So long, and thanks for all the fish: Liveblogging final arguments at the Oliphant Inquiry - Macleans.ca

So long, and thanks for all the fish: Liveblogging final arguments at the Oliphant Inquiry

by

Yes, it’s come to this: the curtain will rise on the last scene of the long-running drama that has been dazzling – and confounding – audiences at Old City Hall since the Oliphant Show opened to rave reviews earlier this year. Well, the last scene of Act One, anyway — we still have the second phase of public hearings to go, after all.

Sadly, we won’t be hearing from the Big Bad Wolson, the Talented Mr. Roitenberg or any of our other favourite commission counsel today — and yes, it’s a little bit unusual for them not to submit final arguments, but not totally unheard of; ITQ’s theory is that they’re fairly confident that the judge has, as one might say, gotten their drift, as far as how they see the facts of the case. Nevertheless, ITQ is eagerly awaiting an epic performance on the part of Guy Pratte on behalf of Team Mulroney, at the very least, and we’re hoping that Karlheinz Schreiber will have sufficiently convalesced to be able to attend in person, so he can nod approvingly from the audience as Richard Auger delivers his closing summation.

Get a sneak preview here, courtesy of the unfailingly up-to-date commission website. (The actual arguments aren’t up yet, but the binders should give you a pretty good idea of what we’re going to hear.)

9:18:49 AM
Good morning and welcome to Oliphantasy Island, where all your geekiest legal procedural dreams will come true! Rumour has it that we may just be out of here by 1pm, although that will depend on whether the lawyers are able to agree on the lineup, and the all-important question: to lunch, or not to lunch. Or rather, to lunch at the usual appointed hour, or defer til after all parties have been heard from, and break for the day. Such is the stuff of rampant debate and discussion in the media encampment today. Which, ITQ can report, is boasting a surprisingly high turnout by inquiry regulars — the Globe’s Greg MacArthur is back, as is CanWest Mulroney maven Norma Greenaway; Sun Media, CBC, Canadian Press — really, the gang’s all here.

Of course, we’re also all on unofficial RaittWatch — we may not be on the Hill, but the berryvine extends outside the parliamentary precinct. How *did* reporters manage in the days before we were all wired to the centre – and each other – through the magic of technology? Wait, don’t answer that; I bet the approved response involves a lot of harrumphing and in-my-daying.

9:39:34 AM
Apologies for the delay, but – well, there’s apparently a delay; we’re still waiting for the judge to show up, and nobody knows what’s keeping him, although judging from the steady stream of lawyers in and out of the room, it seems likely that there are behind-the-scenes doin’s a’happenin’.

9:42:29 AM
Well, we’ve got a tentative order of appearance, at least — Fred Doucet’s lawyer – Robert Houston – will go first, followed by Auger, with Pratte getting the last word. I guess Team Attorney General doesn’t have anything more to say.

9:50:40 AM
Still no sign of the judge, and a mutiny is starting to take shape in the Victoria Room.

9:51:45 AM
And just as I typed that, the sun came out and the judge arrived; he apologizes for the delay, and tells us that he expects an explanation — he was told that the lawyers would be ready to go within minutes, and then — nothing.

Battista – who apparently drew the short straw – tries to mollify the clearly irate Oliphant; counsel for the parties have been busily negotiating, and are very, very close to an agreement. Ten more minutes, and they’ll be ready to go. The judge gives all and sundry his most barely veiled baleful eye, and gives notice that he’ll be back at 10am, and they’d best be ready to go at that point.

9:56:26 AM

Apparently, it is an “arcane dispute over evidentiary matters”. Oh boy. Y’all have ten minutes, kids — best get agreeing!

10:00:13 AM
Okay, it looks like they’ve managed to cobble together some sort of consensus – and not a moment too soon, ITQ would suggest, given the mood of the judge during his brief appearance earlier today. The lawyers – *all* of the lawyers – are back, and settling in at their respective tables.

10:02:16 AM
Okay, let’s try this again: All rise!

Battista is back at the microphone, and promises that the main event will soon get underway, but first, there are just a few bits of housekeeping business to address: a late addition to the exhibits – the rest of a previously-filed document from the Canada Revenue Agency that involves the Voluntary Disclosure program; a clarification on testimony by one of the CRA officials who appeared before the commission – the policy on waiving interest changed in 2002, not 2008 – and an agreed-upon-by-all-parties statement that, to be honest, ITQ doesn’t quite follow, but *also* has to do with the disclosure program.

10:06:16 AM
With that out of the way, Wolson is up – he suggests that the judge might want to hear the first two submissions this morning, then break for lunch, and hear from Pratte this afternoon, with each lawyer taking approximately an hour. So – wait, really? I don’t get to go back for Question Period? That’s kind of disappointing, actually, but I’ll try not to hold it against the inquiry.

Wolson also delivers a very gracious acknowledgment of the hard work that has been undertaken by the various lawyers — they are, he says, collectively and individually a credit to their profession.

Ack — “And I’d now like to focus on the media.” I hope we’re not in trouble.

10:09:22 AM
Oh good, we aren’t — he thanks us for our professionalism, courtesy, and for just generally being an unending source of delight. Phew.

More thank-yous — to the inquiry staff, and finally, to the rest of Team Commission Counsel, who deserve every bit of praise that they get.

10:12:27 AM
With that, Wolson hands the floor over to — Richard Auger, as it turns out; I guess that tentative lineup really *was* tentative. He begins by withdrawing two paragraphs in his written brief — 121 and 122, and no, I’m not sure what those involve, but I’ll try to find out.

He’s going to focus *his* closing arguments on credibility — starting with that of the former prime minister, as it relates to the substance of this inquiry, followed by that of Schreiber.

10:14:59 AM
And he’s off to the races, starting from the position that, well, nothing about Brian Mulroney’s story makes sense, nor is it backed up by any evidence. He points to that now iconic exchange between Wolson and Mulroney over *why* he didn’t transfer the cash from the safety deposit box to a bank account – yes, the one that so transfixed Colleague Coyne – as a good example of the sort of non-answer that Mulroney gave in response to so many questions, and points out that, out of all the main witnesses, Mulroney was the only one to decline to give a pre-interview, or willsay, to commission counsel.

10:19:05 AM
“Mr. Mulroney,” Auger reminds us, had a tendency to “minimize the importance” of documentary evidence that seemed to conflict with his version of events, like the mandate letter, and the email from Luc Lavoie to the Toronto Star, which, Auger recalls, he attempted to explain away by pointing out – more than once – that he typed it on a BlackBerry while “sitting in a park” in Paris.

Auger also gives a shoutout to Fred Bild, the former ambassador to China and, in ITQ’s opinion, one of the most underrated witnesses to appear before the commission, who – as he points out – also failed to back up Mulroney’s account of his trips, including those meetings at which Mulroney claimed to have brought up the Bear Head project.

10:27:36 AM
Sorry about the interruption in liveblogging — berrywoes once again — but honestly, you haven’t missed much, as far as new material, which isn’t a slam at Auger, who is doing exactly what he’s expected to do, as far as giving the judge a recap of what he’s heard, seen and learned so far, from a pro-Schreiber perspective. He points out that even Mulroney admitted that the whole P5 concept — getting the United Nations security council to sign off on a group buy of Bear Head vehicles — wasn’t a very good idea, yet he still claims to have gone out there and attempted to sell various now deceased world leaders on the concept, thus risking his own reputation on the international front without even giving his ostensible client – Schreiber – a heads up.

Oh, and as for those world leaders, while Auger agrees that the judge can’t hold the fact that they’re all dead against the former prime minister, the fact remains that there were other individuals present – including those still unnamed other clients who were on the China trip – that have not been produced to corroborate Mulroney’s story.

He then moves through the rest of the testimony, taking special care to remind the judge that at least one – Fred Doucet – is a longtime friend, and has been unabashedly supportive of his former boss in giving his version of events, up to and including convenient bouts of amnesia over more potentially troublesome material, like those infamous faxes that seem to refer to the Airbus contract.

Really, if you read Colleague Coyne’s “Unbelievable”, you’ve heard much of this already.

10:37:03 AM
With that, Auger moves onto *his* client’s credibility; he calls it “disingenuous” of Mulroney to suggest that Schreiber only pushed for an inquiry to stave off deportation.

Schreiber would not, he contends, show up at Mirabel Airport with an envelope full of money unless there was already an agreement in place; also, his client has given testimony that goes against his own interest — like admitting that he hired a prime minister while he was still in office at the Harrington Lake.

10:41:24 AM
Auger points to the dispute over the amount paid to Mulroney – were the payments for $100,000, or $75,000 — Schreiber’s position, he tells the judge, is that the larger number is the correct one, and the forensic report by Navigant would seem to back that up, since it shows withdrawals for those amounts just before the dates of the meetings.

10:43:28 AM
Schreiber – and Thyssen – were misled by Mulroney, before, during and after he left office — he simply did not perform the services for which he was paid. That’s Auger’s – or rather, his client’s position, and he’s sticking to it. A quick reminder that his client gave the commission access to all his files, diaries and agendas — without redaction, and a thank you to the commission, and he wraps it up.

Fifteen minute break, and then – Houston, I guess.

10:59:01 AM
Update: Okay, so since Houston didn’t file a written submission, he’s probably going to go on for at least an hour.

Also, we’re pretty sure that this is the first time that the lawyers for a federal inquiry have actually acknowledged — and thanked, even! — the media in their closing address. I think I can speak for most of us Oliphantiacs when I say that we’ve been consistently dazzled by how very media-friendly — in the right way, mind you — this commission has been, from making documents available to indulging our constant pleas to make the room just a little warmer — no, now cooler — now warmer again. Frankly, we’re just glad — and a little unused to — to not be treated like an unwanted interlope, and cordially despised at best.

11:08:13 AM
And – we’re back! After a brief preview by Houston of what he plans to put before the judge — he gets right down to the brass tacks: Fred Doucet, he reminds the judge, was a Cape Bretoner, and a cheerleader for his hometown, and anything that could benefit his fellow Capers, including a project like Bear Head.

It is conceivable, he notes, that Bear Head came up during the meetings he had as a senior advisor to the then-prime minister, but reminds the judge that it was the principals of GCI who were working on it, from 1985 til its eventual end, including Doucet’s own brother, Gerry Doucet, as well as Gary Ouellette and Frank Moores, now deceased. It’s possible that “Brother Gerry” told “Brother Fred” about the project, but there is no evidence that Fred played any role other than unofficial cheerleader before 1988, when he left government.

11:15:26 AM
Houston addresses what is probably the biggest problem with the credibility of his client – the memory loss – by reminding the judge that he underwent heart surgery just before that point; he then gets into a bit of an awkward spot when he refers to the widespread agreement that such conditions can cause memory loss, which prompts the judge to ask if there is evidence of that before the commission. “There is no evidence of that,” Houston admits, although he points to his client’s own words; he did testify that he *had* experienced it. Um. Okay, then. Moving on.

11:18:19 AM
Onto the waiver request – which, ITQ must point out, Doucet has no rcollection of requesting from Jean Pierre Kingsley – which was granted, in a letter that notes that Doucet’s situation was no different from any of the other former public office holders who asked for, and received, similar dispensations from the cooling-off period. Also, Schreiber’s address books back up Doucet’s claim that he first met Schreiber in the fall of 1988, and not earlier; the later entries include full contact information for *both* Doucet brothers.

11:21:37 AM
Moving on – no, it’s not your imagination; Houston *is* jumping around, as far as the points he wants to address – to Bitucan, and Doucet’s lobbyist registration filings. Wait, I just realized I got the year wrong in my last entry – it was the fall of 1989 when Doucet began working on Schreiber’s behalf.

11:22:50 AM
Houston reminds the judge that Doucet denies any responsibility for obtaining Beatty’s signature on the Understanding in Principle; even Schreiber’s version of events, he notes, is “vague”. There’s then a bit of excerpt-reading – from Houston’s cross-examination of Schreiber – during which the latter admitted that he didn’t actually talk to Beatty about the UiP, and then went on to accuse Schreiber of making the whole thing up. I’d forgotten how difficult it is to listen to Houston for an extended period of time – which, in his case, covers any amount of time longer than about thirty seconds. He always comes across as argumentative and hostile — almost belligerant, even when he’s just summing up his case for the judge.

11:29:13 AM
Houston notes that Schreiber denied having any interest over IAL, yet Navigant found that there were multiple bank accounts connected to IAL that were seemingly controlled by Schreiber — over three dozen accounts total, he reminds us, and – as Wolson pointed out during *his* examination of Schreiber, that wasn’t even *all* of them. Out of all of those accounts, there wasn’t one in the name of Bear Head Industries.

11:32:23 AM
Houston grabs the Bitucan invoice bull by the horns, noting that once again, Schreiber claimed the payments – including that made to his client – were made on Frank Moores’ instruction – once again, he muses, it was all the now deceased Frank’s doing. “It is true that my client has no recollection of that account or the cheque,” he allows — it was his practice to accept retainerships, from the time he began to “hold out his name and hang out his shingle” in the fall of 1988. Was this cheque his first payment, as averred by Schreiber? The invoice is numbered 119, which makes it “improbable” that the first one would be dated that way. Well, unless he generated invoice numbers by date, or using some other non-linear system.

11:36:06 AM
Houston grumbles over “his honourable friend” Auger’s contention that Schreiber “doesn’t fabricate stories,” and offers the latter’s letter to Ethics chair Paul Szabo as, I assume, evidence to the contrary; in it, Schreiber includes the invoice from Schreiber to Thyssen as a “corroborating document”, and claims that the “$2 million” was divided between Mulroney and friends, including some stashed away in the Frankfurt account, which, Schreiber alleged, the former prime minister “would know” was “marked for him”, and refers to a bank document that backs this up, yet no such document was included.

11:40:04 AM
Back to the Navigant report, and transfers back and forth between various Liechensteinian bank accounts; I’m fairly sure he made many of the same assertions during his cross-examination of Schreiber, but the upshot seems to be that he – Schreiber – was moving money hither and yon, paying his Swiss lawyer here, fattening the Bitucan coffers there, and $100,000 to his own account in Calgary, or so he contends.

11:44:17 AM
“The evidence …. Is crystal clear,” Houston says, that it was *Schreiber* who was orchestrating the complex series of transfers – not Frank Moores; he “not only fabricates stories, he exaggerates”, and the letter to Szabo is, to put it plainly, “absurd”.

11:46:59 AM
Oh, the rubricked accounts – “Fred” and “Marc”, allegedly for Fred Doucet and Marc Lalonde. What’s up with that, Houston wonders — why did Schreiber leave some accounts numbered only, but give others code names? There is “at least an inference that can be drawn” that he was attempting to “draw a phony trail”.

Anyway, all this should erode the credibility of *anything* Schreiber has to say about cash, particularly the withdrawal thereof from one – or more – of his many accounts. As Schreiber told the judge, he would take money out from different ones, and squirrel it away in Germany — and yet he claims he *always* knew which francs – or dollars or whatever – went to Mulroney, which defies belief.

11:52:42 AM
It really doesn’t matter when the business relationship ended between Schreiber and Doucet, Houston contends — the two worked together for four or five years, and the details aren’t important.

11:53:27 AM
Onto the Mirabel meeting, and the contradictory claims by Schreiber and Doucet; Doucet maintains that Schreiber told *him* that he wanted to meet with Mulroney to discuss international business, yet Schreiber claims that he gave no explanation when he asked Doucet to set it up. Schreiber also failed to tell Mulroney – or Doucet – about his meeting with Corbeil the day before.

It’s really, really cold in here, by the way. I wonder if Oliphant could spare one of the TV lights trained on his desk — we could use a heat lamp back here in the media section.

Meanwhile, Houston has finally made it to the New York meeting — which, as he notes, Mulroney’s assistant referred to as “our meeting”, thereby debunking the claim that Doucet was an uninvited – and not particularly welcome – guest.

11:59:25 AM
Houston seems to be spending as much time trying to bolster Mulroney’s version of events – and, in a larger sense, his credibility, as he does for his client.

12:00:25 PM
And now, 1999 and that fateful fifth estate broadcast – Houston just told the judge that he expects to finish up within the next ten minutes, by the way – and the “detailed information” that Linden McIntyre seemed to have on various financial transactions, despite Schreiber’s claim that he had refused to speak to the reporters.

12:03:12 PM
On February 4, 2000, Houston notes, Schreiber met Doucet at his – Doucet’s – office in Ottawa to discuss the mandate document. On his own, Doucet had decided that he should “memorialize” the agreement between Schreiber and Mulroney – it perhaps could have been “more tightly drafted”, he admits – or drafted *at the time that it was actually (or allegedly) agreed upon, ITQ would suggest – but “whatever”. Yes, that’s a quote. Anyway, they sat in the boardroom and finalized the document, with both men contributing handwritten annotations to the page.

12:08:21 PM
Not surprisingly, Houston is downright contemptuous of Schreiber’s claim not to have written the words that appear on the document; he goes on at length to explain why, and the judge, at one point, muses that his rhetoric “sounds like a song” – “don’t encourage him,” warns Pratte from the side – which makes Houston laugh, and renders him instantly at least three times more likeable.

With that, he winds down to a close; Oliphant, it transpires, has no questions, which means it’s time to break for lunch. How long? That depends on how much time Pratte needs. He suggests 1:30, and the judge agrees. No, that doesn’t mean we’ll make it back for QP, but depending on how long he goes, the scrums are a distinct possibility.

See you back here in 45 minutes!

1:32:01 PM
We’re back – and Guy Pratte is gearing up for his last kick at the can, as far as redeeming his client’s somewhat bedraggled reputation; he notes that human beings – that’s us, you guys! – often make “snap judgments” about situations – and other human beings, but judges – like this one – understand the *fairness* that the legal process requires. Oh, this is going to be his thanks to the judge – which, he says, is merely stating a “self-evident proposition”; that the commission, and its counsel, have done well.

He segues smoothly into the importance of fairness – judicial, and otherwise – which is especially important when the reputation of a *person* is at stake — even more especially when it is a public person, and one who was involved in a wide variety of actions and achievements, some of which were “controversial”.

A public inquiry, meanwhile, is the only legal proceeding that is televised — well, other than the House, which – with the Senate – is the highest court in the land, but a judge is not like a reporter, or an editorial writer, or a columnist — he has to weigh the evidence, and not come to a snap judgment, like those who have already judged his client, and found him wanting. Is anyone else getting dizzy?

Anyway, he hopes – or at least hopes he can hope – that *some* people, at least, will wait for Oliphant to release his report before drawing their final conclusions. (You hear that, Colleague Coyne? I think it’s possible that Pratte may be thinking of you.)

1:39:08 PM
With that bit of business, Pratte moves on to the “genesis” of this inquiry – that infamous 2007 affidavit, which was “larded” with falsehoods, and his covert conspiring with the media – and “some opposition members – spread those allegations at a parliamentary committee. Fie, fie! “None of these allegations of wrongdoing while he was prime minister have been proven true,” Pratte asserts. That’s – not inaccurate, although I suspect there are some who may dispute the notion that they were conclusively *dis*proven, but this is Pratte’s moment, so let’s let him have it.

1:41:22 PM
Pratte recalls the famous Schreiberian promise – “seven scandals in one” – and notes that “the main purveyors of that canard” – Okay, CBC, Stevie Cameron and assorted other journalists, I think he’s talking about you now.

1:43:25 PM
Oh, and we shouldn’t be disappointed that no tales of criminal and otherwise perfidies were shown to be true; we should “celebrate” it.

He does, however, acknowledge that the way his client handled his affairs, no matter how above board, did leave a little bit to be desired, and he’ll have some recommendations to make on that in his submission.

1:45:31 PM
Let’s talk corroboration, Pratte suggests. Oh boy, yes – let’s! As it turns out, as far as Pratte can see it, the best corroboration for Mulroney’s story comes from … Schreiber himself; at least, the pre-1999ish Schreiber, who took part in the Eurocopter hearings, and — yeah, I think we all heard the record scratch there, but let’s forge onwards.

1:47:40 PM
It is “categorically false” that a $500,000 sum was set aside for Mulroney in 1988, and this was used for the subsequent payments – this, Pratte notes, was debunked by the Navigant report.

Plus, not one of the calls between Schreiber and Mulroney that show up in the phone logs took place before the latter left office. Whatever the contact, and whatever the number of meetings, however, it had *no* effect other than to make sure that the project was properly evaluated, and eventually, it was Mulroney who declared it “dead”.

1:52:06 PM
Pratte notes that, when examining his client, Auger got his client to say that the discussion of the mandate began on June 3, 1993 – at a meeting at which both the former PM’s chief of staff *and* Fred Doucet were present — a claim that had never been proferred before, not in the subsequent lawsuits or even at the Ethics committee, which should cast “extraordinary doubt” upon it.

1:54:20 PM
I have to admit that Pratte is a pretty darned persuasive narrative spinner. There’s a reason why, if in the unenviable position of being forced before a public inquiry, he’s definitely the guy you want on your side.

1:57:53 PM
Pratte moves on to other matters — I think it’s the MacKay email on the affidavit that Schreiber claims Mulroney – or one of his minions – drafted for him; in fact, Pratte notes, Schreiber actually corroborated Mulroney’s claim, as far as the mandate, and the Eurocopter claims!

“Can you corroborate yourself,” Oliphant wonders. Well, of course – if there are only two parties involved, Pratte notes. Schreiber – at the time – was making statements against his own interest, which means they should be taken as credible. Wait, isn’t that a hearsay exception? Does it necessarily mean that the original (but now contradicted) statement is true?

2:04:25 PM
Finally, Pratte gets to the commercial transaction, and how his client handled it; he reminds Oliphant that, back in October 1993, Mulroney believed Schreiber to be a respected businessman and the president of a subsidiary of a major corporation — not to mention, the representative of a “legitimate” business proposal: Bear Head. “Where were all these farsighted people in 2007,” he wondered, when Schreiber was freed from jail to “con” a parliamentary committee, as well as the media – really, to “con” us all.

2:08:47 PM
Really, the Eurocopter testimony? Really? At least Pratte doesn’t treat us all to another dramatic re-reading, although it would be even more pointless if he had to read both sides.

2:11:15 PM
Another bit of corroboration — wait, “another” may be stretching it, since all we’ve had so far is the somewhat problematic claim that Schreiber is the best corroborator Mulroney has — anyway, Pratte argues that it makes perfect sense that Mulroney would have been involved in international marketing efforts.

2:14:29 PM
Hey, remember those brochures? With the UN logo prominently displayed on the artistic renditions of the BearHeadMobiles? That about sums up this particular subpoint.

2:19:11 PM
Of *course* all those meetings were face-to-face chinwags with world leaders who, yes, now *do* happen to be dead, but it’s not like Mulroney *killed* them, after all: That’s how former prime ministers turned international lobbyists do business — with the “ultimate decisionmakers”. Pratte takes time to point out that, in his testimony, former ambassador Bilt actually demonstrated why that was the case; if there were other parties present, and if the bureaucracy got involved, they’d study such a proposal within an inch of its life.

Oh, and it was $225,000, not $300,000, no matter what Schreiber might claim.

2:27:31 PM
Pratte notes that, despite the kneejerk reaction to the revelation that these meetings took place in hotel rooms, and involved the handover of cash, it’s important to recall that, after at least one meeting, Mulroney hopped in a car with a pair of RCMP officers, and was driven home with the cash-stuffed envelope on his lap, and – okay, is he *trying* to make me point out that there is *no independent corroboration that any RCMP officers were with the former prime minister at the time*? Because if so, mission accomplished!

As for the taxes, and the fact that he didn’t pay it on the full sum, or face penalties — well, that’s how it was done in Quebec at the time.

2:32:27 PM
And now, the explanation for the possibly not quite optimum handling of the cash – literally and figuratively – by a former prime minister that we’ve all been waiting for, which involves a mercifully not *too* extended metaphor about speeding on a highway witn your child in the car, and then a comparison to then-Senator Obama’s decision to buy property next to confirmed-vaguely-sinister developer Tony Rezco – yes, really – before — oh, that’s kind of it, actually. It was an error in judgment. Even Obama has made one.

2:35:15 PM
Finally – at least, I hope we’ve hit the “finally” point – the delayed disclosure, which I suspect is going to involve a recap of the trials and tribulations surrounding Airbus.

Just as Pratte is hitting his stride as far as the whole “Shepherd didn’t ask the question, so he didn’t answer it” argument, with which I won’t bore y’all again, Oliphant pipes up to wonder where, exactly, in the Quebec code it states that counsel doesn’t have to ensure that his client answers all questions fulsomely, and seems unsatisfied when Pratte points to precedent; to be fair, Pratte does a pretty good job of explaining why, in this case, Shephard was more interested in the *pre*1993 relationship between Mulroney and Schreiber. More importantly, the answer that was given “was true”.

Eventually, Oliphant reminds Pratte that he wasn’t suggesting that the government was misled, he just wants to know where, in Quebec jurisprudence, a witness is not required to tell “the whole truth”. But he *did* tell the whole truth, Pratte avers, prompting Oliphant to wonder if that is, indeed, his position. Which it is, or so it seems — and by the by, Pratte reminds the judge — Kaplan agreed that the lawyers didn’t ask the right question.

I wonder if this has thrown Pratte off his feet, as far as timing. Which is, in court as in politics, love, and rodeos, pretty much everthing.

2:48:18 PM
Ooh, apparently, Pratte is close to his conclusion.

2:51:23 PM
The “coverup” allegations by Schreiber – the Zurich meeting, the letter, all that stuff – simply don’t hold water, Pratte says. (The stuff that does back up Mulroney’s story, on the other hand, is a veritable double-humped dromedary of truth-storage. Just so you know.)

2:53:26 PM
O, sweet words: “In conclusion”. Pratte once again stresses the importance of fairness — not just procedural, but “substantive”. Things have to be put in context, and judgment must be “proportional” – and while the judge can’t find criminal or civil liability, his conclusions will bear directly on a person’s reputation – will, to a large extent, *define* that reputation. He will “paint a picture of Mulroney” that will live on in the minds of Canadians, which means he has to take into account *all* the aspects that should be depicted. “I know what public reports can do in real life”, Pratte notes – people are ‘stigmatized’ – they can’t find jobs, they are harassed in hospitals and supermarkets.

Without in any way denying that this was a “serious error in judgment”, Pratte wants the judge to remember that we’ve all made mistakes, and “temper” any condemnation – if these transgressions were “widely known”, we too might be publicly shamed.

And yes, post-employment conduct *is* important, but it has to be viewed in context.

3:00:18 PM
More about Lies My German Canadian Arms Dealer Told Me (And The Rest Of Us), and a defence of Mulroney’s most recent performance on the stand, which – Wolson notes – was a testament to his client’s restraint and self-control; he kept his temper, and his sense of humour, even under the sometimes daunting cross-examination of Mr. Wolson.

Not to mention the fact that Mulroney has already faced consequences — the current prime minister banned members of his caucus and cabinet from speaking to him. What does *that* say to the rest of the world – and what about the presumption of innocence?

3:04:59 PM
Oh boy, now *Pratte* wants to turn to the media. He – like Wolson – thinks the media did “a very good job” in this case, at least *in general*, although there were a few occasions where the judge had to clarify “misunderstandings” by the media – there was no “special deal” for Mulroney, as far as having his counsel perform the main examination – as well as some statements about the evidence, in which Wolson “made crystal clear” that it wasn’t to be taken to show that Mulroney took Airbus money – yet a headline the next day read almost exactly that. “The money may have ultimately *come* from Airbus,” Pratte notes, but there is no way that *Mulroney* would have known that. Oliphant reminds him that usually, it’s not the *reporter* who writes the headline – it’s the editor, and journalists can often be heard to grumble. After an awkward micropause, Pratte moves onto the stories written after the release of the agreed-upon statement on the RCMP’s failure to find any records of officers on duty — Oliphant has no comment on that.

Shoutout to Colleague Coyne, and the “weekly magazine” that claimed there wasn’t a *shred* of *documentary evidence* to back up Mulroney’s story, although Pratte then reads a list that seems to depend heavily on testimony and material provided by Schreiber, so I’m not sure whether that will persuade CC to issue a mea culpa. He’s also not thrilled by the closing sentence, which, to him, seems to call for a renewed investigation into the case.

3:12:40 PM
Pratte wraps up by beseeching Oliphant to use his report to set the record straight, and then quotes “a friendly member of the media”, who reminded him before his appearance that brevity is the soul of wit. (Um. But it is! I’m sure whoever she is, she was just being helpful.) He gives a truly gracious tribute to the other legal teams and lawyers, and the families of those who have participated in this process – yes, thanks to all of you – and steps aside.

3:14:39 PM
Finally, a few words from the commissioner, who notes that this marks the close of the first phase of the inquiry – just two days short of the granting of the Order in Council that gave him his mandate, and notes with some satisfaction that they have, indeed, managed to accomplish the first part of their mission on schedule. There are over 4,000 pages of transcripts, and thousands and thousands more pages of documents, many of which he will be re-reading and reviewing as he prepares his report.

During the course of the inquiry, questions have been raised in the media – oh, we’re just nothing but trouble, aren’t we? – over whether it was worth it; he suggests we wait for the report to decide, but points out that it has, at the very least, we’ve learned a lot about how government works.

He goes on to point to the efforts that have been made to make the proceedings as transparent as possible, for the public and the media – yes, the Oliphant website really should be the standard for all future inquiries – but he also made a point of welcoming the media, who shone light on what went on in the hearing room. As another judge once said, he notes, sunshine is a good disinfectant. Wait, that’s *ITQ’s* (borrowed) line!

He commends and thanks the media for the accurate and informative way in which they – well, we – reported the proceedings. Does anyone else want to hug him right now? Seriously, I know ITQ is not alone.

Oh, and the lawyers too – all of them – get high praise as well, for their ethical conduct, as does Barry McLoughlin, and the rest of the commission staff — also well deserved — before he closes with a special recognition of Richard Wolson, who, as Pratte noted earlier, is one of the best lawyers in the country — and now, the whole country is starting to see that too.

Finally, he wants everyone to know that he is very sensitive to the fact that a report can do untold damage to the reputation of a witness, or a party – and he will take that into account when he writes it up. Everything will be put under the microscope of judicial scrutiny. He promises.

And with that, we’re adjourned. Aww, I may cry. Anyway, I’ll have more thoughts later.