Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Further shake-up in Conservative communications shop

The Globe and Mail reports two more members of the Conservative communications team is leaving:
Ottawa — Stephen Harper's communications team will be stripped to the bone after two key members announced they will leave their posts. Their departures follow those of two other senior PR staffers who quit in recent weeks.

Geoff Norquay, the affable and accessible director of communications, and Yaroslav Baran, the strategic communications director, announced Wednesday that this would be the last day.
This brings to four the number of resignations since the Grewal broke. On June 8, at the height of the Grewal communications debacle Mike Storeshaw and Jim Armour resigned (see here).

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

New Grewal resource

Over at Political Commentary from 21 Fathoms, Zorpheous has done his own, much improved version of the slide show. Enjoy!

Sunday, June 26, 2005

One less fragment

For those who have been dealing with these tapes, one of the most frustrating loose-ends has been the two fragments which the suicide note of June 2 offers as corrections to the original tape, but which do not seem to appear in the corrected transcript of June 5.

Part of the problem here is that these are translations of the Punjabi. In fact, at least one of the fragments is to be found in the June 5th transcript. It's just that both the fragment and the June 5th transcript (the last one that the conservatives released) are slightly different translations of slightly different transcripts.

Let's start with what is actually on the tapes. As some of you know, three native Punjabi speakers have been helping me put together a transcription/translation of the Punjabi part of this conversation. Two of them volunteered their services; the third is an old university friend of mine who lives in New Delhi. As far as I know, none of them knows the other. Anyway, here is a piece of our new transcript, which is at about 5'33 of the recording (GWTM.mp3):
UD tusi Nina naal gal kiti hai? Did you talk with Nina?
GG haanji, dovein decided ta nahin haan, dwindling jihe haan. Depend karde, ki milda ki hai. Je ta quick changa haiga taa tahra tarhi ho jaye, je zyada hee ho jaaye taa baad vich haali karaange. Yes. Both of us are not decided, we are kind of dwindling. It depends on what we get. If we get something good quickly, then it can be done right away. But if it is too much (of waiting) then we’ll do it later.
UD It is difficult. You know the situation. Ais haalat vich kujh nahin ho sakda. Cabinet is quick It is difficult. You know the situation. Nothing can be done in the present circumstances. Cabinet is quick
One of the corrections that the suicide note offered to the original transcript is this fragment (with colours matching what I think is parallel between the two texts):
Part #1
"It depends how it is we meet."…
(difficult to hear … "associating" or "who else"…)
"If it is something good then it would be tempting"
"If there is no way then we'll talk about it later or at home"
Finally, here is the parallel section from (p. 2 of the Conservative transcript released June 5):
UD Did you talk to Nina.
GG Yes, but we are not decided, we have not made up our minds yet, we are still dwindling. It depends. If Cabinet is quick we'll go ahead with it. If Cabinet takes it's time we probably won't.
UD Under this circumstance, it is difficult. Cabinet is quick
Now, what does all this mean? One thing that is clearer in the new transcript than in the final conservative one is Grewal's rather nakedly acquisitiveness in "It depends on what we get", which is much less harmless sounding than either of the Conservative versions.

This is hardly a smoking-gun, of course, and it doesn't tell us anything that isn't clearer elsewhere in Grewal's recordings. But it removes one of the reasons for supposing that there is a pizza tape (see here and here). Whether the other fragment can be located in this transcript remains to be seen.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

G&M: Grewal made quiet return

The G&M has an article Grewal made quiet return that reports, as we did yesterday, that Grewal reappeared in the House of Commons Thursday night.
Mr. Grewal's absence, and that of two sick Tory MPs, allowed the Liberals to breeze through more than two dozen confidence votes in recent weeks. But a smiling Mr. Grewal was back in his seat Thursday night. Whether that means his stress leave has officially ended, however, is unclear.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Grewal's stress leave officially ends at 21:23:30, June 23, 2005

The Liberals, with the help of the Bloc and NDP, forced a vote on their budget amendments last night. They then won a series of votes. Several newspapers have suggested that the Conservatives threw the vote. For example, one of this morning's G&M stories mentions:
Many believe the Tories don't really want to force an election and would have found a way to keep some members at home. At least two of their MPs have cancer and another, Gurmant Grewal, is on stress leave.
But if you go to last night's parliamentary hansard you'll find that among the Conservatives voting on divisions 143, 144, 145 and 146 are Grewal (Newton—North Delta), Grewal (Fleetwood—Port Kells).

But Gurmant missed divisions 140, 141, and 142. Now, Gurmant was present for division 143 at 10 pm but absent for division 142 at 8:45. Grewal's stress leave must have ended somewhere between these two points. For convenience, I place the end of the stress leave midway between them, at 9:23:30 on June 23, 2005.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Grewal denies involvement in editing the tapes (he's lying)

Over at Progressive Bloggers, David Charles MacDonald notes an interesting comment of Grewal's in an interview with the Globe & Mail:
In his first interview since he went on stress leave earlier this month following the controversy of his taped conversations with senior Liberals about switching parties, Mr. Grewal predicted Ethics Commissioner Bernard Shapiro will also clear him of wrongdoing in that separate matter.
As for the continuing investigation of his conversations with Health Minister Ujjal Dosanjh and the Prime Minister's chief of staff, Tim Murphy, about crossing the floor, Mr. Grewal said he will not discuss the matter in detail until Mr. Shapiro's investigation is complete. He denies that the tapes were doctored and said he was not the one who made the original tapes public that had sections missing.
David points out that if Grewal is telling the truth, this would mean that it was the Conservatives who created the May 31st edition of the tapes.

The problem, as David acknowledges, is any argument that begins with 'if Grewal is telling the truth…' is going to be a shaky one. And that Grewal must be lying here to at least some degree is guaranteed by the fact that he has left his metaphorical finger-prints at the scene of the crime.

As I pointed out in the FAQ on this question, the edited version of the tape of Grewal's meeting with Murphy and Dosanjh begins with Grewal's voice saying:
"Meeting with Mr. Ujjal Dosanjh (Health Minister) and Mr. Tim Murphy (Chief of Staff in the Prime Minister of Canada's Office) on May 17th, Tuesday, at 1:00 pm." (click)
The original tape (which was released June 2) begins with dead air. (This in the transcripts--but it's there in audio version.) The only possible conclusion is that Grewal's voice-over was added in the editing process in Harper's office. And since it is Grewal's voice, he had to be involved. His voice-over is the forensic evidence of his involvement.

Now, I doubt very much that he acted alone. But when he says that he wasn't involved, he's lying.

Grewal returns to Ottawa

Buried within the Globe & Mail story about the coming Conservative attempt to force a summer election is a discussion of the three Conservative MPs who have missed recent votes, including Grewal:
Mr. Chatters and Mr. Stinson have cancer, but Mr. Chatters said yesterday he has finished his last round of chemotherapy and could be in Ottawa next week. Mr. Stinson's aides said he too could attend. Finally, Mr. Grewal quietly returned to Ottawa this week, fuelling rumours he could soon be removed from stress leave. Sources say Mr. Grewal is ready to vote in the House should he receive orders to do so from the party leadership.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Grewal cleared in bond controversy

Update. See now the thorough review, with links to the relevant documents, at Section 15.

The Toronto Star puts it best:
Gurmant Grewal's only sin was having a bad idea, according to the federal ethics commissioner.
But you can also check in the the Globe and Mail, which has a story that reports that Grewal has been cleared of any wrong-doing in the bond controversy:
Mr. Grewal was accused of wrongdoing for asking constituents to post hefty bonds for help obtaining temporary visas for would-be immigrants.

Dr. Shapiro was asked by Immigration Minister Joe Volpe to investigate Mr. Grewal after Mr. Grewal admitted to a Commons committee in March that he had asked Canadians who requested visitor permits for relatives to give signed commitments to post bonds in exchange for supporting those applications. He told the committee he proposed the bonds be set at $100,000, but insists he never intended to collect any money and was only trying out the system he is proposing through a private member's bill.

In his report, Dr. Bernard Shapiro concluded that there was no real conflict of interest. "No profit personal to Mr. Grewal was either intended or realized. That is, there is nothing to suggest that this practice actually furthered Mr. Grewal's personal financial interest in any way," Dr. Shapiro said.
Nonetheless, the commissioner has instructed Grewal to stop the practice:
In the report, Dr. Shapiro said that while Mr. Grewal had indeed asked for the signed commitments, his actions were an error in judgment.

He found Mr. Grewal was not benefiting financially from anyone, and further, the ethics commissioner said, he asked the Newton North Delta MP to stop asking for the written pledges and Mr. Grewal complied.
In my opinion, the immigration bonds were always a bit of a side-show. But one thing that they do illustrate is a reckless willingness on Grewal's to improvise and to take the law into his own hands. Just as he set up his own visa-guarantee scheme, so, too, apparently, at some point he decided to go undercover and record discussions with Dosanjh and Murphy in order to embarass them--discussions that it seems he initiated. In retrospect he was a danger to himself and his party. He has probably destroyed his own political career. Whether he's done any damage to the Conservatives remains to be seen.

Law societies and proxy wars

Skippy the Wonder Dog points out one of Warren Kinsella's recent musings. Pointing to Reynolds' recent complaint to the Law Societies of Upper Canada and British Columbia about the unlawyerly behaviour of Murphy and Dosanjh in the Grewal affair, Kinsella writes:
This represents the latest trend in Canadian politics: lodging complaints to provincial Law Societies against political enemies. In my own case, that Left Coast head case Norman Spector used his Globe and Mail column to urge that someone lodge a complaint against me - as did a number of right-wing arsewipes and nobodies who maintain blogs. I spoke to a few folks at the Law Society of Upper Canada about the tactic, and they told me that their body - which regulates the conduct of Ontario's lawyers - does not like, at all, being used to advance political agendas. And that they won't let that happen. Interesting.
One only hopes that he is right. Once such allegations are made, of course, the Law Society is obliged to look into them, and we know that the process has been set in motion in British Columbia (see here).

But one wonders whether complaints could not be laid the other way. The transcripts that have been released to the public--even the 'corrected' version of June 5--are highly problematic: there are portions of the Punjabi conversation that are missing from them. (See here and here). Were these flawed transcripts also delivered to the RCMP? And are tapes being held back that are relevant to this investigation?

But these, too, would surely involve breaches of professional ethics if any lawyer was a part of them. But, then, we don't know who in Harper's office helped Grewal edit the tapes (see here), and that's part of the problem.

o tempora! o mores!

The Grewal affair rates mention among recent moral failures in a Globe and Mail column, A moral compass for ethically grey times:

In Canada, a slew of recent political events guaranteed the word ethics would be on everyone's lips -- from the Gomery commission investigating inappropriate payments to ad executives in Quebec to the inordinately sleazy Grewal affair.

A whole lot of ink was spilled wondering who was sleazier: the MP from B.C. who tried to engineer a sting that backfired and may have released doctored tapes, or the oily and unctuous Liberals who made him an inference-laden non-offer about joining the government.

Yet isn't this behaviour, so decried in politics, commonly accepted in business, where people cross the floor -- i.e. go over to the competition -- all the time because they are offered more money, a higher position and better perks?
Including Grewal-gate among the other scandals--adscam, Enron, Tyco--seems to me a stretch.

Grewal's stress leave rumoured to end soon?

The Globe and Mail has a story about last night's budget bills (here) which includes this little note:
In advance of last night's vote, the Liberals quietly muttered they did not have the numbers to win. Their fears were compounded by rumours that Conservative MP Gurmant Grewal, who has been on stress leave, would turn upafter officials in his riding said he was prepared to return to work.

But in the end, the government had no cause to worry. Mr. Grewal was absent for the vote as were five other Tory MPs. So, even with independent MPs Pat O'Brien and David Kilgour voting against them, the Liberals sent the bill to final reading by a margin of 152 to 147.
This would seem to suggest that Grewal will be returning to Parliament soon.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

BC Law Society Investigates Dosanjh

The National Post reports that the BC Law Society has appointed an outside council to investigate Reynolds' complaint against Dosanjh. The story quotes Dosanjh and adds
Reynolds also confirmed that the law society has acted on his letter.

"If they don't think there's any merit they just send you back (a letter) and say so. In this point they've looked at it and decided to hire an outside counsel to review it," Reynolds said.

"I've been told that person's name and I've been told they may be in touch with me, asking questions also."

A spokesman for the law society could not be reached for comment.

Reynolds said he provided transcripts he claims indicate Dosanjh and the prime minister's chief of staff Tim Murphy offered a cabinet position to Grewal or a "significant position" for Grewal's wife Nina, also a Tory MP, in exchange for their votes.
The question du jour, of course, is whether Reynolds gave the same transcripts to the Law Society as were released to the public.

Update. The Globe and Mail has a similar story but adds
A letter from the law society to Mr. Reynolds says lawyer Jean Whittow has been appointed to gather information and submit a report to the society, "setting out her assessments and recommendations."
Ms. Whittow is a former director of discipline with the society. (See here.)

BC Poll on Grewal's approval/disapproval

Ipsos-Reid has released a poll on some political attitudes in British Columbia (here). Much there is worth looking at. Especially relevant to this blog, however, is this:
British Columbians appear to have reached some common ground on the performance of two BC MPs who have played prominent roles in national politics over the last few weeks. The reviews are very positive for Surrey North MP Chuck Cadman (63% approve vs. 10% disapprove) and very negative for Newton-North Delta MP Gurmant Grewal (19% approve vs. 62% disapprove). Meanwhile, British Columbians are much more divided in their assessment of Vancouver South MP and Health Minister Ujjal Dosanjh (47% approve vs. 39% disapprove).
Widely Divergent Approval Ratings for Prominent BC MPs - Chuck Cadman (63%), Ujjal Dosanjh (47%), Gurmant Grewal (19%)

Three British Columbia MPs have played starring roles on the federal political stage over the last few weeks. The reviews are very positive for Chuck Cadman, very negative for Gurmant Grewal and mixed for Ujjal Dosanjh.

More than six-in-ten (63%) BC residents say they approve of the way Surrey North MP Chuck Cadman has performed as a Member of Parliament. This includes one-third (34%) who "strongly approve" of his performance and three-in-ten (29%) who "moderately approve". Only one-in-ten (10%) residents say they disapprove of Cadman's performance (2% strongly, 8% moderately).

Cadman's reviews are favourable across the political spectrum. He draws majority approval from Liberal supporters (68%), Conservative supporters (67%) and NDP supporters (60%).

While Chuck Cadman has a 63% "approval" rating, Newton-North Delta MP Gurmant Grewal has a 62% "disapproval" rating. Only 19% of BC residents say they approve (2% strongly, 17% moderately) of the job Gurmant Grewal is doing as a Member of Parliament. Nearly half (47%) of residents say they "strongly disapprove" of Gurmant's performance, while 15% "moderately disapprove".

·Gurmant's reviews are consistent across the political spectrum. He has mostly unfavourable ratings from Liberal supporters (15% approve vs. 68% disapprove), Conservative supporters (21% approve vs. 62% disapprove) and NDP supporters (22% approve vs. 56% disapprove).

British Columbians are split in their assessments of the performance of Vancouver South MP and Health Minister Ujjal Dosanjh. He currently has an approval rating of 47%, including 9% "strongly approve" and 38% "moderately approve". Four-in-ten (39%) British Columbians disapprove of the performance of the Health Minister, including 22% who "strongly disapprove" and 18% who "moderately disapprove".
Clearly the Grewal affair has damaged the Conservatives more than the Liberals in British Columbia, at least.

FAQ 4b: Who really did approach whom?

Grewal claimed from early on that the Liberals had approached him and tried to lure him into changing parties. Dosanjh and the Liberals claim the opposite. Who is telling the truth?

Contact started, apparently, with Sadesh Kalia, a prominent member of the Surrey Indian community and a Liberal. According to Grewal, the Liberals contacted him through Kalia; the Liberals assert the opposite.

Kalia himself, however, has gone on record that it was Grewal who approached him (see here for the archived CBC story), and Kalia's version of the story has been supported by Amrik Sangha, whom Kalia had to contact in order to get Dosanjh's cell phone number, something that both Kalia and Sangha have publicly affirmed (see here and Maritime Liberal's transcript of the story on CBC National).

If it were Grewal's word against Dosanjh's, we could flip a coin. As it is, it is Grewal's word against Dosanjh's, Kalia's, and Sangha's. It was probably Grewal, then, who initiated the negotiations.

Return to FAQ.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Harper: Incorrect tape posted

As mentioned in the previous post, we now have a Canadian Press story (archived here) where Martin says that he no longer wants Grewal as an MP in his party, and Harper responds by saying he doesn't regret backing Grewal, who did nothing wrong. The point that deserves attention, however, is Harper's statement that "the incorrect tape was posted on our website."

This is new. In the famous 'suicide-note' press release, the public was told
A technical problem occurred during this transfer to CD. In two locations on the CD, brief passages of a few seconds each are missing.
Now we are told that the error was that the wrong tape was posted.

The question, of course, is why the edited version of the tape and its accompanying transcript were created in the first place.

Martin & Harper re-state themselves on Grewal affair

The Canadian Press has a story that in a radio interview Martin says that he no longer wants Grewal as an MP in his party:
Martin told CKNW radio that Grewal could buy a membership in the Liberal party if he wanted to, but would be prevented from standing as a candidate."Well, someone can buy a membership," he said, "but if your question is do we want him as a candidate, the answer is unequivocally no."

Harper was asked about Martin's comments:
Conservative Leader Stephen Harper said he doesn't regret backing Grewal:"I don't think there's anything wrong with blowing the whistle and I don't think there's anything wrong with somebody trying to bribe you. What's wrong is if you take the bribe, and he didn't."

Harper, who was interviewed immediately following Martin, did say it was regretful that "the incorrect tape was posted on our website."

Harper's last comment should be noted. The Conservatives had two tapes prepared. One heavily edited; the other, original. Apparently they posted the wrong one.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

FAQ 5d. Who was responsible for the editing of the tapes?

We know that Grewal was involved in the editing (see here). But he did not do this on his own.

According to the Conservative press release of June 2nd (the so-called suicide note):
Mr. Grewal provided the Office of the Leader of the Opposition with all of the tapes he had. They were loaded onto a computer to create a master file. A series of CDs were then created from this master file, which were used in the translation and transcription process. It appears that a technical problem occurrred during this transfer to CD. In two locations on the CD, brief passages of a few seconds each are missing.
Leaving aside the misleading characterization of how much was edited and how this happened (on which see the slide show), this press release clearly implies that whatever happened to the tapes happened in Harper's Office: his office had original tapes and prepared the edited versions. We can only assume that the whole editing process was supervised by Harper's office.

Return to the FAQ

Reynold's Gambit

Several days ago now, John Reynolds, a prominent Conservative MP, filed a complaint with the law society of two provinces that Dosanjh and Murphy had committed ethical breaches in their negotiations with Grewal. I will leave aside the question of whether this complaint has any merit (which I doubt). Instead I want to point out what this implies about what strategy the Conservatives have decided to take in the Grewal affair. (I assume that Reynolds is acting for the Conservatives, and not as independent agent.)

I was surprised by Reynolds' move, since I had assumed that keeping the story alive hurt the Conservatives as much if not more than the Liberals. On the whole, I think this is correct, but needs revision. Any further attention to the Grewal affair will hurt the Grewals most, then the Liberals, then the Conservatives, provided that no further details emerge about who specifically was involved in helping Grewal with the editing (see my discussion here .)

Reynold's move, then, probably reflects a decision within the Conservative circle that the Grewals cannot be saved, but that whatever makes the Grewals look bad also make the Liberals look bad. To use a chess analogy: they are sacrificing two pawns with the hope of putting a bishop (Dosanjh) and Rook (Murphy) in danger. This move (which I'll call Reynold's gambit) is a high risk play, not least because it involves some danger to the Conservative king (Harper). The suicide-note shows that it was Harper's office that was responsible for the editing of the tapes (see here). That is a fact that the public has not digested--presumably because the Liberals, not wanting to trade a bishop and a rook for a queen, have not pushed it. But there are several unresolved aspects of this affair that could push this whole affair back onto center stage, including Reynolds' gambit. If that happens, it is likelier to damage the conservatives.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Grewal cleared in airport package affair

From the CBC of a few hours ago:
Gurmant Grewal has been cleared of wrongdoing in two investigations launched after the Conservative member of Parliament tried to get Ottawa-bound passengers at Vancouver's airport to carry a package for him.

Now the RCMP say the Newton-North Delta MP is off the hook because he had cleared security with the package before he started approaching people to do the errand for him.

Transport Canada also says Grewal broke no security rules.

Neither Grewal nor the Conservatives have said what was in the package and why the MP felt it was so important that it reach Ottawa.

FAQ 5e. Might the law have been broken in the editing of the tapes? (KN)

(A guest post by KN)
The most relevant law is probably Section 372 of the Criminal Code:
372. (1) Every one who, with intent to injure or alarm any person, conveys or causes or procures to be conveyed by letter, telegram, telephone, cable, radio or otherwise information that he knows is false is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years.
The Elements are:
1) Intent to injure any person
2) Conveys or causes or procures to be conveyed by...otherwise
3) that he knows is false
The tapes were clearly posted with the intent to injure Ujjal Dosanjh and Tim Murphy. They were conveyed by Internet, which is almost certainly included in "otherwise". As a result, anybody who posted these on the Internet with the knowledge that they were false is probably guilty of breaking this law.

[Buckets adds: it strikes me that the debate would soon turn to the question of how much editing it takes to create a falsehood and whether the editing of these tapes qualifies]

Return to the FAQ

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Draining the bucket

Hello friends. I have to return to regular life, soon, which means that this blog will be getting much less attention. Over the next while, I'll try finishing up the FAQ, and tidying up a few of the loose ends.

As far as loose ends go, there are a lot. I have spent an awful lot of time trying to get to the bottom of how the tapes have been manipulated, edited, and published; I haven't really been able to sketch out how the negotiations played out and how they went wrong. I have a few things half-written that I hope to provide you.

Other loose ends? There are the two fragments of a conversation in the so-called 'suicide note' that are not found in any existing transcripts. This should mean that there is another recording out there. Or maybe someone made them up.

Best wishes,


FAQ 3c. Where can I read the transcripts for myself?

You can download current tapes and translations from Grewal's website

You can see a good graphical illustration of how the present version of the Grewal-Dosanjh-Murphy recording differs from the original at the slide show. From there you can click through to individual images (use 'all sizes' to get a bigger picture if the one you get is too small), or you can see the transcript prepared by E.T. Bear here, or you can go page-by-page from these links:
Grewal-Dosanjh-Murphy, p. 1, p. 2, p. 3, p. 4, p. 5, p. 6, p. 7, p. 8, p. 9, p. 10, p. 11, p. 12, p. 13, p. 14, p. 15, p. 16
There is a slide-show version of three different releases of the Grewal-Murphy meeting of May 18th here, and you can click through to see individual pages, or click through to them page by page: Grewal-Murphy (May 18th) p.1 , p. 2 , p. 3, p. 4 , p. 5 , p. 6 , p. 7 , p. 8 , p. 9 , p. 10 , p. 11 , p. 12, p. 13.

A slide show of the transcripts of Grewal's phone calls with Kalia are here.

Return to the FAQ

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Tory MP files law society complaints against Peterson, Dosanjh and Murphy

From Maclean's (link is above):
OTTAWA (CP) - A Conservative MP has filed complaints with two law societies against three Liberals - former Ontario premier David Peterson, federal Health Minister Ujjal Dosanjh and the prime minister's chief of staff Tim Murphy.
In separate letters of complaint written Monday, Tory John Reynolds says the three - all lawyers - offered Conservative MPs compensation in exchange for their support in key confidence votes on the Liberal minority government's budget.
Reynolds provides transcripts he claims indicate that Dosanjh and Murphy offer a cabinet position to Tory MP Gurmant Grewal or a "significant position" for Grewal's wife Nina, also a Tory MP, in exchange for their votes.

He also provides transcripts he says indicate that Peterson offered former Tory Belinda Stronach a cabinet position in exchange for crossing the floor to the Liberals.
Let's all hope that this isn't a new transcript.

Update. The Star has a fuller story, including the statement
Reynolds provides transcripts he claims indicate that Dosanjh and Murphy offer a cabinet position to Tory MP Gurmant Grewal or a ``significant position” for Grewal’s wife Nina, also a Tory MP, in exchange for their votes.

He also provides transcripts he says indicate that Peterson offered former Tory Belinda Stronach a cabinet position in exchange for crossing the floor to the Liberals.
I probably know these transcripts better than most, and I doubt whether anything that I've seen in them support these allegations. I suspect that we'll hear nothing more about this:

Spokeswoman Lisa Riley said the Law Society of Upper Canada only comments if a disciplinary hearing is called.
I doubt whether there is anything in the transcripts that will justifiy such a hearing, especially for Peterson, since anything about his role in the tapes is hear-say.

Further Update. Peterson comments here.

Update on missing Punjabi

Readers should note that another reader has offered a different translation of the Punjabi at 2'05 of the Dosanjh-Murphy-Grewal meeting. To review, there are words in the tape that do not appear in the transcript/translation.

(If Punjabi speakers can have a listen and confirm, correct, or improve the translation here, please email me at The mp3 can be downloaded here under the 'meeting with Dosanjh …' rubric. This is at about the 2 minute 3 second mark.)

This is what I thought I heard ten days ago (with xxx marking Punjabi):
GG: xxxx xxxx xxxxx (2:08) right away. (pause) Right away.ihde layee? [Update: Apparently I misheard--this is Punjabi for 'for her']
UD: (pause) (2:11) Cabinet right away?
GG: (2:13) hm, hm [Ed.: apparently an affirmative to the previous question]
UD: (pause) (2:15) Cabinet right away?
GG: xxxx (2:18) right away. xxx xxx xxx
This is what 'Raj' hears
UD: . . .I think this (Belinda's crossing the floor) has made it easier for you . . .(inaudible)
GG: Yes, that is true. But two things have become clear because of this.
UD: . . infact. . ..huh?
GG: Two things have become clear. One is it's easier, and the second is they can't say that we will do something later, because they have done right away, for her.
UD: Cabinet can't happen right away.
GG: hmm hmm
UD: Cabinet can't happen right away.
GG: Cabinet can happen right away. Otherwise (inaudible) . . . in order for parliament to work, they have shortage of members, in the meetings.
And this is what 'Sohn' hears
UD: I think with this for you it has made it easy
GG: Yes that has happened
UD: (inaudible) you wanted...(inaudible)
GG: Yes that has happened
UD: (inaudible).... infact this has.... (inaudible)
GG: Two things are clear now
UD: Huh?
GG: Two things are clear now. One it has become easy now. Second now they can not say they will do something latter. Because it happened right away for (her/him)
UD: Cabinet right away can be had
GG: hmm hmm
UD: Cabinet right away can be had
GG: Cabinet right away can be had
Here is the June 5 transcript (the blue line marks where the some of the Punjabi has gone missing):

It was all about Belinda

It is important, I think, that we not underestimate the effect of the Belinda bombshell on the Grewal episode. It helps explain, I think, several bizarre facts. First, why is it that the taping of meetings begins on the 17th? Why was there no tape of pizza date? (Grewal did, of course, tape calls from Kalia--but I'm guessing that Grewal had a practice of taping all phone calls, as some people do.) Second, why did the conservatives ever let the Grewal tapes become public?

First, the taping. What was different about the morning of the 17th, when Grewal seems to have started taping? Just a few hours before Grewal's meeting with Dosanjh and Murphy came one of the biggest surprises in Canadian history: Belinda announced that she was crossing the floor and not just becoming a Liberal, but joining cabinet with an important portfolio.

Why was this relevant? One thing that should probably assume is that in the discussions over pizza with Dosanjh the night before Grewal had been told that there was no chance of a cabinet seat for crossing the floor. Scott Brison was presumably the example--he is brought up several times in the conversation here and in subsequent phone calls. Brison had had to wait--and had only been made a parliamentary secretary once he was brought into the inner circle. The message, then, was that th best Grewal could hope for was (after an unspecificed interval) a position as parliamentary secretary. But only a few hours after Dosanjh had said this to Grewal, the rug was being pulled from under his feet. Belinda crossed and the Liberals had brought her into the cabinet immediately. Grewal expected no less. Indeed, he said as much. Belinda's defection, he pointed out, meant that the Liberals could no longer say that things couldn't happen right away:
UD: . . .I think this (Belinda's crossing the floor) has made it easier for you . . .(inaudible)
GG: Yes, that is true. But two things have become clear because of this.
UD: . . infact. . ..huh?
GG: Two things have become clear. One is it's easier, and the second is they can't say that we will do something later, because they have done right away, for her.
Now, this is one of the most difficult passages in the transcripts, and different Punjabi speakers have claimed to hear diametrically opposite things in the lines that follow (see here). All agree, however, that Grewal can be heard pointing out that the Liberals had done something 'for her' (which in this context, must mean Belinda). (Unsurprisingly, this line has been left out of both Conservative translations/transcripts.)

Why, then, did Grewal only begin taping on the morning of the 17th? Because the Belinda announcement had made a liar out of Dosanjh. He had said that an immediate cabinet post was impossible. But only 12 hours after that conversation, Belinda had been given such a post. Grewal no longer trusted Dosanjh and taped the conversation as a back-up.

Another of the answered questions about the Grewal affair is why Harper (or his agents) decided to go public with Grewal's allegations. The tapes are embarassing for the Liberals, but bringing the matter forward also had dangers for the Conservatives, not least because no one much likes the idea of people going around surreptiously taping conversations. It's seedy and dishonest.

It is also important to remember that in the ordinary run of parliamentary affairs we don't hear every embarassing goodie that the Conservatives know about the Liberals or vice versa. Parties pick and choose and decide what is useful and what is not. They also have choices about how to disseminate--leaks, press releases, press conferences, and so forth.

The Conservatives decided to have a full blown press conference and a prepared 8-minute version of the Grewal-Murphy meeting. Why did they choose to do this? In hind-sight, wouldn't it have been better to have let the whole thing die?

Again, I think it's important to remember the specific context. The Belinda defection had done a lot of damage to the conservatives: for all her many flaws, Stronach is an attractive, successful, modern, urban woman. As a prominent member of the Conservative front bench, she was useful to the party as a means to broaden the conservative appeal in key demographics. Just having her sit there was a way of saying to career women that the Conservative party had room for people like Stronach. Stronach's change of parties, however, threatened to undo any gains that the Conservatives had made on this front. Her defection became a powerful statement that the Conservative Party is not a comfortable home for the modern woman.

The Conservatives needed to do two things. Their first problem was they needed to change the subject. Get Belinda off the front-page. Second they needed to reframe the Stronach defection.

Grewal's press conference helped with both these. First, it moved Belinda off the front page and put Grewal there. Second, his version of the events--which the eventual release of the full, unaltered tapes has revealed to be untrue--helped with the reframing. He claimed he was offered a cabinet post; Stronach actually got a cabinet post. This allowed the Belinda-crossing to be reframed from 'moderate woman feels uncomfortable amongst the Conservatives' to 'ambitious woman sold her political allegiance for a high price'. Others can debate about which of these two versions is true--though I point out that these are not mutually exclusive possibilities--my point here is that each side had its own spin, and the Conservatives went public with the Grewal tapes because they thought it would help them re-establish their spin. (Had Grewal actually crossed the floor, of course, we would have had a different version of the spin--the Liberals claiming that this showed that minorities felt uncomfortable in the Conservative Party, while the Conservatives claimed Grewal's ambitions had led him to sell out.)

Grewal's version fit well with what Conservative tactical priorities were on the 18th May and so they ran with it.

In hind-sight, of course, this was a mistake. I'm reminded of the film 'The Verdict', in which Paul Newman plays a washed up, alcoholic lawyer who has the case of his life-time that he is screwing up until he learns 'never ask a question that you don't know the answer to'. This was, I think, where the Conservatives went wrong with the Grewal affair. They let the tapes become public without knowing ahead of time everything that was in the tapes. Grewal mislead them as much as he mislead anyone.

[revised and merged with an earlier post]

FAQ 9c. Did Dosanjh or Murphy break s. 119 of the criminal code? (KN)

(Guest post of KN continued.)

Whether the two Liberals broke s. 119 depends on section 119(1)(b). Those elements are:

1) �Every one who�(b)�offers corruptly,
2) to a [member of Parliament]
3) any�office�
4) in respect of anything� to be done or omitted by [the Member of Parliament] in his official capacity�

In this case, the question will be whether they are guilty of the first element. The difference here is that if they offered anything, it was clearly corrupt. The only question is whether they actually offered anything. That is a factual determination that would depend on a full reading of all transcripts. For consideration of the section of the meeting released on May 18th, see Cherniak's analysis of the first release.

FAQ 9b. Did Grewal break s. 119 of the criminal code? (KN)

(KN continues his guest FAQ -- again, this is for general information only and should not be construed as a legal opinion)

For section 119, see here. If Grewal has broken this law, it would be under 119(1)(a). That part is made up of the following elements:
1) �Every one who (a) being...a member of Parliament�
2) corruptly�(iii) attempts to obtain...
3) office...for himself or another person
4) in respect of anything� to be done or omitted by him in his official capacity�
The real question in court would be whether Grewal is guilty of number 2. In a similar case on theft [R. v. Dalzell (1983), 6 CCC (3d) 112 (N.S.S.C. A.D.)], a woman took merchandise from Sobeys and claimed it was to show that security was lax. The court believed this and found that she did not take �fraudulently�. As a result, if Grewal can prove he was attempting a sting, he might very well have not acted �corruptly�.

Even if the court is convinced that Grewal was actually attempting to obtain something, there will still be a question about the meaning of �corruptly�. For the general law on bribery, Section 426, the court interpreted �corruptly� to mean �without disclosure�. Since Grewal publicized part of the tapes before the vote, he might have avoided criminal liability.

However, that interpretation was partly based on the fact that s. 426 is titled �Secret Commissions�. Since 119 is about a broader concept of �Corruption� and in a section on �Offences Against the Administration of Law and Justice�, taping conversations and editing them could well be included as �corrupt�. It is not possible to give a certain opinion on this.

Return to the FAQ

FAQ 1b. Who is Gurmant Grewal

Gurmant Singh Grewal is a Conservative MP for the British Columbia riding of Newton—North Delta. He was born in Barundi, India, and emigrated first to Liberia and, later, in 1991, to Canada. He became active in local politics, unsuccessfully competing for a Liberal nomination to the BC legislature in 1995, and standing for election as a member of the BC Reform party in the same election. (See here.) In 1997, he stood for the Reform Party in Surrey Central, and was elected, being re-elected in 2000. For the 2004 election, he was elected to represent the new riding of Newton—North Delta, while his wife, Nina Grewal was elected MP for Fleetwood—Port Kells.

Much useful material is collected in the Wikipedia article on Grewal

Buckets' opinion: an overview of the negotiations

Here is, I think, how the negotiations went in outline, cutting out the courtship rituals. What I place in square brackets I regard as [reasonable supposition], double square [[less certain speculation]]; what I leave unbracketed I regard as demonstrated to a reasonable level of certainty by entries in this blog.

1. Kalia tapes. Grewal approached the Liberals through an intermediary (Sadesh Kalia), whose role was to bring Dosanjh and Grewal together. [Before the negotiations proceeded to the next stage, the Liberals will have committed themselves to unchallenged Liberal nominations for both Gurmant and Nina.]

2. Pizza date. Grewal and Dosanjh met for the pizza date. [Grewal laid out his price--a seat in cabinet immediately and a senate post for Nina [[if she lost the next election]]. Dosanjh argued that a seat in cabinet immediately was impossible; he advised Grewal against asking for the senate seat.]

3. Stronach defection hits the news.

4. GG-UD-MM meet. Grewal insists that Belinda's example proves that some of what he'd asked for [[a cabinet post immediately]] is possible; Dosanjh suggests that the most Grewal can expect is a position as parliamentary secretary after a decent interval]. Murphy arrives. Grewal asks for a senate seat for Nina and fishes for a cabinet post for himself. Murphy explains that a senate seat is impossible and does not offer a cabinet post. Grewal asks that an apology with Volpe be arranged to 'open the door' for further negotiations. The meeting ends.

5. Grewal and Murphy meet. Murphy suggests that Grewal can keep 'the door open' to further negotiations by abstaining in the coming non-confidence vote. In return, a public apology from Volpe will be arranged. Grewal knows that he cannot do this and still remain a Conservative. If he did this he would be expelling himself from the Conservative Party without suitable recompense. He therefore declines. In essense, he is offered an apology for an abstention. This is not enough.

FAQ 9a: What laws were potentially broken in the negotiation?

Some commentators have expressed concern that there were laws broken during the negotiations. Which laws are relevant?

Section 119 of the criminal code (Bribery of judicial officers, etc.):
119. (1) Every one who
(a) being the holder of a judicial office, or being a member of Parliament or of the legislature of a province, corruptly
(i) accepts or obtains, (ii) agrees to accept, or (iii) attempts to obtain,
any money, valuable consideration, office, place or employment for himself or another person in respect of anything done or omitted or to be done or omitted by him in his official capacity, or

(b) gives or offers, corruptly, to a person mentioned in paragraph (a) any money, valuable consideration, office, place or employment in respect of anything done or omitted or to be done or omitted by him in his official capacity for himself or another person,
is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding fourteen years.

Consent of Attorney General

(2) No proceedings against a person who holds a judicial office shall be instituted under this section without the consent in writing of the Attorney General of Canada.

R.S., c. C-34, s. 108.

Return to the FAQ

FAQ 6b. What was that Airport incident? (ML)

FAQ 6b. What was that Airport Incident? (ML & Buckets)

On Saturday June 4th, 2005, Gurmant Grewal passed through the security checkpoint at the Vancouver International Airport, presumably to take Air Canada Flight 166 to Ottawa on which he had a ticket. Once there, he asked an Air Canada agent if he could arrange for a passenger to take a package for him to Ottawa. When told this was not allowed for security reasons, Grewal booked a seat and began asking passengers. Sources: CP, CTV.

Subsequent stories alleged that it was tapes that needed delivery. According to the Vancouver Sun, Conservative sources asserted that "Grewal hoped to send the complete tapes to Conservative headquarters in a hurry but wanted to remain in Vancouver himself until Sunday, party sources said." (Also at CP)

There are, of course, unanswered questions. THe original tapes had been turned over to the RCMP on May 31st (CP), so if there were indeed tapes in the package, what were they?

Update. Grewal has now been cleared of any wrongdoing in this affair. See here.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Document shows Grewal sought bond for visitors

KW points out that a copy of Grewal's 'bond' has emerged.
OTTAWA—Gurmant Grewal, the Conservative MP now on a stress leave, has asked constituents seeking to bring a visitor to Canada to sign a "personal guarantee" that the visitor will not overstay the term of his or her visa.
Grewal revealed his use of the bonds in March, when he told a House of Commons committee he had demanded guarantees of between $50,000 and $100,000 from constituents seeking visas for their relatives.
The guarantee form, a copy of which was obtained by the Toronto Star, is believed included in the information being studied by the federal ethics commissioner to determine whether Grewal has breached the code of conduct for MPs.
As part of the undertaking on the form, the person seeking a visa is asked to sign the statement: "THAT MY/OUR current net worth is assessed at a value of $50,000. And that I/We agree to place a bond against our guarantee in the sum of ..."
The amount of the bond is not specified and the name of the person seeking to bring a visitor to Canada is blacked out on the copy of the form that has come to light.
For the rest, follow the link.

I'm frankly not sure what to make of this whole business. This was surely not a money-making scheme on Grewal's part: the whole point of a bond is that you give money to guarantee that you do something and you get the money back when you meet the conditions you've agreed to. And, as Grewal himself is at pains to point out in the tape, the actual handing over of the money seems not to have been done. (One merely made the declaration that one would, I suppose.) Still, this bond is a strange (and imo inappropriate) thing for an MP to do independently. There is an immigration department to do this kind of thing. At the best it shows, I think, a willingness on Grewal's part to improvise to improve a system; at the worst, a way to set himself up as a kind of 'fixer'/'power-broker'-type within his own riding.

FAQ 5c. Was Grewal involved in the editing?

Clearly the tapes have been edited. But who did it?

According to the Conservative press release of the June 2 (sometimes called the suicide note),
Mr. Grewal provided the Office of the Leader of the Opposition with all of the tapes he had. They were loaded onto a computer to create a master file.
This clearly implies that the work on the tape was done in Harper's office.

Who did it there? Clearly Grewal was involved. This can be deduced from the fact that at the beginning of the edited tape (31 May), Grewal's voice is heard saying:
"Meeting with Mr. Ujjal Dosanjh (Health Minister) and Mr. Tim Murphy (Chief of Staff in the Prime Minister of Canada's Office) on May 17th, Tuesday, at 1:00 pm." (click)
At the beginning of the unedited tape (the one released June 2), however, is dead air. (You will not find this in the transcripts--you have to listen to the tapes to hear it.) Since the June 2 clip is what Grewal gave to Harper, the voice-over can only have been added in the editing process in Harper's office. And since it is Grewal's voice, he had to be there.

Return to the FAQ


FAQ 5b. Could the 'edits' be accidental?

There is no doubt that some of the tapes were edited. Nor could it be an accident, as was asserted by the suicide note. The cuts are too many for that to be the case and they were made for consistent purposes. These things seem to be cut:
  1. Embarrassments to Grewal personally, such as things that make him sound vain (here), or whinging (here), or too calculating (his statement that he is 75% ready to make a deal, but that "the other 25% depends on what happens next" (p. 11).
  2. Anything that would contradict his earlier claims that he and his wife were offered a cabinet post and a senate seat, respectively (here);
  3. Politically inconvenient statements, such as Grewal's statement that even staunch conservatives in his riding were not keen to have an election (here), or that there were good things in the federal budget for BC (p. 4), or that recent news about the economy was reasonably good(p. 5).
  4. Things that reflect positively on Murphy or the Liberals. The public should not hear a Liberal praise an honest man for being an honest man here, or display his obvious affection for the Sikh community, or declare that the Prime Minister will not make certain kinds of rewards because he "doesn't think it's the right thing to do" (p. 6)
  5. Details that would encumber the narrative: the undergrowth must be cleared away so that the desired message comes through more clearly. A good example is the weird case of Paul from Nova Scotia or the tedious rituals of saying good-bye (pp. 15-16)
Given this pattern, any suggestion that the corruption was accidental is, frankly, ludicrous.

(To see for yourself the extent of the editing, and to read for yourself what was edited out, see the slide show comparing the transcripts of the edited May 31st transcript of the tape with the one released June 5.)

Return to the FAQ

Opinion on the immigration thing

As some of you know, I didn't say much about the controversy about Grewal's immigration and the allegations that he had broken the rules. This was partly because I was emersed in the tapes themselves and partly because I felt uneasy about whether or not it was fair to him to apply this much scrutiny to ancient facts. And, in any case, we only really have one man's word for this and we have no idea what his motivations are.

I've been thinking some more about this and I think what really bothered me about this story were the suggestions that, if true, he could (in theory) lose his citizenship and be deported.

Friends, this kind of step cheapens citizenship for all us all. If Grewal can lose his citizenship for finding a loop-hole in the regulations, other immigrants could lose it for more serious breaches. This runs the risk of creating two kinds of citizenship--that possessed by those born here, and that possessed through naturalization. Clifford Olson and Karla Homolka have the first kind and cannot lose their citizenship; in short, we're stuck with them. It should be no different for immigrants. After they get citizenship, no matter what they do, we should be stuck with them. Otherwise, we have two kinds of citizenship and no immigrant will ever be the true equal of any native-born Canadian. And that is wrong.

Maybe the rules should be tightened. And surely serious infringements of the rules (which we may not have here anyway) should be prosecuted and (if proven through due process) be punished. But the suggestion that the punishment might include the loss of citizenship strikes me as deeply unsettling.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Another ocean of dishonesty (or, Buckets has a 'stout Cortez' moment)

Update Another Punjabi speaker has offered a different translation to a part of the translation that was left out of the translation/transcript of this discussion. I give them both to you below. If other Punjabi speakers want to listen to the tapes and give their opinions, I will add them below.

The important point is that my initial conclusion that this proved Dosanjh had told the truth may have been incorrect. I will update this post as more opinions come in.


One of the most widely circulated quotes in this affair has Ujjal Dosanjh saying "Cabinet right away". This is taken to be either a promise or a hint of a promise of a future cabinet post for Grewal. The problem, however, is that most of this conversation is in Punjabi. It seems, however, that not only has the editing of the tapes been done in a misleading way, but so too has the translation/transcription.

Here is the first transcript (released, with a highly edited tape of the conversation, on 31 May):
The conservatives released a new tape on June 1; and a new transcript on June 5. The red line shows where something new has appeared in the new transcript, where the yellow hi-liter shows what has been added there. (The blue line marks where this new transcript is missing something that can be heard on the new tape.)
It now appears that not everything what was in the new tape made its way into the new transcript. "Raj", a native Punjabi speaker, answered my call for help with translating. He says that what he hears here is quite different (I quote his transcription/translation, putting in bold what has been left out at the blue line in the preceding scan):
UD: . . .I think this (Belinda's crossing the floor) has made it easier for you . . .(inaudible)
GG: Yes, that is true. But two things have become clear because of this.
UD: . . infact. . ..huh?
GG: Two things have become clear. One is it's easier, and the second is they can't say that we will do something later, because they have done right away, for her.
UD: Cabinet can't happen right away.
GG: hmm hmm
UD: Cabinet can't happen right away.
GG: Cabinet can happen right away.
Otherwise (inaudible) . . . in order for parliament to work, they have shortage of members, in the meetings.
UD: (inaudible) you don't want to lose the advantage. If you do cabinet right away you lose the advantage of numbers. Those are the issues.
What has been left out here completely changes the meaning of the exchange. Dosanjh did not offer or hint at offering 'cabinet right away', as both the first and second (supposedly correct) transcripts suggest. Quite the contrary. He insisted that a cabinet post was impossible. This had presumably been the position he had tekn the night before, when the two met for Pizza. But things had dramatically changed since that meeting. Only two hours before Dosanjh and Grewal meet the Belinda bomb-shell explodes. Grewal had been told that an immediate cabinet position was impossible. Now he sees it is not impossible for her and insists on getting the same deal that Belinda got.

(If Punjabi speakers can have a listen and confirm, correct, or improve the translation here, please email me at The mp3 can be downloaded here under the 'meeting with Dosanjh …' rubric. This is at about the 2 minute 3 second mark.)

Update. Another emailer (who informs me that he/she is not a member of any party) hears the following in this section
UD: I think with this for you it has made it easy
GG: Yes that has happened
UD: (inaudible) you wanted...(inaudible)
GG: Yes that has happened
UD: (inaudible).... infact this has.... (inaudible)
GG: Two things are clear now
UD: Huh?
GG: Two things are clear now. One it has become easy now. Second now they can not say they will do something latter. Because it happened right away for (her/him)
UD: Cabinet right away can be had
GG: hmm hmm
UD: Cabinet right away can be had
GG: Cabinet right away can be had
In this rendition, the question of what is being asked for and what is being offered is more ambiguous.

(Please note that I noted that there was something wrong here last week. It is a good index of how dishonest the transcript is here a non-Punjabi speaker can be closer to the truth than the corrected transcript.)

Anyway, friends, I assume that you're shocked. As was I (despite half-guessing that it was so.) There is a whole new level to the mendacity of these transcripts that's here to discover. It reminds me of one of my favorite poems is Keats' sonnet, "On first looking into Chapman's Homer" (here, with commentary), where Keats describes his experience on reading a new translation of the Greek poet Homer. Chapman's translation opens his eyes to a host of literary possibilities. The poem begins with references to Homer, which Keats implies he did not truly appreciate,
Till I heard Chapman speak out loud and bold:
Then felt I like some watcher of the skies
When a new planet swims into his ken;
Or like stout Cortez when with eagle eyes
He stared at the Pacific--and all his men
Looked at each other with a wild surmise
Silent upon a peak in Darien.
Keats compares these new possibilities to Cortez, who--after crossing the Atlantic, fighting his way across Mexico, and winning a new empire for Spain--comes over a hill and sees the Pacific. A whole new ocean to cross, a new world to conquer! So too, now, with the Grewal tapes. There is a new ocean of questions to cross.


Buckets gets noticed in some unusual places

There have been quite a few references to this site in the political blogosphere--some favorable, others less so. But this blog is beginning to spill out of our strange little universe into other places. Two are particularly notable, I think. One is the reference to this in one of Canada's best small newspapers, the Halifax Herald, where I was mentioned in Maher's column.

The other is in the ivory tower. See here, where a researcher in multimedia and electronic texts remarks on Buckets.

FAQ 1d. Where can I get a chronological overview?

A chronology of the discussions and the tapes that went with them can be found here

For an overview of Grewal's life and career, as well as the important events of Canadian politics relevant to the Grewal affair is a post at Edward Bear's archive of articles and documents about Grewal's career at Goodbye Grewal World.

Return to the FAQ

Some other recent stories

The Globe has an article on Nina, who keeps a pretty low profile.

I don't know whether to laugh or cry at this:
OTTAWA (CP) - The Parliament Hill version of Where's Waldo took a decidedly Keystone Kops turn this week as reporters tried to track down Gurmant and Nina Grewal.

Finding the husband and wife Tory MPs embroiled in controversy over taped meetings with Liberals has been a priority.

Gurmant is on paid stress leave from his $12,000-a-month job as MP and hasn't been available to comment on trying to get someone to carry tapes for him to Ottawa on a flight from Vancouver, in apparent contravention of security regulations.

A television reporter thought she saw the couple on Parliament Hill and ran down the semi-circular driveway thinking she could get a quote or two.

She was joined by colleagues and the mob grew bigger as it closed in on the couple - who turned out to be out-of-town tourists. Welcome to Ottawa.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Halifax Herald: Snip, snip, who cut the tape?

In a column 'Snip, snip, who cut the tape?', Stephen Maher, Ottawa Bureau Chief of the Halifax Herald (one of the country's best small newspapers), writes a devastating column about the editing of the Grewal tapes. He puts it quite simply:
Snip, snip, who cut the tape?

By STEPHEN MAHER / Letter From Ottawa

Someone in the Conservative party edited the Grewal tapes to make the Liberals look bad and the Tories look good.

The Tories won't say who did it, but they say the complete tapes they eventually released are the same as the tapes Gurmant Grewal first gave them. If that's true, then whoever cut the tapes was working for Conservative Leader Stephen Harper.

It is surprising that someone in Mr. Harper's office would be at once so stupid and so unethical.

None of this clears the Liberals of wrongdoing. There is plenty of sleaze to go around in this affair.

As the Tories keep pointing out, Health Minister Ujjal Dosanjh and Tim Murphy, the prime minister's chief of staff, went over the line in trying to convince Mr. Grewal to give them the votes they needed to survive a budget vote in the House. The future of the government depended on a few votes, and Mr. Grewal offered two - his and his wife's - in exchange for a cabinet post for him and a job for her.

It is against the law to offer a job in exchange for a vote.

In a series of meetings that Mr. Grewal taped, Mr. Murphy and Mr. Dosanjh try to talk Mr. Grewal into abstaining. They don't quite offer him what he is asking for, but they repeatedly make vague promises of future rewards.

I don't doubt that if they had crossed the floor, the Liberals would have made Mr. Grewal the Parliamentary Secretary for Keeping Your Mouth Shut and Ms. Grewal would have become a Special Adviser to the Prime Minister on South Asian British Columbians.

But they didn't cross. Instead, Mr. Grewal went public with his story, saying he was offered a job - a bribe - in essence, for his vote.

The Tories released a snippet of tape, and lots of journalists - including this one - quoted a chunk of dialogue that seemed to bear out Mr. Grewal's story. Mr. Murphy seems to - wink-wink, nudge-nudge - offer and not offer a reward to Ms. Grewal.

"All of which is to say, that in advance of that, explicit discussions about Senate, not Senate, I don't think are very helpful, and I don't think, frankly, can be had, in advance of an abstention," he says.

"And then we'll have much more detailed and finely hued discussions after that with some freedom. And I think that what allows is negotiating room for you, in either direction."

This, and a number of other passages, makes the Liberals look pretty bad.

Two weeks later, under pressure, the Conservatives released what they said was the whole tape. It turns out that somebody - some Tory - was lying.

What they released was a heavily edited tape. In one conversation alone there are 20 cuts. About 15 minutes of tape was left out of the package they released.

After experts concluded the tape was obviously doctored, the Tories released what they now say is the complete version. An obsessive Internet blogger, at, has compiled a word-by-word comparison of the two tapes.

It shows that someone cut out things that made the Liberals look good or the Tories look bad.

Some small cuts have a big impact in changing the nature of the conversation.

There's a long passage where Mr. Murphy gives Mr. Grewal the soft soap, making vague promises that he and his wife will be taken care of if they cross the floor. One widely quoted line: "You know obviously for us continuing to expand our base in B.C. and in prominent communities in this country is a political priority for us so it's a welcome mat that has a lot of nice comfy fur on it."

But Mr. Murphy goes on to say they can't make specific promises.

"I don't even know if Ujjal knows this, there are others in your caucus who have asked. I will do this if you will do this or that or the other thing and we have said no, period. Right? In truth, I don't think that actually serves us or that individual well, right. Because, it has been a kind you know, they have asked for a reward outside of politics and I just don't think that's, the prime minister does not think that's the right thing to do. I want you to know, you might say there is an element of trust in what's been happening here, but there's a reason for that because frankly it's better for us to be honest with you. Frankly it's better for someone like you to work on that basis."

The Tories cut out the sections in italic. So, Paul Martin told Mr. Murphy not to offer MPs like the Grewals jobs outside politics - like diplomatic posts - in exchange for their votes. Mr. Murphy is trying to tell Mr. Grewal that the Liberals will take care of the Grewals, but Mr. Martin has forbidden him to offer anything specific.

The Tories cut that, because it showed Mr. Martin had set ethical ground rules for the talks.

Later in the conversations, there are big chunks edited out where Mr. Grewal makes a hard pitch for a Senate seat for his wife.

"I will not talk to the big boss (Mr. Martin) like that, but Tim I can. Ujjal, I'm contradicting your advice a little bit, OK? The understanding that if possible my wife would be the preference for the adjustment, possibly in the Senate. So that's the understanding, but Ujjal told me not to mention it like this."

There are loads of sections cut where Mr. Grewal says things that make him look terrible. He pleads for a firm offer from Mr. Murphy, and Mr. Murphy fails to give it to him.

The Tories - or, maybe, Mr. Grewal, acting on his own - cut the tape to give Canadians the wrong idea about what happened in the talks. Then, when they were caught, they released the whole tape, and issued a news release saying the missing sections were a few seconds long, and were created through a technical glitch in file transfer in Mr. Harper's office.

That's a lie.

The Tories won't say who cut the tape. They won't deny that they were edited, although on Thursday they issued a release pointing to a review of the tapes by an expert they hired. He found no evidence that the complete tapes have been edited. That says nothing about the fact that they earlier released doctored tapes.

This raises disturbing questions about the people around Mr. Harper, although I do not believe that he personally would have approved this. On the other hand, I was surprised to learn that he didn't tell Mr. Grewal to stop secretly taping these meetings when he first learned of them.

Somebody in the Conservative party used the black arts of the war room in a vain attempt to deceive Canadians with these tapes.

The Conservatives constantly emphasize the Liberal record of corruption, and claim to offer a clean, ethical alternative.

That would be more convincing if they would tell us who cut the tape.

FAQ 3b. Does Buckets have advice for listening to tapes?

It really isn't very hard. Use headphones. Take your time. Follow along with the transcript and a pen in hand. (There are lots of mistakes.) Just think--you can hardly do worse than whoever the Conservatives had do it.

For hardware I have a G4 Powerbook (about three years old); I found a great shareware program called MP3 Trimmer which allows for very fine control of the tape. And if you want to cut pieces out of the tape in order to … uh … improve … yah, yah, that's the ticket … improve your argument, this software's just the ticket!

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FAQ 5a. Were some of the tapes edited?

Forensic audio experts recognized the signs of editing in some of the tapes very quickly. We do not have to rely on their opinion, however, since the Conservatives have released different versions of single recordings on Grewal's site. For example, the tape of Grewal's meeting with Dosanjh and Murphy (May 17th) was released May 31st. Late on June 2d another recording was made available at Grewal's site that is 15 minutes longer (the accompanying transcript was not released until June 5).
  • The May 31st transcript of the Grewal-Dosanjh-Murphy tape was put up on the CBC website and can be seen here
  • The June 5th transcript can be downloaded from Grewal's site here (choose 'view pdf transcript' under the 'meeting between Gurmant Grewal and Ujjal Dosanjh, joined by Tim Muphy')
  • I have created a the slide show that highlights the differences between the two.

Are these edits intentional? See FAQ 5b. Could the edits be accidental?

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FAQ 1e. What is the 'suicide note'?

A conservative press release of June 2 admitted that there were problems with the tapes that they'd released. When it was distributed to reporters at an Ottawa bar late on the night of June 2, the conservative staffer who distributed it is said to have called it a 'suicide note'. This press release admits that the original tapes had been in conservative hands since May 18th, suggests that the problems found in the tapes were caused by 'glitches', claims that only a few seconds was missing, and points out two places where the transcript needs revision. Here is a scan:
grewal suicidenote.gif

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FAQ 11. Who is Buckets?

About Me. Apparently there have been questions raised about who I am. Indeed, some have speculated that I am a team of professional hacks participating in 'astroturfing' (creating a virtual 'grass roots' movement) (see here). Nope. Just little old me, together with a 3-year old laptop, a cheapy Epson scanner, a yellow high-lighter, a $3 pair of ear buds, and an obsessive personality. To borrow something Scott Tribe wrote recently:
Three-year old laptop, … $600…
Epson Perfection Scanner, … $139…
Staedtler Yellow Hi-liter, … $1.59…
Being mistaken for a vast Liberal Conspiracy … priceless.
For everything else, there's Progressive Bloggers.

My Unitarian Jihad Name is: Brother Immaculate Molotov Cocktail of Contemplation, which I rather like. What's yours?

Acknowledgements. Thanks to many who've linked to sites, suggested improvments, or pointed out relevant material. Special thanks to Bear and Shoveller, who for a time were helping me edit the site; although they helped improve this blog in many ways, I want to point out that they are not responsible for any of its flaws, opinions, or conclusions. Ryan and Phil helped with technical matters; Raj and Sohn with Punjabi translations. A couple of the FAQs were written by others (their authorship is noted in these cases), apart from that, I am responsible for the content.

FAQ 1c. What is the 'pizza date', the 'pizza tape'?

The Pizza date. After initial discussions with Sadesh Kalia, it was agreed that Grewal would meet with Dosanjh to discuss changing parties. The date was set for 8 pm of the Monday, May 16th. No tape of this meeting has ever been released.

The Pizza tape. The question is, if the Pizza date was taped, why do we not have it? If it was not taped, why not?

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FAQ 3a. Can I listen to these tapes myself and make my own judgement?

Yes, certainly. And you should--there are things in the tapes that are not in the transcripts (and vice versa). And there is significance in tone, pitch, attitude, etc.

To get your own copies of the most recently released tapes go to Grewal's site (here).

It's best to do this while following along in the transcripts, which you can also get pdfs from Grewal's site. Or you can see my scans of those pdfs (with colour commentary!) here.

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Nina Grewal's degree in political silence

nina grewal fleetwood port kells
From the Globe and Mail: Nina Grewal's degree in political silence

Nina Grewal's degree in political silence: With her husband firmly at centre stage in Ottawa, the MP for Fleetwood-Port Kells in Surrey, B.C., has a reputation as a quiet supplicant rather than an active participant in public life.

SURREY, B.C.; OTTAWA -- She learned everything she needed to know about politics from watching the parliamentary channel CPAC, her husband Gurmant Grewal says, but Nina Grewal's continued silence has a growing number of critics wondering if she was watching on mute.

She won her first election in a seat Mr. Grewal didn't want.

Both put their names forward in two adjacent ridings and he, as the senior politician in the household, decided which constituency he wanted, leaving her with his second choice.

When she gave a CBC radio interview after they both won for the Tories in the 2004 election, making history as the first husband-and-wife team elected at the same time, he whispered the answers to her.

As her husband stumbled from taped conversations to negotiated stress leave, Ms. Grewal, the Conservative MP for the Surrey riding of Fleetwood-Port Kells, has remained resolutely silent.

Both in Ottawa and in her own political backyard, she has a reputation as more a quiet supplicant than an active participant in public life.

In the hours of conversation Mr. Grewal had with the Liberals, she is referred to simply as his "wife" as the talk centres on a possible Senate seat for her -- part of a deal that would have seen the couple leave the Conservative party or sit out the budget vote.

Mr. Grewal boasts in the recordings that he will win easily in the next election while she may not.

His own personal story is "very brilliant," he says. Hers is virtually unknown.

There is growing uneasiness about her silence, her inexperience and the mounting damage that has been done to the Conservatives.

Manjit Dhillon, a Conservative organizer with the Fraser Valley's Indo-Canadian community and an executive in Conservative MP Randy White's Abbotsford riding, said her silence, combined with her husband's actions, has hurt the credibility of politicians in general and the politically active ethnic community in particular.

"It will take 10 years for the Indo-Canadian community to regain any trust, whether what happened on the tape is true or false and keeping quiet on her part doesn't help," he said. "We see that Stephen Harper is standing behind Gurmant Grewal, but his wife is not saying anything. Even Hillary stood behind Bill Clinton when things turned."

Ms. Grewal has no intention of talking now. She turned down interviews, and in a brief talk outside the family's home in upscale Panorama Ridge, Jay Grewal said his mother is supporting her husband. "She won't talk to you. No one in her office will talk about this now. We're just supporting each other through this," he said. "She wants to continue her work."

Her life before she got started in politics remains something of a mystery.

Born in Osaka, Japan, where her father had business interests, Ms. Grewal, 46, and her family moved to Liberia in West Africa when she was 41/2 years old. From there, she was sent to Shimla, India, to study in a convent, finishing her college degree in history and English literature before getting married in 1982.

"My father placed a matrimonial advertisement in The Tribune newspaper and Gurmant's parents responded," she said in a rare interview in November, 2004, for an Indian website.

After their marriage, the young couple moved to Liberia where their sons Japjot (Jay) and Livjot, now 19 and 21, were born.

Mr. Grewal, 47, once told a Vancouver reporter he was an adviser to Liberian dictator Sam Doe, although he has since denied it. He says he worked as a professor of agriculture, and started a number of ventures, including a cellphone company and pest control business. Ms. Grewal's website says only that she worked in the family business while in Liberia.

Civil war led the family to leave, and they made their way to Canada after stays in Britain and the United States. Despite the fact that, on tape, Mr. Grewal says he came here with little money, he was able to acquire a carpet business shortly after arriving.

Mr. Grewal first ran for political office as a B.C. Liberal in 1995, but was unsuccessful. He won federally two years later as a Reformer. Ms. Grewal would often attend functions and give speeches on his behalf when his schedule got too busy. "This was good political training," she told

While Ms. Grewal's first brush with political life had been as a stand-in, her husband's controversies often propelled him to the front lines. He once claimed he taped an offer of a deputy cabinet position from the B.C. Liberals, and later hired Rachel Marsden in his riding office, a right-wing pundit who had pleaded guilty to stalking a radio personality.

In 2004, Mr. and Ms. Grewal announced their intentions to run in two different ridings and signed up substantial number of new Conservative members within the Indo-Canadian community. In the riding Ms. Grewal subsequently ran in, she fended off a high-profile contender, Mary Polak, the former Surrey school board chair, who withdrew her bid for the nomination, arguing her opponent had an unfair advantage because of her husband's access to membership lists.

Community activist Manpreet Grewal, no relation to the family, said she has often asked people if they had heard of Ms. Grewal before she entered the race.

"Not one person that I know has ever remembered her doing anything in the community. It's a big mystery about where she came from, what she did," she said. "People here resent the fact that someone who was only known as the wife of a politician suddenly becomes a politician herself with nothing to show with any community involvement."

But Chris Mathisen, an organizer for the Conservatives in Surrey and White Rock, said he has sat with Ms. Grewal at policy conventions and in election preparation meetings.

"I've chatted with her and we've discussed issues. She has her opinions," he said. "She's also a nice lady."

The new riding of Fleetwood-Port Kells, created in a 2004 redistribution, is 20-per-cent Indo-Canadian, with a growing affluent population. It was considered a safe Tory seat when the election was called.

When questions arose during the campaign about her qualifications, her husband said she watched CPAC, the parliamentary TV channel "all the time for the last seven years. We don't watch movies at home. We only watch CPAC."

In their household, Ms. Grewal has said they "eat, breathe and talk all the time [about] politics."

She won her seat with 36 per cent of the vote, compared with 30 per cent for her Liberal opponent, former B.C. cabinet minister Gulzar Cheema.

Dr. Cheema had three campaign managers, including Ron Churchill, a former organizer with the Reform and then the Alliance party.

"It really hurt losing to someone like her. We tried everything we knew, the three of us, with all of our experiences, to convey the message voters should elect a person, not the party," Mr. Churchill said. "She was the invisible candidate. She wasn't even the peekaboo candidate. She was fully hidden. I didn't see the boo."

Mr. Churchill said that at an all-candidates meeting at Kwantlen College during campaign, Ms. Grewal's staff directly intervened with signs to help her answer questions.

The rumour around Parliament Hill, and in Surrey, is that Mr. Grewal controls everything in his wife's office from hiring or vetting staff, to checking her correspondences and dealing with constituent matters in Fleetwood-Port Kells.

B.C. communications consultant Colin Metcalfe, who worked on the Tory campaign in the last election, and knows Ms. Grewal professionally, says she is simply a "very private woman."

Mr. Metcalfe said Ms. Grewal is not "a shrinking violet," but does have trouble with English, which is not her first language.

Mr. Grewal has returned to the family's home in Surrey, one of four properties the couple own either together or separately in the Lower Mainland. Though Mr. Grewal returned home earlier this week accompanied by RCMP, Ms. Grewal was expected back only this weekend.

For now, the family lives in a 7,600-square-foot home in Panorama Ridge, with six-bedrooms, four bathrooms and a Canadian flag flying. Although no sign is up, real estate listings show the house is currently for sale and listed for $978,888.

Neighbours in their enclave say they do not know the couple well.

"These homes are half-acre lots. We have a long and heavy retaining wall between each other and the person who is your next door neighbour is actually a half a block away," said one neighbour, who said she rarely sees the family, and declined to be named.

In Ottawa, the couple rarely socialize with other caucus members. By most accounts, Ms. Grewal stays close to her husband during and after office hours, and has no close friends in caucus.

But she does appear to be well-liked and does not shy away from the microphone during closed-door caucus sessions.

Her seatmate in the House of Commons Alberta Tory Lee Richardson says Ms. Grewal is capable of joining in the rowdiness and has shown her agitation with some of the catcalls from the other side. Mr. Richardson dismisses the notion that Ms. Grewal's ethnic heritage has kept her in the shadows.

"Women in that community are pretty strong, just in a very subtle way. And obviously it works because people have a different impression than how it really is, I think. I think she stands up pretty well."

Carol Skelton, another fellow MP, said Ms. Grewal just quietly goes about doing her job and shines when she's in front of the cameras.

"That's the whole Ottawa mentality. You look at someone that's quiet, that's not in the media a lot and you say, 'Oh you know, they're under somebody's shadow,' and that's not true," she said. "As women parliamentarians, we go around doing our jobs and try to stay out of the media."

Ms. Grewal is interested in immigration and women's issues, with a focus on raising the age of consent.

But some Tory MPs are not exactly clear on what drives her.

"Honestly, there is nothing that jumps into my mind what Nina's passion is," says a Tory colleague who asked not to be named.

She is the vice-chair of the status of women committee. The chairwoman, Manitoba Liberal MP Anita Neville, says that some of the issues the committee is dealing with, such as gender-based analysis and pay equity, are quite "new" to Ms. Grewal.

"I'm sort of reluctant to talk about her," said Ms. Neville. "I don't really know her. She attends most meetings.. . .She's quiet but diligent."

One Tory MP notes that in the last election, the party had to send in MPs to replace her in several all-candidates debates because it felt she couldn't handle the issues.

Rob Terris, the head of the Tynehead Community Association and the Ratepayers Association in her riding, said yesterday that whenever he approached Ms. Grewal for assistance in projects such as building a pool in the riding or erecting a monument, she referred him to Mr. Grewal.

"On every issue I have raised with her, she told me to go to her husband instead," said Mr. Terris. "She has never responded with her own thoughts or her own ideas, just deflected it to him or she would ask me what she should do."

Jaspreet Dhanju, a dentist who lives in the riding, said she questions whether Ms. Grewal should be representing the community.

"She shouldn't be pushed down because of her husband. But as a regular person just listening and trying to understand what's going on, I wonder if she will ever stand up at all," Dr. Dhanju said.

FAQ 2b. Do we have tapes of all of the calls between Kalia and Grewal?

It is pretty obvious that we have only a fraction of all the messages between the two. If you look at Grewal's blackberry log, SK made 9 calls to Grewal before 8 pm on the 16th, but the first three calls in the tape/transcript are before the log starts. In addition this log contains only the calls made to Grewal's Blackberry. Did Grewal ever return a call to Kalia? Not according to our records. Perhaps he returned calls using a land line.

Also, if you go to the transcript of the Sunday night call in the Kalia transcript (here), the first line of the transcript is
SK- Minister (Ujjal Dosanjh) called and asked me if I have spoken to you (GG). I said I have talked to him and explained our discussion.
Clearly this is not the first time Kalia and Grewal have talked about this. (Aside for later--is this even the beginning of this call? No 'hello', etc.?)

Also, the Blackberry log shows roughly two dozen calls made in all, about half of which got through. We have to assume, then, that of these dozen calls, we have only six (and these may be incomplete). There were also calls initiated by Grewal to Kalia. Over at Maritime Liberal is quoted aCBC interview in which Kalia shows his call display logs for the ten days leading up to the exchanges that Grewal has released for the 15th and 16th of May, which shows that there are another ten calls or so that have not been released.

The six calls released among the Grewal recordings, then, represent only a fraction of those made between Grewal and Kalia.

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