OTTAWA — Canadians have had just about enough of the murky Mulroney-Schreiber affair, a new poll suggests.
Nearly two-thirds of respondents to the Canadian Press-Harris Decima survey — 61 per cent — said they want Justice Jeffrey Oliphant’s inquiry to be the last word on the former prime minister’s dealings with German-Canadian businessman Karlheinz Schreiber.
The poll was conducted just prior to the release Monday of Oliphant’s final report into the affair, which described as “inappropriate” the pair’s financial relationship, as well as Mulroney’s failure to disclose it.
It’s clear Mulroney did his best to hide the fact that a relationship existed at all, Oliphant noted — he accepted payments in cash, drafted no formal agreement, issued no invoices and squirrelled the money away in a safe and a safety deposit box for years.
Canadians, a majority of them less than enamoured with the man widely considered Canada’s least popular PM, already knew that — and greeted it with a collective shrug, the poll suggests.
“From a public opinion perspective, it seems that most of the reputation damage Mr. Mulroney experienced as a result of his relationship with Karlheinz Schreiber has already been done,” Harris Decima senior vice-president Doug Anderson said in a release.
“Canadians who already feel less favourable towards Mr. Mulroney tend to be the same people who feel the Oliphant report will cause further harm to the former prime minister’s reputation. Without having yet had the opportunity to read the Oliphant report, the majority (felt) this should be the last of the inquiries on this topic.”
While Monday’s report found that Mulroney didn’t strike a formal deal with Schreiber while he was prime minister, he did reach an agreement and accepted cash while he was a sitting MP.
Mulroney has admitted receiving $225,000 in cash-filled envelopes from Schreiber during surreptitious exchanges in hotel rooms in the early 1990s — and keeping it secret for years. But he insisted it was for legal consulting work, not for lobbying government as Schreiber claimed.
The judge didn’t buy Mulroney’s claims that he lobbied a series of international leaders — most of them now dead — on behalf of a Schreiber-backed scheme to build German-designed armoured military vehicles in Canada and sell the abroad.
”I must view with skepticism Mr. Mulroney’s claim to have spoken to the leaders referred to,” Oliphant wrote.
“Simply put, Mr. Mulroney, in his business and financial dealings with Mr. Schreiber, failed to live up to the standard of conduct that he had himself adopted in the 1985 ethics code.”
Only 25 per cent of respondents said they wanted further inquiries to be held.
Fewer than one in five of those surveyed described Mulroney as an “excellent” or “good” prime minister; the vast majority — 69 per cent — considered his tenure in office as “OK” or “bad.”
One in three respondents, or 33 per cent, said they believed the Oliphant report would hurt Mulroney’s reputation, while about half — 49 per cent — said the opposite.
Of those surveyed, four in ten — 40 per cent — who thought he was a bad prime minister said they believed further inquiries should be held, compared to just 9 per cent among the paltry three per cent of respondents who considered his tenure as PM to be “excellent.”
About 24 per cent of those respondents who thought Mulroney was an “OK” prime minister wanted further inquiries, as did 13 per cent who said they considered him a “good” prime minister.
The survey of just over 1,000 Canadians was conducted by telephone May 27-30 and carries a margin of error equivalent to 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.