former boss and Karlheinz Schreiber, who, during his testimony earlier this month, dismissed Doucet as little more than a gatekeeper for the former PM.
At the moment, Doucet is scheduled to go for two days; the rest of the witness list for this week reads like the index of a William Kaplan book. On Wednesday, Kim Campbell will become the first — but likely not the last — Right Honourable to testify, followed by Perrin Beatty, who served as her defence minister. On Thursday, the inquiry will hear from Senator Lowell Murray and Norman Spector, Mulroney’s former chief of staff, who made a memorable appearance before the Ethics committee. Depending on what’s going on in the Other Place — you know, the one with the clock tower — ITQ is hoping to provide full liveblogging coverage of each and every one of them.
(That is, presuming that I can remember how to liveblog, of course. I figure it’s like riding a teeny tiny bike that you pedal with your thumbs instead of your feet; presumably, the muscle memory will kick in.)
Move over, Canada – ITQ is back! Back at Old City Hall, back on the Oliphant beat and back in her usual seat at, well, the back of the Victoria Room media encampment. With fifteen minutes to go before the hearing gets underway, the commission lawyers are in full huddleconference mode; it looks like Wolson will be the lead questioner this morning, and although I haven’t managed to catch a glimpse of his choice of neckwear for the day, he looks more than ready to get this examination underway. Schreiber’s lead counsel Richard Auger, meanwhile, is looking uncharacteristically dapper in a khaki-ish coloured suit and a salmon-coloured tie; his client, meanwhile, is still in brown.
My guess is that Wolson will take up most, if not all of today with his questions; I’m not sure who will go next, although if it follows the same rotation as Schreiber’s testimony, the Attorney General will take the second slot, followed by Guy Pratte – who isn’t here, oddly – Auger, and finally Doucet’s own lawyer, Bob Houston, who ITQ devoutly hopes won’t maintain the tone of barely concealed loathing that characterized his last appearance at the lectern during Schreiber’s appearance
Oh, and for the record, I did try my best to follow last week’s hearings, but it really isn’t the same as being there. As soon as I can get my hands on the transcripts, I plan on catching up in full.
Huh. This is new: A statement from the bench, courtesy of Justice Oliphant. Oh, he wants to officially express the relief and delight of the commission by news of the release of Bob Fowler and Louis Guay, and to correct the record as far as a story that ran late last week alleging that Fowler had been summoned to appear before the inquiry. According to Oliphant, there were “informal” discussions between commission counsel and Foreign Affairs, but Fowler has not and will not be summoned to appear — his recovery from his ordeal is “paramount”.
And now — Fred Doucet!
Who has now been sworn in, and who has, as per Wolson, indicated that he wants to power through til at least noon before taking a break. Does that mean no muffin/gossip/health break? I hope not.
Having done the traditional opening Dance of the Document, Wolson begins on a collegial note, inviting Doucet to confirm a recap of his academic and professional history, from his days at Sir Francis Xavier to his very first schoolteacher job in Manitoba — the home province, Wolson twinkingly reminds both the witness and the rest of us, of both himself and the judge.
Somehow, Doucet’s teaching career turned into a gig at an oil company before becoming chief of staff to Brian Mulroney, then leader of the opposition, in 1983. He wasn’t involved in the ill-fated Winnipeg leadership race, although he had been friends with Mulroney since their days at St. FX – not only Mulroney, but also other FX alum who circulated in the same politicosocial services, including Lowell Murray, Pat MacAdam, and his brother, Gerry Doucet. More reminiscing about the good old days of the St. FX Compact, as well as Gerry’s forays into provincial politics.
Okay, lost my last update, which was a good one, but mustn’t grumble, right? Grumbling doesn’t make it reappear! Right now, Doucet is describing his work for Mulroney, both before and after he left office — managing his “international responsibilities” — but there was an intriguing moment during the last exchange; it seems he and Mulroney have indeed discussed matters of an evidentiary nature in recent days – the former prime minister wished him luck, apparently – as well as how distinctly un-bell-ringingly enthusiastic he — Mulroney — has become over this entire process. Wasn’t there a brief, shining moment in Team Mulroney public relations during which he at least feigned satisfaction at finally having the chance to clear his name from any lingering slurs cast upon him by that nefarious German arms dealer? Or am I misremrembering?
A brief clarificatory question from Oliphant, who wants to know a little more about Dr. Charles MacMillan, who, according to Doucet, handled the Bear Head file at PMO; Doucet swiftly denies that characterization – MacMillan, he tells the judge, handled all sorts of economic files.
Yay, secret PMO memos! I love those! This particular offering, which discusses the Thyssen project, was apparently drafted by Robert Fowler, and was cc’d to Swain, Paul Tellier and other senior civil servants, and demonstrates that “as early as February 1986”, not a mandarin amongst them was all that keen on the idea. Doucet tries his hand at hairsplitting, at one point noting that Wolson had “skipped a sentence” when reading the memo, and claims to have “no memory” of acting as Bear Head booster at the time. “I have no memory of advocating on behalf of anyone on the file,” Doucet tells Wolson, who points out, with scrupulous politeness, that this particular memo seems to contradict that.
Onto Doucet’s next posting as “ambassador at large” for Mulroney, which basically involved organizing summits — three of them; Quebec, Vancouver and the G7 — which resulted in him doing less travelling with the then-PM, although their relationship remained close.
Most of these questions, by the way, appear to be based on the commission’s pre-appearance interview with Doucet, and an increasing number of the answers are becoming variants on the classic legalistic non-response: “I have no recollection of that.” Then again, in fairness to Doucet, it *was* more than a decade ago.
Oh, here’s a new document — well, new to me, anyway — an official waiver from the two year post-employment cooling-off period, courtesy of Treasury Board, and according to Wolson, requested by Doucet, although once again, he has “no memory” of making that demand, although he doesn’t deny the likelihood that it did, in fact, happen pretty much like that.
More binder shuffling – in this case, a letter from Doucet from August 8, 1988 that includes the enigmatic reference “check with Perrin Beatty” — three guesses as to how much recollection the witness has on what that could have meant — as well as a note about the then-local MP, Lawrence O’Neil, and a shoutout to then-ACOA minister Lowell Murray, all of which appear on the page surrounded by “a bunch of arrows”, which I can’t yet confirm since I’ve not managed to check out the actual document as yet.
Doucet, meanwhile, doesn’t know anything about his diary entry from the *next* day, which Wolson suggests describes a meeting between Beatty, O’Neil and a previously unnamed staffer, “Wonker”. Also a shoutout to Jean Pierre Kingsley – yes, presumably *that* Jean Pierre Kingsley, and we can only hope that he’s on the witness list too – and a “conflict letter”, none of which Doucet can recall.
You know, as witness style goes, Doucet is sort of the antiSchreiber — not only in his markedly different accounts of events, but his continual pleas of non-recollection. With Schreiber, even on the rare occasion that he claims not to recall a diary notation or document, he’s always ready with an explanation of what he *might* have meant; Doucet, on the other hand, is content to just decline to even attempt to recall, even when Wolson is cheerfully but relentlessly using quotes from Lowell Murray’s expected testimony on the many phone calls that “Ambassador Doucet” — now *really*, do prime ministers still hand out that particular title with wild abandon? — made to him. According to Wolson, Murray will say that those calls were all about Bear Head, but Doucet? You guessed it: no recollection.
Wait, I’m confused. Does this mean Lowell Murray is contradicting Doucet, who – presumably – is onside with Mulroney, as far as his testimony will go? Or am I missing something?
More about that waiver — which, as Wolson notes, would allow Doucet to go forth and lobby at will on any file he liked, including, in theory, the Bear Head project.
Kingsley was in charge of post-employment compliance with the Code of Conduct? Huh. Small world.
We’ve made it to Doucet’s post-public life, specifically, his earliest encounters with Schreiber; Wolson finally seems to get fed up with the “no memory” mantra, and wonders if Doucet is actually *denying* having discussed the Bear Head project with Schreiber before he left government. The judge is somewhat kerflummoxed too, it turns out; both wonder how Doucet can definitely say that he didn’t do so when he claims not to remember anything about it. Yeah. That. Doucet is unrepentant, and holds his own when quizzed further; he does acknowledge that he knew there was at least some opposition within DND.
Alright, now *that* was interesting: midway through a lengthy bit of questioning over various briefing notes that, in Wolson’s view, seem to make it clear that the various departments involved were busily advising their respective ministers not to sign any sort of agreement – or, in this case, the Understanding in Principle – on Bear Head, Doucet’s lawyer suddenly popped up with a complaintervention that counsel was questioning his client on documents that are clearly marked “secret”, of which he wouldn’t have had any awareness of at the time. Both Wolson and Oliphant reassured him that they weren’t trying to “trick” Doucet — Dr. Doucet, as Oliphant referred to him, who was clearly a sophisticated, intelligent and experienced witness who can “take care of himself.” The doctor looked impassable; Houston looked like he’d just swallowed a bug and soon afterwards, the judge adjourned for a midmorning break.
Still on break — when we broke, the testimony had veered back to the various Doucet-penned dear diarying that seemed to lead inexorably to the conclusion that he was meeting with Lowell Murray to discuss something, although I’m sure exactly of what that something was the witness will continue to have no recollection. Actually, that’s not fair — he does mix it up a little; sometimes he “doesn’t recall”, sometimes he “has no memory” of the specifics.
Also, on the Fowler flap — I do understand why the judge would want to make it clear that they weren’t pouncing on a potential witness before he’d even made it back to Canada, but it seems pretty clear that eventually, he probably *should* testify, since he was at the centre of what we now know was a longrunning battle between Defence and Team Bear Head.
And we’re back! A brief history of Fred Doucet Consulting International — very brief, in fact — before Wolson brandishes the now infamous Bitucan invoice from FDCI to Karlheinz Schreiber – “I assume,” Wolson notes, “for your lobbying work.” Doucet calls that “a fair assumption,” although – say it with me now – he has no recollection of that particular request for $90,000 to compensate his firm for “professional services.”
Oh, the witness wants to “contextualize” something for us. Let’s get contextual, everybody! Anyway, according to Doucet, his entire business model was “retainer-based”, which had something to do with preventing hat-changing in midfile. Wolson is a little confused by his description of such funds as “becoming income of the company”; doesn’t that mean there would be a “paper trail”? Of course, Doucet replies; he also denies that Schreiber ever paid him in cash, or told him that he was an “international businessman”.
Wait, Doucet has destroyed all his files “on the advice of his accountant”? So it would seem. Well, that’s unfortunate, since apparently, if he hadn’t, he’d have all the details of payments from Schreiber.
Wolson recalls that, during Doucet’s pre-appearance interview in March, he estimated that Schreiber’s retainer was roughly $5,000 a month, although that seems to be based on Doucet tallying the total money received, and dividing by the number of months that he worked for the man. “My best recollection,” he tells the commission, is that the “retainership” with Schreiber lasted until late 1992 or early 1993, which puts it at roughly five years.
And now, reflections on Frank Moores — friend, political fellow traveller, fly-fishing partner, and also a member of the Bitucan invoice club, as Wolson points out. Doucet doesn’t have much to say about that particular document, and Wolson moves to yet another invoice, this time from Lemoines, a company connected to Gary Ouellette, who actually got *his* cheque for $90,000 before it even arose. Wolson finds it coincidental that all these invoices were received within a few weeks of each other, but Doucet – finally recalls something; he denies – categorically – Schreiber’s claim that the payments represented “success fees” after the signing of the Understanding in Principle.
Ooh. It’s on.
Doucet also “categorically denies” asking Perrin Beatty to sign the UiP – and by the way, has such an oddly formal yet curiously unbinding agreeement ever surfaced before, in the context of the Crown signing contracts? I’ve never heard of one, but wasn’t really paying attention to procurement policy during the mid-80s. Anyway, Doucet starkly contradicts Schreiber’s claim – although he still can’t remember that $90,000 payment – but isn’t able to give much in the way of specifics when the judge wondered exactly what he’d done, as far as providing lobbying services to Schreiber’s company, up until that point.
He muses that he was probably on the job – speaking to “various individuals” at Defence, Industry and other departments; pressed by Oliphant for details, he says he *definitely* spoke with Elmer MacKay; he may have talked to Lowell Murray, but – once again – “categorically denies” speaking to Perrin Beatty. Who will be testifying on Wednesday, by the way — not sure when MacKay will be up, but I’m sure that both appearances will mean another meander down Bitucan bookkeeping memory lane.
Doucet confirms that, even after he’d left government, he was able to meet with Mulroney when needed, although he notes that he didn’t abuse “the privilege”: The two were friends, but “respected each other’s differences.” Doucet seems visibly uncomfortable when Wolson reads an excerpt from a media report that describes him as so close to the then-PM that they seemed to “know each other’s thoughts” by reading body language. Okay, yeah, I can see how that might be awkward to elaborate on, and Doucet pauses before noting diplomatically that it might be just the teeniest bit overstated.
An intriguing tangent on how he became “Fred” – his given name, it transpires, begins with Jean and keeps on going and going, to the point where, he tells the commission, he had to change it to something a little less convoluted. Hence, the diminutizing of Alfred to just plain Fred, although he occasionally used his proper initials when signing documents.
Oh, this could get interesting: Doucet on Schreiber, who he doesn’t dispute was – and is – an aggressive businessman, and a bit of a namedropper, according to Doucet. But when he was arrested in 1995, Doucet began to question his “bona fides” — moreso in 1999, when he seemed to be cosying up to the media, particularly the fifth estate. That’s why he began to make notes, Doucet recalls — Schreiber actually appeared in the original CBC broadcast, which “troubled” him.
Back to the UiP, and the enigmatic Mr. Massman, the Thyssen executive who worked with Schreiber on Bear Head, and who attended a briefing on the project at the Delta Hotel just two days after it was signed. Doucet won’t agree that it would seem logical that *he* was briefing Massman on the UiP; he had no relationship with the man, he notes, that was handled mostly by Greg Alford.
Doucet also denies any previous knowledge of the $4 million in “success fees” that the nonbinding UiP elicited – plus loans that were never repaid. He didn’t know anything about it until it came up in front of this very commission.
Back to the diary, and more frustratingly uninformative meeting notes — this one from October 2, and which was mentioned by both Doucet and Schreiber in their respective schedules, and referred to a meeting with “PM”.
There was also a lunch – with Schreiber, at least – that appears in both diaries, as well as other references to Schreiber being “in town”, and reminders to “call Karlheinz”. Doucet confirms the notes and doesn’t deny anything categorically, as far as these notes, but doesn’t provide much background — or “contextualization” — for the substance of these meetings.
More and more and more meetings between Mulroney and Schreiber – honestly, it seems as though they were getting together every day or two circa Autumn, 1992.
Oliphant – who is awfully chatty this morning – also wants to know more about another name that keeps reappearing in these entries: David McLaughlin, who – according to Doucet – was a senior staffer at PMO. For some reason, that name rings a faint bell in the back of my head, but I’m not sure why.
Doucet would also like to make it clear that Schreiber was fully capable of setting up his own meetings with the then-PM.
Aha, that was why Wolson wanted to establish that Doucet occasionally goes by “J.A Doucet” and not simply “Fred”; a letter sent to Schreiber in Germany, signed with that moniker, which speculates that Fowler “had his way” with Chastelaine – I think that must be a reference to Jean de Chastelaine, who I *think* was the Chief of Defence Staff at the time – and “wimpy” army generals; it further advised that they “abandon all efforts” to proceed with the Bear Head project following the announcement of the GM sole-source contract.
Doucet concurs that the Nova Scotia portion of the project did seem to be all but dead at that point, although he insists he wasn’t told that it was Mulroney who drove the stake into its heart, and insists — even after all these years — on demurring declaring it DOA; there were still other possibilities, as far as Bear Head was concerned. The letter to Schreiber also includes a reference to a meeting with Marcel Masse, and the idea of switching to a new idea: the prototype of a vehicle.
And — lunch break; according to Wolson, he’s “just under halfway” through his questioning of the witness; Doucet looks even less thrilled than he did a minute earlier, especially when Wolson isn’t willing to say for sure that he’ll finish up with the witness this afternoon.
And – that’s it for the morning. See you all back here at 2pm for the afternoon session!
Okay, I may be absolutely dreadful at *spelling* people’s names, but I do have an at times kind of unsettling ability to remember them for ages, even when there doesn’t seem to be a good reason to clog up my mental hard drive with such ephemera. In this case, it seems to have worked in my favour, though. Remember how I thought I recognized the name “David McLaughlin”? Well, according to a helpful commenter, it turns out that I was right. This just arrived in the ITQ inbox:
David McLaughlin was Kim Campbell’s chief of staff, then went to NB as Lord’s CofS, and later became Flaherty’s cheif of staff. He is now head of the Council on the Env and Economy.
See? I’m not crazy! And unlike certain witnesses, I *do* have a tendency to recollect — I just don’t always know why I’m recollecting. Maybe he’ll make an appearance on an upcoming witness list!
Back in the Victoria bunker after a leisurely lunch on the lawn; the one downside to the utterly glorious weather with which Ottawa is finally being graced, of course, is that binging on the sunshine tends to make the prospect of a spontaneous midday siesta on the grass nearly impossible to resist. Thank goodness for that menacing gaggle of Canada Geese that prowls the riverbank; you wouldn’t want to close your eyes with those predators on the loose. Maybe they’re part of some sort of public service anti-shirking TBS pilot project.
Fred Doucet, meanwhile, is already back at the witness table, and Guy Pratte has finally surfaced, although I very much doubt he’s going to have time to begin his questioning of the witness today — presuming, that is, that he actually has any questions for the witness.
All rise! And shine! And complain about how this hearing room is turning into a sauna, as per Wolson, who notes that it’s really not exactly conducive to spending hours answering – or asking – questions. Apparently, the building management has been contacted, and the cooling will soon begin — even if “we may need an Order in Council,” as Wolson jokes.
With that, it’s back to the grindstone for Wolson, who once again wants to know more about that $90,000 cheque from Bitucan; considering that he’d just left government, Wolson notes, wasn’t that a substantial amount of money? Apparently not enough for him to remember anything about it, according to Doucet.
Ahh, the infamous Harrington Lake meeting, of which, Wolson points out, Doucet is now aware, but it’s not clear exactly what the relationship was between himself and Schreiber at that point. He obligingly flips to the appropriate tab, a diary entry from June 1, 1993, that describes Schreiber’s arrival in Ottawa, and his plan to be there for the next three days.
The next page has an entry that reads “breakfast Corbeil 29th floor” — a similar note is included in Schreiber’s diary. In the public inquiry of the future, this will all be done using Outlook and/or Google Calendar.
On to June 2nd, and a meeting in Centre Block between Doucet, Schreiber and Mulroney, also corroborated by Schreiber’s diary, which Doucet notes was probably about Bear Head — I’m assuming that he’s sticking to the standard “cannot recall” as far as the specifics. I wonder who got stuck with going through all those cryptic chickenscratching from the respective daytimers, patiently checking and crossreferencing between the two. There was also a dinner at the PM’s place, and another note that Doucet points out was probably related to the anniversary of Mulroney being elected leader of the party, which spurs Wolson to muse that the witness has a “very good memory” when it comes to *some* things – like anniversaries – but not others – like $90,000 cheques.
Oh, and also, arranging a meeting between the PM and Schreiber at Harrington Lake, which he doesn’t deny, but can’t remember. He was not, however, *at* the meeting, or briefed about its contents. He has “no knowledge” as to whether an agreement was reached, or not.
A curious distinction – asked if he was acting as a paid lobbyist for Bear Head in August 1993 – when the Mirabel meeting that he arranged took place – Schreiber puts the emphasis on the word “paid” when he says he wasn’t sure if he was or not, although he *was* an “advocate” of the project.
“Within hours” of an August meeting between Doucet – representing Thyssen and Bear Head – Charest, and Corbeil – Doucet was arranging a meeting with Mulroney at Schreiber’s request.
Hey, is anyone curious as to why that particular meeting was in an airport hotel, and not – you know, somewhere else? Fred Doucet knows why: Mulroney hadn’t yet moved into his new house, and was staying in a “small community” near Mirabel, and Schreiber was jetsetting about the world, so it just made sense. Oh, and what was the subject of the meeting? Schreiber’s idea of having Mulroney helping Thyssen sell Canadian-made vehicles “worldwide”. Doucet wasn’t briefed by Schreiber after the meeting; Mulroney “reported” to him that it was “purposeful, and helpful” and – oh, that’s it. He did mention that the two had discussed a working arrangement, although according to Wolson, he was a little more forthcoming in his March 2009 interview, in which he stated that Mulroney had told him that they were going to have a project together. He did not, however, mention the fact that the payment was made in cash.
Having exhausted – at least for the moment – the Mirabel meeting, Wolson moves onto the followup chinwag at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel in Montreal, although before he zeroes in on that one, Wolson wants to know a little more about yet another entry from November 1993, which seems to describe yet another conversation between Schreiber and Mulroney. Every time Schreiber is in town, Wolson observes, the former prime minister seems to end up meeting with him – according to the diaries, that is.
Incidentally, I like how Doucet’s entries include little reminders like “dark suit”. Because otherwise, who knows what sort of fabulously florid and carnival-hued costume he might have donned instead?
Oh, finally we’ve gotten to one of Doucet’s famous memos-to-file, which, as far as Wolson can tell, generally involved meetings that were somehow important to Mulroney. I wonder if he ever wrote up similar aides memoire of meetings that *didn’t* involve his former boss. Was he even being paid by Mulroney for these occasional staffing jobs, or was that just part of being a good friend?
Doucet points out that, if he’d checked his diary before penning his pneumatic device, it would have been more accurate, since he got the year wrong, and would have known that he had, for instance, spoken with Schreiber at 5pm. Wolson is getting sharper in his questions, and as a result, Doucet is finding it harder to walk that fine line between being unable to recall, but also rebutting the narrative that Wolson’s line of questioning is so patiently being constructed.
Finally, we’ve made it to New York, and that hour or so meeting that has sparked so many conflicting claims of what went down. Wolson takes Doucet through the leadup to the meeting – the lunch in honour of Elmer MacKay’s recent remarriage, but, more importantly, the debrief at the Pierre Hotel by the former prime minister.
Doucet gives his account of what happened at that meeting – which we’ve heard before, so I won’t go into painstaking detail – but notes that there was particular emphasis on Mulroney’s international travels, and his meetings with China, Russia and France — all of which, Doucet points out, were members of the permanent council – P-5, as they call it in the trade. His recollection of events matches Mulroney’s recount of the NYC confab in every detail, which isn’t a surprise.
Wolson directs him to a memo to Greg Alford on Bear Head, the white paper and the NATO question; the document was also sent directly to Mulroney’s secretary, with the directive that she put it in his file.
According to Doucet, he was present for the entire meeting, and was able to hear everything that went on — it was a room, not a suite – including Schreiber handing Mulroney an envelope, which he said was for “fees and expenses” — not a loan. What was in the envelope? “No idea,” says Doucet, although he admits that he probably would have presumed it was a cheque, and not a great big wad of cash. As one does. Or did before all this came out; I don’t know about y’all, but I now pretty much assume that 90% of the pre-1993 lobby business involved cash – thousand dollar or small, unmarked bills depending on the specifics – if not briefcases lined with gold bullion.
“As best I can recall, that fits with reality.” Stop for a moment, will you, and appreciate the perfection of that answer from Fred Doucet. It doesn’t matter what the question is; the answer is a masterpiece.
Oh, and he *still* doesn’t know if he was being paid by Bear Head for any of this. It was an honour just to be invited, apparently.
I wonder if Wolson will ask if Doucet was actually invited to the MacKay luncheon. It’s not really all that important, but I find it kind of retroactively fascinating as a bit of business sociology: it’s like an episode of Mad Men, the order of self-appointed precedence and proximity over which the Friends of Brian Mulroney seemed in a perpetual quiet squabble.
Wolson seems to have hit — hmm, I’m not sure if it’s the halfway point — or the three quarter point, for that matter — but he seems to be summing up what, based on his testimony, Doucet can and can’t tell Commissioner Oliphant.
Oh – huh. Were we expecting this? Apparently Wolson is now going to move onto documents and correspondence allegedly sent by Doucet to Schreiber — correspondence related to … (pause for emphasis) … Airbus and Air Canada.
Wolson lays out *why* he believes this material is covered by the terms of reference; apparently, he *has* informed “his friends” in the hearing room that he plans to do so.
So far, nobody has objected, so I guess he’s going to plunge onwards. And here I thought the rest of the afternoon would be nothing but diary-reading.
Wolson describes the three documents he wants to introduce, which refer to “matters of airplanes” — which are described as “the birds” in one case — one of which appears to be from the very same date as the meeting at Mirabel. Although the terms of reference limit the inquiry to investigate the Bear Head project, it also gives him the right to look into why the payments were made.
Anyway, according to Wolson, given the unique knowledge that Doucet has of this meeting, and other related matters, he’d like to focus on a very narrow, mandate-respecting line of questions related to the documents.
Oliphant turns to the other lawyers to see if anyone objects; neither Pratte nor Vicary do, Auger just wants clarification that this is within the mandate, and Houston “has no comment”. I — don’t know what that means, but did we know about the date collision for the Mirabel meeting? Please don’t tell me I missed *that* during last week’s absence.
And Wolson is permitted to proceed. Whee!
On that thrilling note, it’s time for the afternoon break. See you in fifteen minutes!
So yeah, it turns out this is, indeed, officially New and Interesting — we’ve even gotten handouts of the three documents in question, which I *believe* are available on the freshly unveiled ShreiberNet — no, that’s not what it’s called and I haven’t even seen it yet, but fellow Oliphant Camper Steve Maher mentioned its existence earlier today. Anyway, there is a letter from March 24, 1992, on official FDCI paper, signed by “J.A. Doucet” – see? that question *was* important; don’t you love when loose ends turn up tied in a cute little bow? – that mentions “the Birds” and FM and ends with “every good wish” for “Dear Karlheinz”. There is also a memorandum dated August 27, 1993, to Schreiber from Doucet, which states that “Mr. Biro has confirmed that 34 Airbus have been purchased — that word is underlined — and delivered to Air Canada according to the enclosed schedule,” and continues with: “I sincerely hope that this evidence, many times stated before, is emphatically and categorically relayed to F.M.” And finally — oh, damn. Justice Oliphant just tricked us into rising, and then disappeared back downstairs, and really, nobody likes a prankster judge. Okay, maybe a tiny bit, but still. Anyway, he’s back for real now, so I can’t fill you in on the final document, but hopefully the testimony will be helpfully explanatory.
The judge reminds us that notwithstanding his ruling, he has no intention of turning this into an Airbus investigation, and with that, hands the floor back over to Wolson, who gets Doucet to authenticate the letterhead and signature on the first document — the matter of the Birds — and, surprise surprise, has “absolutely no recollection of the letter”.
I think I just heard a wave of hastily restrained snickers across the room.
“Birds — would those refer to airplanes?” Wolson wonders. Doucet accepts that “in their business”, it may, and confirms that he is not an ornithologist — this wasn’t a hobby, in other words.
The discussion moves onto the third fax — the one dated August 27th, 1993 but with a faxstamp from August 30, 1993. Somehow, Doucet doesn’t seem to be able to identify “Mr. Biro”, despite the fact that the memo mentioning him was allegedly written by him.
“What can you tell me about that document?” Wolson wonders. I won’t bother with Doucet’s reply, but Wolson points out that he can remember setting up a meeting for Mulroney on that same day, and being debriefed, and — yeah. Doucet isn’t budging, although he does admit that he “thinks” the fax number in question was his at the time.
“I have no memory of this at all,” Doucet says, although he does add that, if one takes it at face value, “I get an answer.”
Oliphant pipes up to ask who his secretary was at the time — someone with the initials BH? Doucet — doesn’t remember. But he *does* know that “the premise is wrong” that he might have been getting money for Airbus. But if he *was*, would he remember it, Wolson presses. If! If he had a financial relationship regarding Airbus, would he remember it? Doucet can’t say for sure.
Doucet is rallying — he notes that the third paragraph of the letter — the one that begins “Now I can tell you the rest of the story…” “doesn’t ring right” with him, as far as how he expresses himself. So — basically, he’s raising the possibility of a paste job? This is — all sounding oddly familiar. Man, I love this inquiry.
Anyway, not only does he not remember the letter, but it is “striking” in its construction. “It may not be your typical construction, but it’s your signature?” No question, Doucet concurs. He won’t state that he didn’t write it, but he doesn’t recollect it. You know, that response probably would have had more weight if we hadn’t heard it so many times already today.
“I’m not catching you by surprise with these letters,” Wolson points out to Doucet. He’s known about the existence of the letters for months, although he only found out that there would be questions about them yesterday. Still, he doesn’t have any more thoughts on the letters. That’s — about it.
And — scene. After a very long, deliberate pause, Wolson announces that he will be moving on to a new area, although he may return to the letters at a later point.
We get a rather endearing peek at the inner workings of the Doucet marital union — apparently, his wife would type out his longhand memos to self on Mulroney-related media, just to ensure that any such documents would be legible to others — or, as he points out, given his handwriting, himself.
At that point, we veer back to familiar ground, but from a slightly different perspective from that offered by Schreiber during his testimony: the 1999 fifth estate broadcast and the alleged “chattiness” of Schreiber with the media; Wolson points out that actually, Schreiber *didn’t* talk to the fifth estate at all — not on camera, at least. Doucet, however, maintains that he suspected Schreiber was chatting with the media behind the scenes, simply because of stories that were coming out in the press.
Wolson – who is slowly but surely transforming into the Big Bad – reminds Doucet that actually, it was people like Pat MacAdam who were talking to the media – on camera. Schreiber was one of the few who *wasn’t*. Doucet insists that there was information “flowing from sources” that, as far as he could tell, were likely coming from Schreiber.
The Schreiberian body language, I should point out, has undergone a radical change from his usual posture: leaning back in his chair, ankles akimbo, seemingly on the verge of falling asleep. He is now sitting stark upright, briefcase on his lap, every fibre of his being focused on what’s going on at the front of the room.
Wolson points out, in the most civil and non-patronizing way possible, that since he developed heart problems while still in government, he *has* had memory problems, which is one reason why he began writing these aides memoire.
And we’re finally going through the Pierre Hotel memo-to-file, line by line — Wolson notes that he uses the word “international” several times in a relatively brief note, which — hey, I noticed that too. Did I write that, or just think it? Doucet confirms that he did, and Wolson reads the entire memo out loud; it perfectly reflects the testimony Doucet gave earlier today about the meeting, although as Wolson notes, there is “not a word” to make it clear that Thyssen was the subject matter. According to Doucet, that was because it was “so implicit” that he didn’t need to make it “plicit”. Or “explicit”, but I swear I heard “plicit”.
Okay, now I feel dumb — I hadn’t noticed it either, but Wolson points out that the memo-to-file doesn’t mention the countries – China, Russia, France – or the specific leaders, yet today, he can relate all those details without consulting any notes.
Wolson advises the witness, the judge and the rest of us that sadly, he likely won’t be finishing with this witness today, not that this comes as much of a shock to the rest of us. After a little back and forth and the promise of the cooling magic of air conditioning tomorrow, we’re released.
On that note, then, ITQ is signing off for the day, but will hopefully be back tomorrow for the dramatic conclusion. Or continuation, depending on whether testimony wraps up on schedule. I hope y’all enjoyed my return even a smidgeon as much as I have, and have a lovely rest-of-the-afternoon.