No, Minister: Liveblogging former PCO Clerk Paul Tellier and Senator Lowell Murray at Oliphant - Macleans.ca

No, Minister: Liveblogging former PCO Clerk Paul Tellier and Senator Lowell Murray at Oliphant

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Former mandarin-in-chief Paul Tellier takes the stand this morning to discuss his efforts to impose some sort of order to the chaos into which Mulroney’s cabinet had descended over the Bear Head file by 1990– including that now infamous full costing of the plan, which was enough to convince the PM’s then-chief of staff Norm Spector that the project had finally run out of political luck. Meanwhile, this afternoon, we’ll finally find out just what those mysterious documents were that turned up in Senator Lowell Murray’s office last week. More cabinet confidences? ITQ hopes so, if only because it turns out we love reading the non-Bear Head-related tidbits that surface on the periphery, which would otherwise have remained deep state secrets for another decade.

The senator will almost certainly also be quizzed about his tenure as ACOA minister, and – of course – what he knew about the previously clandestine business dealings between his former boss and Karlheinz Schreiber after Mulroney left office.

To kill time between now and 9:30 am when the hearings — and the liveblogging — gets back underway, though, why not check out Halifax Chronicle Herald reporter Steve Maher’s sizzlingly speculicious piece on the enigma of Bruce Vercheres?

9:13:33 AM
Good morning, Oliphantiacs — and a special ITQ wave of solidarity across the ether to those pioneering livebloggers who will, beginning this morning, be bringing the O’Brien trial to insta-twittery life. Good luck, y’all! Maybe I’ll head to the courthouse once we’ve wrapped up public hearings here atOld City Hall.

I have to admit to being just a little bit full of anticipatory glee over today’s testimony, by the way — not only do we *finally* get to hear from Paul Tellier, the accidental Sir Humphrey who found himself in the midst of an epic intracabinet battle, but also Lowell Murray, who is always worth watching, and I say that as someone who assigned herself to liveblog the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs committee *just* so she could see him eviscerate then-Democratic Reform Minister Peter Van Loan on Senate elections. Ahh, memories. And yes, I’ll be back on the Hill soon enough, I promise — these hearings are supposed to finish by May 22, whereupon I will return from sabbatical to chronicle the workings of Parliament once again.

9:24:09 AM
Oh, and can I also add that I’ll be not shocked, but a teeny bit dismayed if the inquiry gives in to Team Mulroney’s request to have his counsel — in the form of Guy Pratte, one assumes – conduct the main examination when he appears next week? Did we not learn from the Ethics committee that, as tempting as it may be to accord special treatment to former prime ministers, it’s generally best to pick a protocol – like, say, swearing in witnesses – and stick to it?

9:28:18 AM
Oh! Apparently, Lowell Murray is up first. Huh. I should have paid more attention to the ever shifting witness schedule. He looks as dapper and scrappy as always, and is serenely sipping water and gazing at the sea of lawyers that lies in front of him.

9:32:13 AM
And – it’s showtime!

Senator Murray opts to be sworn in on the Bible – So help him, God, as the line goes – and begins by confirming that he was appointed to the Senate by Joe Clark, and subsequently served as the very first minister of the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency in 1987, and on the very day that he and the then-PM were on a plane to Nova Scotia to announce its creation, he was presented with a “very thin file” that contained just one letter: a proposal from Thyssen for a Cape Breton-based plant to manufacture light armoured vehicled, with a request for a sole-source contract from the — wait, he’s talking about Bear Head, isn’t he?

The company was seeking no special assistance from the government, he recalled — they would apply for whatever “incentives” – tax credits, that sort of thing – was available, and according to that initial letter, the province was already assembling land for the purpose.

This was his first project? Yes, Murray says – that was the point: there was “nothing else on the horizon” that would offer hundreds of new jobs in Cape Breton.

9:39:50 AM
On to the binders — or binder, in this case, which is also, Roitenberg notes, “mercifully” somewhat less of a behemoth than those that have faced other witnesses. Murray affirms that he has gone through the documents, although notes that he “didn’t want to overtrain” for his appearance, which invokes chuckles from both Roitenberg and Oliphant, as well as throughout the audience.

Anyway, Roitenberg directs Murray to the second tab, which proffers a draft letter that he sent to Mulroney in 1987, which was, it seems, a sort of progress report on the Bear Head file; Murray notes that he dispatched several such notes to the PM, but never got a reply from Mulroney.

9:43:16 AM
Onto another letter, this one from Schreiber – who, Murray says, he didn’t know before signing on as ACOA minister – and who Murray met in November, 1997 to discuss the project. According to Murray, Gerry Doucet and Schreiber were both in attendance at that particular confab in Prince Edward Island, and Roitenberg then moves to the “letter of comfort” that was eventually drafted, but notes that the whole agreement/understanding/vague consensus in principle was contingent on the plant being built.”It seems there was a lot of wiggle room for the government,” he notes, a suggestion with which Murray doesn’t disagree; he says he’d probably have turned the matter over to his officials at ACOA, who would take it up with the Defence department. “It was all part of the concept we were working with,” he points out – just six months after the creation of the agency. “ACOA was pretty much alone in the system in trying to push this forward,” he reminisces, as other departments attempted to “nip it in the bud.”

9:50:53 AM
It may be more than two decades since he had to contend with the anti-Bear Head lobby, but Murray clearly remembers his counterarguments to the project’s detractors from back in the day; he goes through the bullet pointed concerns over the proposal, spending most of his time on the coded language surrounding concern that the deal might upset the “national industrial base” — in other words, Ontario and Quebec — and gives an impassioned defence of the very philosophy behind ACOA, which was explicitly created to provide a counterweight to that very base. He gets so passionate, in fact, that he winds up apologizing for speechifying, although neither Oliphant nor Roitenberg seem too put out by his ad hoc manifesto in support of regional development, although the judge notes that ACOA’s western counterpart would probably have been given a similar mandate. Murray concurs, at which point Roitenberg shifts gears; he points out that there was already an established manufacturing concern in Ontario – General Motors, I assume – which would have had concerns over the Thyssen project.

9:56:56 AM
Alright, as our voyage through the binders continue, it is June 1988, and the Chancellor of Germany was planning a visit to Canada, which once again launched the Thyssen deal up on the political radar. At the time, according to memos, Thyssen was again under gentle pressure to produce a business plan for the Bear Head project, despite its ‘still preliminary’ state; as a result, Murray advised Mulroney that, because of the fact that the proposal had initially been “misunderstood” — something about exporting military equipment to “certain Middle Eastern countries” — he might not want to go public with a formal announcement just yet, even with Chancellor Kohl on Canadian soil.

10:02:04 AM
More backs and forths between the PM and Murray, including a draft response from the latter on behalf of the government. Roitenberg wonders if there is anything special about that letter – any firm commitments – and Murray says there was not; it was just a polite acknowledgment. At no point did he receive “direction” from the PM on the project, he tells Roitenberg – despite the fact that he was reporting to Mulroney directly on the file.

Next, Roitenberg turns our attention to a July 1988 letter from Murray to Mulroney, the existence of which actually elicits a deep sigh from the witness. At this point, Roitenberg points out, it was clear that there wasn’t going to be a military contract, which means the plant wouldn’t be built, and the proposal was all but dead; the senator’s faith in Thyssen at that time, he suggests gently, may have been misplaced. Murray — actually sort of agrees, and adds that there still wasn’t even a business plan from Thyssen. As for the Understanding in Principle – which, Roitenberg reminds him, was agreed to by *all* ministers concerned, as well as Schreiber on behalf of Thyssen – it includes a paragraph that describes the facility that the company would establish in Cape Breton. This was the “letter of comfort” in exchange for which Schreiber had pledged to build that plant — but “the shovels never met the ground” – and never hired a single person. So – it ws Thyssen that backed out of the deal first?

10:11:56 AM
Murray – who is coming across with credibility to spare, incidentally – explains that when it became clear that an election was looming, and Thyssen was starting to make balky noises about pulling up theoretical stakes and heading to Tennessee, the idea was to put the project “on ice” until the situation settled down. It wasn’t a *real* commitment, it was an *understanding*. In principle. Anyway, that brings us to the “success fees” that were released as a result of that letter being signed, which was first brought to Murray’s attention by the RCMP; he told the Mounties that Thyssen “has lawyers” and would easily see that this didn’t bind the goverment to anything. But when more information about the payments began to come out, including the names of recipients, he was “incredulous” — and remains so.

Oliphant interrupts to observe that, given the political situation and the dire state of employment in Cape Breton, a letter like this would have been “a good thing to have in your pocket” during an election, but Murray tells him that he was campaigning down there at the time, and has even checked his notes to see if the letter ever came up, and it didn’t. Probably, Murray muses, because it wouldn’t have taken long for an enterprising reporter, or an opposing candidate, to figure out that the “letter of comfort” didn’t mean much at all.

“I can’t see what value it had for either side,” Oliphant tells him – “except to trigger a lot of money.”

10:22:32 AM
A brief expository interlude from from Murray on a cabinet retreat at Meech Lake in July 1988, during which the senator can’t actually remember the matter coming up, especially from the PM himself, despite the existence of a contemporaneous document on that meeting that suggests he *was* asked to look into the matter. If he *had* brought it up, Murray says, he almost certainly would have said something back, which should, in theory, have wound up in the minutes – which are now in the public domain.

10:27:31 AM
Murray has the same response as ITQ to the deployment of the phrase “unusual audit trail” in yet another memo on the long, strange trip the Bear Head file made through the procurement and political processes. He doesn’t know what that would mean, and insists that if PCO was, in fact, out of the loop, it would have been “inadvertant and momentary”. Yes, minister.

Roitenberg wonders if it was the fact that Murray was reporting *directly* to the PM that triggered PCO’s paranoia over the putative “end run” around the bureaucracy; Murray doesn’t think that was the case, since ministers are, after all, allowed to talk to their political master. Not to mention the fact that an earlier draft of the “letter of comfort” that was “so noncommittal” was actually dispatched to Justice for legal goings-over.

Oliphant – who really does seem transfixed by this spectacularly vague comfort-o-gram, mostly for its utter and complete lack of any actual obligations – points out that it seems the more ministers signed, the less committal it became, and Murray doesn’t dispute that, which leads to a wonderfully candid bit of boggling between all three men over the basic ridiculousness of the whole situation.

10:48:35 AM
Roitenberg leads Murray through the rest of the maze of memos that, in hindsight, make it clear even to such an unabashed supporter of the project that the end was pretty likely nigh, although he – Murray, that is – points out that, by the time the letters started to become more candid about the Bear Head deathwatch, he’d left ACOA.

10:51:38 AM
And now, a gambol through Murray’s datebook, circa 1988, which provides a bit of backstory on those documents that just last week he decided to dig up from the archives in preparation for his appearance; apparently, he wanted to do his best to be able to answer the questions, rather than be left unable to recall, as was the case for Fred Doucet.

Who coincidentally, turns out to be the object of the very entry Roitenberg wants to discuss with the witness – a Murray-penned note on a conversation with “Ambassador Doucet” on various bits of Bear Head-related intelligence gathered from Thyssen, including what had been going on with the board, as well as his point form musings on who he might want to discuss the latest developments.

There was also a subsequent call from Doucet – now a lobbyist for Thyssen – in either July or August 1988 – which actually causes a bit of confusion for the witness, since the dates don’t seem to match up. They agree on late August, eventually, and return to the entry, which notes that Doucet was “trying to earn his living” – on behalf of Thyssen – as well as an intriguing note that seems to suggests – via Doucet, mind you – that it was the PM who had directed him to get three ministers to sign the letter, and adding that the “only recalcitrant” was Perrin Beatty.

11:02:28 AM
Huh. I guess we’re not having a midmorning break today, are we? Not that this isn’t a fascinating discussion, of course — but a quick jaunt to the cafeteria wouldn’t be unwelcome for certain livebloggers who may have accidentally skipped breakfast. Then again, if we end up with a two hour lunch break, I may just venture over to the Sconewich. Sconewich! (It *is* open on Tuesdays, right?)

Roitenberg, meanwhile, is still going through Murray’s notes, which describe various meetings that went on between that conversation with Doucet, and the signing of the UiP, as well as the prospect of a *tendered* RFP rather than a sole-source contract. There is also a Jamie Byrnes – or Burns – at the PM’s office, who was “trying to be helpful”, as per Murray’s recollections.

Oh, there’s the break. Whew. See you back here at 11:25!

11:22:50 AM
We’re not back yet, but I wanted to report on the latest rumours swirling around New OliphantVille – for such is how I think of us at this point – on next week’s Right Honourable appearance: There is some speculation that Team Mulroney may make an attempt to stack the inquiry room – both the public section and the media tables – with friendly faces (although I’m not sure what the point would be, as far as the visuals, since he’d still be in the witness chair, in front of the Blue Curtain of Judicial Impartiality). Never fear; if ITQ has to bring a sleeping bag and camp out under the stars next Monday night, she will. Happily.

11:28:51 AM
And – we’re back; Roitenberg is actually done with *his* questions, although we don’t know about the other parties as yet, but wants to go out of his way to thank the witness for offering up his datebooks to the inquiry. Murray is characteristically humble in accepting the kind words; it was all part of the job, he assures the inquiry.

11:30:40 AM
Alright, so, not surprisingly, at least one lawyer wants some facetime with Murray: Bob Houston, who represents Fred Doucet, and who seems to be doing his best to tame his chronically acerbic tone of voice today. He gets Murray to confirm that he and Doucet had been friends for years – since the SFX days, of course – and then moves onto the dire industrial and employment landscape that was Cape Breton during the mid-80s, what with various employers shutting down, and jobs being lost.

11:33:26 AM
Houston wonders if Murray would have found it “unusual” that Doucet would call him about the Bear Head project, and the answer is an emphatic no: Not only was he a Cape Bretoner, but a good Progressive Conservative, and there was nothing “improper” about him calling the then-minister at that time.

That’s all for the questions — Oliphant thanks Murray for appearing, as well as for the “extra effort” to which he went to get his notes back from the Archives, which, he suggests, will be most valuable to the inquiry.

11:35:37 AM
And – the Mulroney motion. It seems that all counsel agree that Mulroney’s examination in chief can be done by his own counsel – provided it isn’t done through “leading questions”, and if he gives up the right to re-examination, although if “new matters” arise, they can apply to the judge to do so. Those conditions, by the way, were requested by Richard Auger, and it seems everyone is satisfied, although Oliphant wants to be sure that Mulroney’s lawyers are in agreement – a real commitment, he notes, not a noncommitment like we’ve heard so much about over the last few days.

Well, I guess that’s not *too* bad, as far as special treatment for certain witnesses, but still.

11:38:30 AM
And – oh, we’re going straight to Paul Tellier, apparently – who Bibles up for Battista, who notes that they will be continuing in English, since that’s the language of the documents.

11:39:57 AM
A quick recap of Tellier’s career – studied, but never practiced law, and joined the public service in 1967 as a ministerial assistant; he then headed to PCO, where he worked for then-clerk Gordon Robertson, followed by a stint in the Quebec government, and finally winding up as Clerk of the Privy Council until 1992. He also spent ten years running Canadian National, and also served as CEO of Bombardier, and now, I gather, he’s in Australia. And why not, really?

Tellier gives an overview of PCO – the Prime Minister’s very own department – and the role of the Clerk, as both the PM’s deputy minister and the head of the public service, and as cabinet secretary, where he exists to “assist” ministers, including helping them to resolve conflicts over mandates, responsibilities and other turf wars. (Note: ITQ’s word, not his.)

During his years serving as Mulroney’s de facto deputy minister, he was in touch with his boss “seven days a week” — there were meetings, endless meetings; briefings by other people, one-on-one chats, and meetings with the chief of staff, of which he must have dealt with several during his tenure. It became a practice, he recalls, to lunch at 24 Sussex with the PM and his CoS-du-jour. Back when Doucet was working for Mulroney, the chief of staff was Bernard Roy — who you may remember from certain Gomerical inquiries past, and really, sometimes the Canadian politicosphere does seem to be caught in a repeating loop.

11:48:55 AM
Okay, onto Bear Head, and the role of the PCO in the file — “we were never deeply involved in the project itself,” Tellier notes, but they *were* very keen on making sure all the various public policy dimensions — defence, foreign policy, fiscal, you name it — were taken into consideration. From when he was first brought into the discussion in 1986, Tellier insists that PCO never actually came out against the project, but they were very concerned at what they felt was an attempt to circumvent the usual process. The “end run”, in other words.

11:52:42 AM
Battista wonders if Tellier has any recollection of the “genesis” of the project – a German company building a plant in Cape Breton – and Tellier explains that it was an ACOA initiative; the ACOA mandate being, of course, to push for regional development in Atlantic Canada.

11:55:04 AM
Back to the Memorandum to Cabinet – oh, I love MtCs, although I suspect the judge would scold me for wielding that acronym – and Tellier recalls that Joe Clark was actually opposed to the project at the time, due to the labouriously articulated and re-articulated reasons laid out in the magnum opus submitted to cabinet by Tellier, on which we’ve heard considerable testimony already.

There was also, of course, the lack of a “hard, concrete, precise business plan”, Tellier recalls — yes, yes, no plan — and the need to assess, in a cool, calculating manner, just how much taxpayer money would have to be paid per job to be created. It was a “very consistent” position taken by PCO – not that they were opposed to the project, but that there were concerns that had to be addressed.

12:00:52 PM
Although Tellier isn’t ready to call the project “controversial”, he does stoutly agree with a 198?-era story that appeared in the Globe and Mail that revealed the fissions within cabinet over the project.

Meanwhile, Tellier was continuing to exchange notes with Murray – and Sinclair Stevens, as it turns out – on PCO’s concerns, in which, as Battista puts it, he doesn’t say no to the project, but he doesn’t say yes, either. Maybe, Minister? Just Hold On For a Minute There, Minister?

And then – oh, the letter of comfort, and the “reactivation” of the project in August 1987, for which a possible agreement between Thyssen and Lavalin may have been the catalyst. There were still, however, no “concrete proposals,” Tellier confirms.

12:07:09 PM
Trivia note: Since 1867, notes to the PM have been signed by the Clerk, although the name of the writer is added as well.

Anyway, the provenance of the MtC is explored yet again, including handwritten notes by Tellier and others, and the Bibideau memo to Tellier — which was written by “Warnick and Madame Hurtbuise” — and no, there won’t be a test on any of this; at least, I *hope* there won’t.

12:12:28 PM
According to Tellier, there is on file an exchange between Mulroney’s chief – Derek Burney – and Ward Elcock, at the time legal advisor at PCO – over just how entirely unenforceable the UiP was — the right answer, of course, being “completely and utterly unenforceable”. Even the phrase – “Understanding In Principle” – was created explicitly to make it less binding. “Usually, it was an *Agreeement* in Principle,” Tellier notes, and see? I *told* y’all that I’d never heard of such a creature as a UiP in a government procurement context before, and I was right. That’ll show — someone.

“We had the capacity of slowing down the project a lot,” Tellier recalls. Ah, good old Machinery of Government. The jaws that bite, the claws that catch. Sorry, getting a bit lightheaded here; Tellier is once again defending the process -or, at least, his efforts to defend the process back then – and giving a remarkably candid account of the strategies employed by PCO to do so.

12:18:21 PM
“Due process”, Tellier would like us all to understand, is *not* just another word for stalling; it is a way to make sure that the public service is able to point to the problems and offer — and hey, Tellier is the first person to mention the Israel factor on the record. Neat. That comes up in the memo – the idea that the optics of buying tanks from Germany might not go over all that well with the Israeli goverment – but hasn’t yet been discussed at the inquiry.

Oh, Oliphant intervenes to wonder whether he’s correct in his conclusion that most of the public service – well, the teeny tiny portion of it involved in PCO-Defence wrangling – was opposed to the project, and — okay, maybe he was as intrigued by the Israeli issue as me, because he points out that one of the arguments against the project that made it into the Memo to Cabinet was the alleged Nazi background of the founder of Thyssen. Oliphant wonders whether he agrees or disagrees that that’s the “very kind of statement” that would scare politicians away from the project. Godwin’s law: Not just for the internet. Tellier doesn’t quite disagree, although he doesn’t really seen to want to debate the issue, although he agrees that it was definitely a policy consideration.

12:24:37 PM
After thanking Oliphant for his intervention, Battista suggests we adjourn for lunch – a proposal that ITQ can support entirely. See you back here at 2pm!

1:44:26 PM
Okay, I can report that a)prep for the Belled One’s appearance is well underway, at least as far as us media types; as I was heading back into the hearing room after lunch, there were already negotiations underway about pool possibilities, and there are a few photogs circulating the various camps getting file footage and establishing shots, presumably to have in the can for next week’s extravaganza. It will be interesting to see if there’s a tightening up of security, as far as Old City Hall itself; at the moment, we’re pretty much free range, but if there’s a major population boom, that could change.

Oh, and in case anyone cares: Yes, Sconewitch *is* open on Tuesdays, and yes, the pesto BLT *is* divine. You’re welcome.

Other than that, we’re just waiting to find out how much longer Tellier will be on the stand; Battista seemed to be close to finishing up with the main examination, but you never can tell which, if any, of the other lawyers will jump at the chance to question a witness.

2:02:03 PM
Oyez, oyez! Wait, we don’t say that in Canada, do we — not at judicial inquiries, at least. My apologies. It just sets the mood.

Anyway, Battista is right back up and quizzing Tellier on MtCs, which, he explains, are delivered *directly* to the prime minister — not his office, not his staff — who, in this case, was an “avid” reader who actually went through most of what he was sent. “This PM was reading a lot of documents,” Tellier recalls – he’d also give feedback, either in notes, or during subsequent phone calls.

2:04:45 PM
New exhibit – P 37, which is *not* in the binder, but was mentioned yesterday, and is “complementary” to Tab 17. Anyway, this was the note about the agreement that McKnight and MacKay would send an “anodyne” letter of support – yup, that describes it pretty well – for the project. Tellier, apparently, had no recollection of this “memorandum episode” in 1990, but he doesn’t seem too kerflummoxed by the possibility that it occured. When *he* looks at the memo to him — Tellier, that is — it reads like what PCO officials might suggest to try to reduce any commitment on the part of the government. I never realized what a complex and time consuming process it was to *not* make a decision at the cabinet or near-cabinet level.

There is also a memo-rialized meeting between various usual suspects – Hartt, Bilodeau, Schreiber – that once again downplays the possibility that Thyssen will get that sole-sourced contract that it craved like ITQ was craving a Sconewitch. “It was an attempt to clear the air,” Tellier explains, since Schreiber had averred for years that there was interference in the process, but the invite list for this particular meeting was “very open”.

2:13:43 PM
After that meeting – which took place in February, 1990 – there was – yes, yet another meeting, this one in July, and involving Thyssen officials as well as Schreiber, MacKay and Tellier — who, sadly, doesn’t recall that particular meeting, even after going through the documents. He gives every impression of *wanting* to be helpful, but still can’t really provide much insight on that *particular* meeting. He does, howver, take the opportunity to tell the inquiry that at no point during his working relationship with Mulroney – on this file, or any other – did the PM attempt to exercise pressure or influence over him — even when people around him seemed to want to do so. That was their modus operandi.

Unfortunately, this doesn’t shed much light on this meeting with Thyssen, Schreiber and MacKay, although Tellier suggests it *might* have resulted from a suggestion by MacKay — but likely not the PM, at least from what Tellier’s reaction would suggest.

What about the reference to “political” implications? Tellier isn’t sure, although he agrees that it did take a long, long time for a decision to be made on Bear Head — so as far as that went, Schreiber’s complaint wasn’t entirely without foundation. But months and months went by, with no indication that any change in position by anyone.

2:23:54 PM
An interesting observation by Tellier, as far as the question of political “direction” from the prime minister: If he *had* gotten some direction, a decision probably would have been made far sooner.

Apparently, there also was, at one point, the contention that somehow, this project would be “free” – or practically free – as far as public money that would be required; apparently, it was just sort of floating out there in the air, like a helium balloon on the lam from a birthday party, despite the various iterations of the proposal, in terms of the location, the designation of military versus civilian vehicles, “and so on and so forth.” Translate that into Latin and I think we’ve got ourselves the official PCO motto. (No offence meant to any Langevinian/Blackburnites reading, of course — seems a perfectly reasonable philosophy to ITQ.)

2:31:26 PM
When Witnesses Collide! Or, in this case, for the most part, entirely corroborate their respective accounts of events: Tellier seems to have exactly the same understanding of the real purpose behind, and upshot of the $765 million projection. From what he can tell from the documents, this was exactly what Spector was trying to do — get an at least somewhat definitive answer to the perennial question of how much Bear Head was going to cost.

2:35:10 PM
I swear that this is *not* a shameless attempt to obsequiate my way into one of the sure to be much-contested seats for next week’s hearings, but I’m going to have to give the ITQ TieWatch Award for today to Barry McLoughin, who manages communications for the inquiry. It’s a bowtie, making this a controversial pick from the start, but has a pleasingly rakish tilt and all the colours of the rainbow.

2:38:09 PM
Okay, so — judging from subsequent correspondence between Tellier and Spector, both men were, by that point, under the impression that the project had been — or was soon to be — mothballed.

2:40:22 PM

Off to Tellier’s agenda – I didn’t realize that all this material was packed away for future generations, but I guess that’s par for the course within the public service, at least at the uppity-upper levels. Anyway, according to his appointment records from back in the day, he had three meetings with Schreiber — one of which also included the prime minister, but was a “very short” meeting in April 1990.

The PM was in “their” building – Langevin – where he had an office, but rarely visited. One day, in a “totally unscheduled fashion”, his assistant popped up to tell him that, hey, the big *big* boss is here, and he wants to see you. So Tellier heads down to the PM’s office, and who should he find there but – Schreiber and Doucet, and Mulroney, of course, who greets him with, “So, where are we on Thyssen?” Wow, that sounds awkward.

Apparently *Schreiber* has a different memory of what happened, and “some are saying” that the PM eventually left him with the other two men, which also doesn’t seem to be how Tellier remembers it.

There is also some confusion as to whether the meeting was scheduled, or just a spontaneous Langevin in-popping by the PM — well, and Doucet and Schreiber, so I guess *part* of it was pre-arranged.

2:53:09 PM
And back to Defence, where an independent, if occasionally overlapping, Whitehall farce appears to have been ongoing, as various officials, military and otherwise, were doing everything possible to scupper the project once and for all. Really, stake through the heart, fire, beheading; I’d still poke that bear corpse with a stick — and even if it didn’t twitch, not turn my back on it for a second. Defence was, of course, suspected by Thyssen supporters of harbouring a pro-GM bias, and Tellier was dealing with Spector, with every expectation that whatever doings a-transpiring would get back to the PM.

2:57:04 PM
Having exhausted the memos for the moment, Battista brings up another meeting between Tellier, Fred Doucet and Schreiber – with whom he had a “limited, but cordial” relationship – that — oh, doesn’t seem to have gone at all well. Tellier found Doucet’s outrage over his failure to comply with nonexistent “instructions” from the PM “offensive”, and when Doucet threatened to call up Mulroney and tell on Tellier, he decided to do the same — and, by a lucky chance, Mulroney was available, took his call, and thanked him for the heads up on what was likely to be a far more vitriolic phone call from Fred Doucet. “I didn’t throw anyone out of my office,” he chuckles — he just didn’t want two guys in his office telling him that he was disobeying the PM, and reporting back.

3:03:41 PM
Oliphintervention: The judge wonders whether this was the May 8th meeting – yes, it was – and notes that the entry for that day doesn’t mention Schreiber, just Doucet. Tellier assures him that Schreiber was there as well, and the judge seems satisfied with that.

3:06:03 PM
Schreiber, by the record, looks like he’s about to leap right over the desk that separates him from the lawyers’ gallery, and — I don’t know, pick up where he left off with Tellier in the great Battle of Bear Head?

3:09:10 PM
Tellier takes issue with Battista’s pressing him on whether he did, in fact, set up a meeting with Defence officials and representatives from Thyssen, including Schreiber and Doucet, and stresses that he didn’t *want* a “shift in the locus” to Langevin, as far as the decision-making process. He didn’t want to be in the driver’s seat.

3:13:56 PM
Tellier has no independent recollection of a decision being taken to kill the Bear Head project– not even after going the entire file. He also isn’t really able to give a pat answer to the question of why the sole-source contract to replace the EH101s, or even the GM contract, were justified, but Bear Head was not.

Oliphant is also curious about that point, and engages the witness on the complexities of the relationship between PCO and other departments – which, Tellier would like to point out, is why PCO staffed with officials *from* those departments, and who are able to provide insight and expertise on the specific bureaucratic cultures within.

3:24:08 PM
Wow, I have to say that this getting tedious even for a fairly geeky liveblogger, which may be why I think I just had an allergy attackette. I’m now standing just outside the hearing room so I don’t end up clogging the official record with my sneezery, but don’t worry, I can see what’s going on, and the headset seems to work. You’ll never know I’m gone!

Anyway, Tellier is doing a remarkable job of almost, but quite offering a simple yes or no in response to the question of whether it was unusual for a prime minister – or this prime minister – to be so involved in a particular file; he even throws to the similarly controversial decision by Mulroney to award a contract to Bombardier instead of a Winnipeg-based company.

3:31:42 PM
Like a previous witness – I’m not being coy, I actually can’t remember who it was, although it may have been Spector – Tellier also notes that there are a lot of people in this town who would use the PM’s name to try to get their way; he, like Spector, would always counter by saying that if the prime minister wanted him to do something, he could tell him directly. It’s odd, though, that there do seem to have been so very many people who felt they *could* do so — and makes one wonder how often it worked.

3:34:24 PM
That’s it for Battista, but apparently, there are a few other questions from the other lawyers —  but first, a fifteen minute break. See you back here then!

3:53:02 PM
So the consensus amongst the media contingent is that the afternoon session has been a wee bit on the grim side, as far as the slimness of the news pickings; it’s not that his testimony hasn’t been informative — “and interesting, really!” an unidentified liveblogger keeps making eyeballs roll by chirpily insisting, although even she found herself drifting during the last hour or so of quantum memo-leaping — but it’s so many diminishing circles inside the beltway – or the Queensway, as some might have it – that it’s almost impossible to turn into anything less than the next pageturner by Donald Savoie.

3:58:38 PM
Oh, and we’re back – one of the Team Mulroney lawyers is up: Hughes, I think, although to be honest, it’s hard to keep them all straight; there are just so many, and the nameplates face the judge, not us.

Anyway, Hughes, if that is, in fact, his name, reads from Spector’s account of a conversation between himself and the prime minister, in which the PM told him that the project would probably die now that the full costs were available, which, it transpires, corresponds exactly to handwritten notes by Tellier in which he related the same information, as received from Spector, that the file “was under control”.

Then there’s a bit of back and forth between he and Tellier as far as the ensuing correspondence with Schreiber, but it’s over fairly quickly, and Richard Auger takes the stand.

4:03:07 PM
Ahh, the May 9th meeting – the one with Doucet and Schreiber, where Tellier did not, in fact, throw them out of his office, but merely escorted them to the door after a free and frank exchange of views. Auger points out that Tellier’s entry for that meeting does *not* refer to Schreiber being present for the meeting, and then goes off to yet another letter – one received by Tellier on May 9th, from Doucet, in which Doucet told him that he’d be “debriefing” his client — which could have been Schreiber, or his “associates”, according to Tellier. Schreiber had associates? (OBR: “Harmony has minions?”)

In fairness to Tellier, Auger notes, he’s relying on his recollection as far as whether Schreiber was there for the May 8th meeting, or Mulroney — who was at that meeting — excusing himself to take his wife to the airport. Wow, that was quite a day for the PM – a trip to his little-visited Langevin office *and* driving his wife to the airport.

There is nothing, however, that records the presence of Schreiber, Auger persists – and it’s pretty clear that Schreiber is fairly insistent that he *wasn’t*. Tellier says he’s willing to consider the possibility that Schreiber wasn’t there, if there is evidence to show that, but that’s how he remembers it.

4:10:25 PM
And now, a final thought from Paul Tellier, who points out that year in and year out, “thousands” of memoranda are sent to the prime minister; therefore, this has to be taken into account when he says he doesn’t remember. “This was not one of the most important files that we had to deal with,” he notes – it wasn’t the GST, free trade, the Oka crisis — which he managed *personally — or the invasion of Iraq. Oliphant assures him that he has *nothing* to apologize for, and thanks him for dropping by. Tellier wishes him good luck — prompting the following response from the judge: “I’m not the one who needs it.” Ooh, he’s a mischievous one, that Oliphant.

And with that, the hearing adjourns til tomorrow, when we will go on a magical journey through the fascinating world of forensic accounting. ITQ can’t wait. See you back here tomorrow morning!