Schreiber: Making it up as he goes along

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by L. IAN MacDONALD
National Post, Friday, April 17, 2009

The problem with Karlheinz Schreiber's story, other than that it keeps changing, is that many of the people he claims to have known happen to be conveniently dead.

Robert Bourassa, for instance. In his testimony at the Oliphant Commission on Wednesday, Schreiber said he was a great friend of the former Quebec premier. This was news to me, and I wrote a book on Bourassa. Entitled From Bourassa to Bourassa: Wilderness to Restoration, it covered the entire period of his born-again Liberal leadership and premiership of Quebec from 1985 to 1994.

In hundreds of conversations over the years, and in many hours of interviews for the book, Bourassa never once mentioned Schreiber's name. There is no evidence that they met. Not socially, and not on business about investments that might have created jobs in Quebec.

Bourassa announced his retirement in September, 1993, and left office in January, 1994. Had he still been in office after that time, he might well have given Schreiber a meeting to discuss a military vehicle plant he hoped to locate in the East End of Montreal, and which Andre Ouellet, as Jean Chretien's Quebec lieutenant, was quite properly promoting.

But Bourassa had left office by then. He had no reason to meet Schreiber, and to my knowledge, he never did.

Just to be sure, I called John Parisella, who was Bourassa's chief of staff from 1989 to 1994, who saw the premier's schedule every day, and controlled access to him in both his Montreal and Quebec City offices.

"I had never heard of Schreiber at the time, and I never met him," Parisella said. "As far as I know, Mr. Bourassa never met him."

Just to be sure, Parisella checked with his predecessor, Mario Bertrand, Bourassa chief of staff from 1985 to 1989. "He'd never heard of him, either," Parisella said.

Well, then, maybe Bourassa had Schreiber over for drinks on weekends to his home on Maplewood Avenue in Outremont, or perhaps he had him up to his wife's country home, the Simard family estate in Ste-Anne de-Sorel. Or maybe he had Schreiber down to his condominium in Bal Harbour, Fla.

I don't think so. But Bourassa isn't here to answer Schreiber's claim of friendship, having died in 1996.

Frank Moores? He's dead, too. So is his associate Gary Ouellet, who also figures in Schreiber's story.

Fortunately, Richard Wolson seems to have Schreiber figured out. Wolson is the chief counsel to the Oliphant Inquiry, and he is the new sheriff in town. He may be just in from Winnipeg, but he is the real deal, and he can play at this level.

As Schreiber has learned this week, a commission of inquiry is very different from the Ethics Committee on Parliament Hill. MPs, with only seven minutes of question time each, never had the chance to unravel his story, or expose the many contradictions in it.

Wolson, on the other hand, has had Schreiber on the stand for three days, and in his relentlessly inquisitive manner, has shredded his credibility. When Mulroney appears next month, he'd better be prepared for a real going-over from Wolson, and he'd better have good answers to all his questions.

But at least Mulroney can keep track of who his friends were. Schreiber, on the other hand, seem to pluck them out of thin air.

 
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