“When guests visit they will also see hundreds of artefacts spread throughout the building, memorabilia from Mr. Mulroney’s nearly nine years as prime minister, items that reflect significant moments in Canadian political history. Visitors will find a trove of historical documents and will visit a replica of the prime minister’s office including his original desk.

St. Francis Xavier University press release
October 26, 2016

When the Mulroney Institute (“Canada’s leading centre for undergraduate teaching and research in the field of public policy and governance”) officially opens next year in Mulroney Hall (a new $40-million edifice honouring the long life and many works of one Martin Brian Mulroney, prominent St. F.X. alumni and Canada’s 18th prime minister), I have a few suggestions for student assignments.

Perhaps students entering its four-year degree program could begin their education on public policy and governance (and how things really work) with a scavenger hunt through that original Mulroney desk. First one to find the three envelopes destined for Mulroney — each stuffed with cash from German arms dealer, political fixer, and convicted tax evader Karlheinz Schreiber’s Swiss bank account — gets to write an essay on the lessons still not learned from Canada’s Airbus scandal.

More advanced students might want to sift through Mulroney’s “trove of historical documents [and] memorabilia …  that reflect significant moments in Canadian political history” in search of evidence to explain how Wafic Said, a Syrian-born, Monaco-based arms dealer who ran much of his fortune through a Bermuda tax haven and was accused of funneling billions of dollars in “corrupt commissions” to members of the Saudi royal family, managed to qualify for Canadian citizenship.

Finding the answer to that question should be easier for an intrepid student than it seems. In 2015, St. Francis Xavier University awarded Said — who, not so coincidentally, donated $4-million to the Mulroney Institute — an honorary degree. Surely, the president’s office must still have his email address.

Failing that, an eager student should be able to check with Mulroney himself, the institute’s namesake, who no doubt engineered Said’s honorary degree and who may also have been helpful in landing Said his Canadian citizenship. Earlier this fall, when Said’s name surfaced in the Paradise Papers tax haven documents, Mulroney told the CBC, through his lawyer, he “has known Mr. Said and his family for more than 20 years. He is an outstanding man, a highly successful investor and a leading philanthropist. He is also a good friend.”

The former prime minister has had many “good” friends, many of whom pop up in leaks of information about tax havens. Many of those same names also figured prominently in helping underwrite the Mulroney Institute, which university president Kent MacDonald has called “the most transformative project in the history of St. F.X.”

Besides Said, the CBC reported last week that donors to the $60-million Mulroney Institute — many of them personally solicited by Mulroney— ranged from Said to Victor Dahdaleh, “a Jordanian-born metals magnate implicated in aluminum-industry kickbacks, to [Wilbur Ross,] one of U.S. President Donald Trump’s cabinet picks with ties to Russia,” to the infamous Koch brothers, U.S.-based funders of far-right causes and deniers of climate change. (Ironically, one of six academic chairs this avalanche of funding helped finance will be a chair in “climate change and the environment.” We shall see…)

Dahdaleh, who gave $1.5-million to create the Victor Dahdaleh Chair in Democracy and Governance, also received an honorary degree from the university.

The university’s president, who would not agree to an interview with the CBC, did release a statement insisting that St. F.X. not only has a “very rigorous process” for choosing who to honour with a doctorate but also noting the “significant … economic impact” the new institute will have on northeastern Nova Scotia.

The two do not seem unconnected.

As Jim Turk, director of the Centre for Free Expression at Ryerson University in Toronto, told the CBC: “Universities are under-funded so they’re desperate for money, and what happens so often is that they become very uncritical about who they accept the money from.”

Seems to be the case here.

As for that “rigorous” vetting process the president speaks of? Peter McInnis, chair of the university’s department of history and a member of the university’s senate, which votes on such honours, told the Canadian Press that nominations are sometimes “shrouded in mystery… and often there is no real deliberation. It’s a fairly perfunctory process and it should be subject to greater scrutiny.”

Stephen Kimber is an award-winning writer, editor, broadcaster, and educator. A journalist for more than 50 years whose work has appeared in most Canadian newspapers and magazines, he is the author of...

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  1. – I’m sure Tompkins and Coady turned over in their graves.
    – Images of Mulroney and Reagan singing “When Irish Eyes Are Smiling”
    – Images of Mulroney & Mila and Conrad & Barbara at their Florida estates (Vanity Fair magazine some years ago). Guess this is where Mulroney and Trump became friends?

  2. If I remember correctly as far back as mulrony’s successful bid to replace Joe Clark as ladder their were aligatins of the use of offshore money to fund his campaign.

  3. It is interesting that Kent Macdonald, current president of Stfx was an active worker for Elmer Mackay, Peter Mackay and Brian Mulroney during the 1980’s. All these individuals were all friends of Joe Stewart.

    I guess some things never change

    1. Mulroney’s reputation is already in tatters but I wonder wether X has any pride left. Moses Coady and Jimmy Tompkins must be spinning in their graves.

  4. How can we ever forget the Mulroney GST and Free Trade ?
    The terrible GST hated by Liberals and the NDP, until Harper dropped the rate to 5% from 7% and then the haters gnashed their teeth and warned of financial disaster.
    And ‘the death of Canada’ if Free Trade came about. I still have my copy of the 20 page ‘Pro-Canada Network’ booklet, complete with cartoons by Aislin and Entitled ‘What’s the big deal’. A hilarious memo.
    You can dislike Mulroney for his brown envelopes but you must admit he was correct on two major issues…….and Elizabeth May thinks he is wonderful !

  5. In a climate where even a taint of impropriety is sending people to the bricks, this whole thing seems to warrant a significant probe. Integrity of this process should be established beyond any reproach, otherwise it will forever detract from the University’s reputation which is worth far more than the millions at stake now.

  6. How very Canadian: run-of-the-mill felons face jail time and a lifetime of consquences for lesser infractions while Mugs Mulroney and his ilk receive only acclaim and reward, even celebration for theirs. Such blatant hypocrisy.