Monday, September 07, 2015

Missing recordings revisited (1): the pizza tape

One question that remains unanswered is something that I raised three times in the two days following Grewal's release of some of the tapes ( May 31st ; June 1st ; June 2d): has Grewal released all of the recordings that he made?

I think it is likely that he has not, and in a series of posts, I'll explain why
  1. In the first few days after Grewal revealed the existence of the tapes, he claimed to have had four hours of tapes. You can see this for yourself by going to the CTV story Grewal says he wanted to show Grits were dirty and click on the Video Link to the left with the title "CTV News Vancouver: Renu Bakshi speaks with Gurmant Grewal 3:41" (direct link, here.) About a third of the way into the tape, you see Grewal being interviewed:
    Renu Bakshi: Grewal said he had no intention of accepting the offer, but he strung them on to expose what he calls vote buying. He says he secretly taped nearly every conversation, including a face-to-face with health minister Ujjal Dosanjh.

    Grewal: He ordered pizza and we talked for about two hours. And thereafter he says, ok, that he has spoken to the prime minister.

    Renu Bakshi: How many minutes of tape in total do you have?

    Grewal: I didn't count, but it would be maybe two-and-a-half hours or three hours; including the telephone conversation, four hours.
    The context implies that Grewal included the pizza date among the tapes that he had. Also, Grewal thinks that he has roughly four hours of tapes (including the phone calls). In the end he released just short of two hours. He says the pizza date was about two hours.
  2. The Ethics Commissioner reports that Grewal states that had purchased his recording equipment earlier that day and tried to record his conversation with Dosanjh:
    While he had the tape recorder with him during his evening meeting with Mr. Dosanjh, it did not function properly, despite his efforts to fix it. As a consequence, he did not record the meeting.
  3. In their press release of June 2nd (also called the 'suicide note'), the Conservatives quote two brief passages of a Punjabi conversation between Grewal and Dosanjh that they claim had been inadvertently left out of the tape and transcript that they had released on May 31st. The Conservatives released a new transcript a few days later (June 5). But only one of those two fragments can be identified there (see here). Here is a scan of the other fragment:
    These words appear no where else among the released tapes. This is a fragment of a tape that hasn't been released.

    Where does it come from? The speakers are Grewal and Dosanjh, and according to the Conservative clarification (aka the 'Suicide note'), the exchange is in Punjabi (confirmed that the English here smacks of 'translationese'), which suggests Murphy wasn't present. Could this be a fragment of a recording of the pizza date?
Now, Grewal admits that he tried to record this meeting, but says that he failed (#1, above). But we only have his word for this, and he seems to have thought that he did have such a recording when describing his recordings to Bakshi on the 19th (#1, above). Finally, the fragment of conversation released in the 'suicide note' (#2, above) must come from somewhere and its contents fit well with what can be deduced as being the theme of the pizza date: Grewal asking for a cabinet post ("I want to be a somebody"), Dosnanjh demuring ("Cabinet wrong"). This is, on the whole consistent with Dosanjh's account of the pizza date: that he had explained his own recruitment into the Liberal party, which he claims did not include any promise of a cabinet post. It also makes sense of the beginning of the next day's meeting. The topic on everyone's mind was the defection of Belinda Stronach. Grewal starts with a rebuttal: the Liberals "shouldn’t say that they'll do something later. It can happen right away, for her."

Monday, June 08, 2009

No charges over fund-raising allegations

From the Surrey Leader:
    Former Newton-North Delta MP Gurmant Grewal said he was "relieved and pleased" to hear there will be no charges laid against him over a six-year-old complaint about misuse of donated funds.

    A statement released Wednesday by the Criminal Justice Branch of the BC Attorney General's ministry said a review of the RCMP investigation conducted in 2005 "has concluded that there is no substantial likelihood of conviction of any criminal offence."
    "While some donors may have expected that the donations were to be used as political contributions, the available evidence does not establish that Mr. Grewal was aware of those expectations," the Criminal Justice Branch statement reads.

    "The evidence falls short of proving that Mr. Grewal intentionally deceived donors with respect to the purpose of their donations. The available evidence also is not sufficient to prove that these donors directed Mr. Grewal as to the use of the funds and that Mr. Grewal acted contrary to those directions."

    "In the absence of sufficient evidence that Mr. Grewal deliberately misled donors, or that he knowingly acted contrary to express directions with respect to the use of the donations, there is not a substantial likelihood of conviction of any Criminal Code offence."

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Welcome to Buckets of Grewal

This blog discusses the controversies surrounding Gurmant Grewal, a former Conservative MP from Surrey BC. The most notorious of these involved his negotiations to defect to the Liberals, the recordings of those negotiations, and the editing and release of those recordings. But these not Grewal's only brush with controversy. Indeed, there is not one Grewal affair, but about a dozen (see here for a running list of his various controversies).

Where should you start? My best work is on the Grewal Tapes. The first 'full' set of tapes that the Conservatives released (the May 31st tapes) are the most heavily edited, and you can see them here here, clicking through to the slide show, where you can see for yourself how much was cut. (For a much improved version of the slideshow, see Political Commentary from 21 Fathoms; if you prefer to scroll through and read the text, you might see Bear's transcript more convenient transcript here.) Then go read Steven Maher's editorial (quoted here), the analysis of which is spot-on. After that, you might try elements of the FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions). Then just wander around. (There's lots to see.)

If you have a tip or heads-up, or if you've written something relevant at your own blog that you'd like me to link to, email me at (please put 'Grewal' in the subject'). For my thoughts about other matters, see my other blog Bouquets of Gray.

Comments. I use blogger's 'moderate' function, which means it may take a day or so for comments to be approved. As far as moderation goes, I am selective in what is allowed. Honest disagreement is fine, when expressed respectfully and concisely. Comments that are off-topic, irrelevant, or unreasonably disputatious will be rejected, as will those that seem not to have read the post in question. Engaging in ad hominem attacks or general trollishness is not allowed; nor is name-calling, eye-gouging, or hair-pulling. Overly lengthy comments are unwelcome--it is better to make your argument in your own blog and link to it in your comments. And 'cut-and-paste' from other sites is frowned upon. Again, link and summarize. Generally speaking, opinions submitted by those without active blogs will have a harder time making the cut. If you don't like this, feel free to denounce me, elsewhere.

Copyright notice. I put all my posts about Grewal, together with any creative work involved in the slide show, into the public domain. Please free feel to use them in whatever way is appropriate. I only ask that you acknowledge this site as your source.

Monday, April 24, 2006

NP: RCMP confirm criminal investigation into Grewal's finances

The National Post: RCMP confirm Grewal investigation:
In rare move, a top RCMP officer with the force's commercial crime section has officially confirmed former B.C. Tory MP Gurmant Grewal is under criminal investigation relating to tens of thousands of dollars in donations given to him by members of the Indo-Canadian community.
"The RCMP's commercial crime section is conducting an investigation into the handling of campaign contributions and political donations," said section head Insp. Kevin DeBruyckere on Sunday. "We are hoping to wrap up the investigation within a couple of months."

Saturday, April 22, 2006

More RCMP investigations into Grewal's finances

The Province has a new story on Grewal's political financing: Where did our money go? Grewal donors.
Armed with copies of cheques, RCMP officers are blazing a trail in B.C.'s Indo-Canadian community asking questions about tens of thousands of dollars donated to former Tory MP Gurmant Grewal.
I'll try to get back to this later.

Update. More here.

Friday, February 10, 2006

More on who approached whom

As I've just posted, a story in the the Surrey Leader mentions that rumours concerning the potential defection of the Grewals were circulating in the Indo-Canadian community apparently even before the negotiations of the May 15th-18th, a fact also mentioned in the Ethics Commissioner's report.

One of the conclusions of that report, of course, was that it had been Grewal who had begun the negotiations: he had offered to change parties in exchange for a cabinet post for himself and a senate seat (or diplomatic post) for Nina. While I was stuck on a flight last night I reviewed some of the earlier tapes and noticed something that I hadn't seen before.

As people will remember, each of the tapes and transcripts exists in two versions: a first, heavily edited one that was released to the public on May 31st, and a second one released during the following week that contained a fuller version.

Grewal released transcripts of six of his calls with Sadesh Kalia, a Surrey Liberal who arranged for his meeting with Dosanjh. In the fifth call was the following exchange. Here is a scan of the May 31st transcript:
Grewal tapes

Compare this to the version that Grewal released on June 7th:

Now, the question. Why would someone want to exclude Kalia's words 'You should call him and discuss your proposal'? The reason is quite simple. This innocuous piece of advice makes it clear (again) that it is Grewal who has a proposal to make.

Surrey Leader: rumours of Grewal's defection preceded meetings

The Surrey Leader is reporting:
Grewal switch rumoured in advance: Dhaliwal

By Dan Ferguson
Staff Reporter
Feb 05 2006

Before the controversy over Gurmant Grewal's secret tapes erupted last May, Sukh Dhaliwal said he heard something was in the works that could displace himself as the Liberal candidate for Newton-North Delta.

"I heard rumours in the community... that Grewal was going to switch to the Liberals," Dhaliwal said Wednesday.

If Grewal, the Tory MP for Newton-North Delta, had crossed the floor to join the Liberal minority government last year, Dhaliwal would have been denied the party nomination because Grewal would become the incumbent Liberal MP for the riding.

Dhaliwal said there was no hint from the Prime Minister's Office that such a change might be coming when he phoned the PMO in Ottawa to ask if there was any substance to the rumours.

"They said no," Dhaliwal said.

Dhaliwal went on to win the party nomination and the subsequent federal election after the controversy-plagued Grewal decided against seeking another term.

Dhaliwal was one of 21 witnesses interviewed by parliament's ethics commissioner during the investigation into Grewal's taping of talks with senior Liberals, whom he accused of illegally offering inducements to switch sides from the Conservatives.

The MP-elect said he was asked if he had any advance knowledge of the Grewal negotiations, and told the commissioner that he had only heard rumours.

Commissioner Bernard Shapiro's report was released last week and concluded that Grewal's surreptitious taping wasn't illegal or a specific violation of MPs' rules of conduct, but the overall effect was to weaken the public's confidence and trust in the integrity of the House of Commons and its members.

Grewal, who claims the initial draft of the report exonerated him, said he is considering legal action over the alleged altering of the findings.

"It's political," Grewal protested. "Ten of the witnesses are well-known Liberals."

Other witnesses interviewed by Shapiro included Gurmant and Nina Grewal, staff members in the Newton-North Delta constituency office, Prime Minister Paul Martin's chief of staff Tim Murphy and prominent Surrey developer Bob Cheema.

According to the findings of the report, Cheema set things in motion on May 14 when he phoned then-Liberal health minister Ujjal Dosanjh to say both Grewals would be willing to join the minority government in return for "a United Nations position or Senate appointment for her and a cabinet post for him."

The commissioner said he was "unable to clarify who, if anyone, encouraged Mr. Cheema to make this approach, and Mr. Cheema himself claimed no knowledge of any such meeting."

Despite Cheema's denial, the commissioner concluded that Dosanjh was "the more credible witness" of the two and the contact did occur as described. Contacted by The Leader on Wednesday, Cheema refused to elaborate. "I got no answer and I don't talk to media," he said.
What do these rumours mean?

One point that probably should be made is that rumours about Dhaliwal's nomination are probably derivative from general rumours about Grewal's defection. According to the Ethics Commissioner's report, there were rumours about the Grewals defecting for a cabinet post and senate seat/UN post already in April. Once the idea of a defection was out there, it would have been a natural conclusion to see that this might affect Dhaliwal. (Indeed, I pointed out in a post of June 3rd that the issue of the Liberal nominations will have been discussed at some point.)

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Grewal, Stronach, and Emerson and the death of the middle man

There is an awful lot of commentary from left, right,and center on Harper's decision to appoint to his cabinet David Emerson less than two weeks after he re-elected as a Liberal in Vancouver-Kingsway, most of it critical.

And many have made allusion to the Stronach defection and the Grewal negotiations (for a humorous version, see here).

One point that it seems has escaped the attention of many is that the Emerson defection breaks new ground in the way in which it was both negotiated and communicated ('spun') afterwards.

Consider the Grewal affair. My understanding of the process (and bear with me if you disagree) is thus:
  1. Grewal decided that he wanted to become a Liberal
  2. He contacted a middle-man (or, as it seems now in light of the new information in the Ethics report, middlemen)
  3. The middle-man put him in touch with a prominent Liberal (Dosanjh) and negotiations began
  4. When it became clear that the Liberals were not going to meet Grewal's price (a cabinet seat right away for himself and a senate seat for Nina) negotiations collapsed.
What is interesting for us, I suggest, is that there is a point in the negotiations when communication strategy is discussed. They will tell the world that Grewal didn't approach the Liberals and that the Liberals did not approach Grewal. The middle-man approached both and brought them together.

The Stronach-defection was similar. My understanding (again, bear with me if you disagree):
  1. Belinda became convinced that she had no future in a Conservative Party that she felt was evolving in ways that she disagreed with
  2. She confessed her dissatisfaction with the middle-man, David Peterson, who suggested she become a Liberal
  3. Peterson, Stronach, and representatives of the Liberal government negotiated the matter, the middle-man Peterson suggesting at some point that a cabinet position is appropriate.
Again, notice how the middle-man gets credit for the deal. For public relations purposes, it is important that the Liberals did not initiate the offer, nor that Belinda initiate a request. It is the middle-man who came up with the idea. In the negotiations was Peterson an agent of Belinda or the government? both? neither? It's unclear. But that's the entire point. It is the ambiguity of his position that makes him useful in this little dance.

Now, let us consider Emerson's defection. Where's the middle man? There is none. Today's Globe and Mail reports that it was John Reynolds, former interim Alliance leader, Conservative house leader, and campaign co-chair:
The day after the election, Mr. Reynolds called Mr. Emerson at his Vancouver home.

"I said, 'How would you like to stay in the government?' So we had a conversation about the pros and cons of that, and then, I said, " 'why don't we just sit on it for a couple of days? I'm not talking to anybody. You think about it and we'll get together,' " Mr. Reynolds said.
This is a straight ahead pitch (and more than a little hypocritical in light of this).

And this is why, I suggest, that so many of us are having trouble with the story. It is just too nakedly cynical. Stronach could claim to be leaving a party that was moving away from her main-stream values (perhaps partially true) and had been cooperating with the Bloc (probably not even half-true). Grewal would have also complained about the Bloc and perhaps have thrown in unnecessary elections (pure spin). But at least the unseemliness of defection--which by its very nature implies betrayal and ideological promiscuity--was given a fig-leave of an excuse and the distracting figure of the middle man.

Harper, apparently, decided he needed neither. And that's just too cynical for most of us to accept, regardless of our ideological bent or partisan commitment.