The quality of clarity is not strained: Liveblogging the ruling from Justice Oliphant

Check back at 9:30 to learn the fate of Team Mulroney’s request for “clarification and direction” on the standards of conduct that the judge will consider when the inquiry finally gets rolling next week.

9:11:47 AM
So I should probably warn you all up front that this is likely to be a very short hearing — well, by ITQ liveblogging standards, that is. As far as I know, the judge will deliver his ruling, and then adjourn pretty much right afterwards, although I guess he probably gives counsel the opportunity to respond, if they should so choose. I always forget that this isn’t a committee, and as such, isn’t bound by House procedural rules — you know, like giving notice before tabling a motion, that sort of thing. I’ve no idea whether Team Mulroney would be able to appeal his ruling on the spot, but I suspect not.

Anyway, the tiny but mighty media contingent is growing – we even have an international component today, in the form of a reporter from der Spiegel. I know! Canada’s back, baby!

9:20:12 AM
Guess who else is back? Karlheinz Schreiber! Actually, he was here at the last meeting too – good luck keeping Karlheinz away when there is a journalistic petting zoo for the feeding – but I didn’t notice til I was packing up to leave. I know, terribly shoddy observational skills by the liveblogger.

Meanwhile, the other lawyers are starting to trickle in — annoyingly, we’re behind them so I can’t really check nameplates to remind myself of their respective parties. This is probably the last day when it will be this cosy and informal, however – next week, the witness parade.

9:27:41 AM
Three minutes to go! Are we excited yet?

9:29:03 AM
And – here he is! Darn it, I forgot to grab an ear thing. I hope the mic doesn’t flake out. Anyway, he tells us that he’s here to deliver his ruling on the request for clarification – subject, of course, to editing before publication, so this is like the blues, I guess. He notes that the mandate given to the commission gives him several questions to answer that relate to the conduct of the former prime minister, particular numbers 11 and 12.

9:32:36 AM
Quick recap of Team Mulroney’s motion, and the arguments put forth in its defence; specifically related to the inclusion of the 1985 Code of Conduct and other material by which he will be “informed”. Also, even more brief recaps of the responses from the Attorney General and Team Schreiber, which was basically, uh, haven’t we had this debate before?

9:34:08 AM
Oliphant notes that he is “satisfied” that he has the jurisdiction to clarify his ruling – the application of the formal rule has to be more flexible at a commission of inquiry – less “formalistic”, even – since there is no route to appeal other than judicial review.

The terms of reference, meanwhile, give him the power to establish standards of conduct, and “revisit” his ruling. But don’t mistake that trip down ruling memory lane as a defence thereof, or a change: “there is no lack of clarity” in the terms he has set, according to Oliphant. The standard he has set, and his reasoning, is in the original ruling.

9:37:08 AM
Oliphant has “no interest” in delving into Mulroney’s private affairs – he has his mandate, and he’s sticking to it. As for activities that he undertook after leaving office, but related to the instant issues, he will, indeed, follow his original ruling, including looking to the statutes for “relevant information” – depending on where the evidence leads him – but also to ensure that his eventual findings don’t suggest that he has made any conclusions that veer into the criminal or civil culpability or liability, at least as far as how it would be perceived by the public.

In other words, Team Mulroney, this is as much in the interest of your client as anyone else at the table, including the general public.

9:41:31 AM
He knows – o lo, does he know – that he is “precluded” from comment that might suggest the former prime minister could have failed to comply with the Income Tax Act — no, he didn’t pull that example of the air, it was one of the statutes on which Pratte wanted “clarification”.

Oh, but the Criminal Code – which was also there – he has decided “on reflection” is of limited, trifling value as far as his consideration. Does that mean he won’t “be informed” by it? It’s not clear – and as he points out, he won’t know until he hears the evidence. But if it looks like there may be a finding of “inappropriateness”, he’ll give a heads up to Mulroney well in advance, as the Inquiries Act allows.

That’s it for the ruling, but wait, there’s more: a tentative witness list for the first two days of hearings!
On Monday, the Commission will hear from
Bill McKnight and – ooh – Marc Lalonde, and on Tuesday, it’s Beth Moores and – double ooh – Derek Burney. When the hearings restart on April 14th, it’s Schreiber Time!

That’s all for this hearing – and y’all are the first outside this room to find out the witness list, so feel free to flaunt your vicarious exclusivity.

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