Friday, June 03, 2005

Comment on culpability in the Grewal affair

I've been so busy with trying to figure out the technical side to the tapes--frankly, I'm not sure I have the chronology of them straight yet--that I've left it to others to cast moral judgement about what was done or not done by the various parties. I will now state a prelimary judgement (that I may change later).

On the Liberals. I think that it is important that we differentiate between three levels of problematic behaviour:
  1. that which is illegal,
  2. that which is unethical, and
  3. that which is politically embarassing.
Of the allegations made in this sorry (and growing sorrier!) affair, what would constitute each?
  1. if the PMO had explicitly offered a senate seat (or sim.) in exchange for the Grewals' vote on the non-confidence motion, that would (in my opinion) have constituted an illegality
  2. if the PMO had explicitly offered a cabinet post for crossing the floor, that would be unethical, but not illegal.
  3. Finally, to offer vague possibilities of future rewards in exchange for a floor-crossing would be politically embarassing, but only if exposed.
To some, of course, floor-crossing itself is unethical, and therefore to encourage it or solicit it is unethical, too. I'm not sure I buy that premise. Often the same people who will curse the perfidy of one floor-crosser will praise the bravery of another--the difference, of course, is whether one is looking at their backs or fronts while the crossing is being done. But there are surely circumstances in which crossing is legitimate. A right-wing Liberal who discovers he or she is more ideologically at home among the Conservatives, or someone on the left-wing of the Conservative party discovering the opposite. As soon as we admit that there are cases where floor-crossing is appropriate, however, we also have to admit that there is a process by which it can be done. And that process will have looked something like what the Grewal tapes expose. The potential crossees obviously have to meet with party officials to determine whether they are welcome in the new party and to determine what they will do once there. And there will presumably be nomination issues to sort out. (BTW--one of the reasons that we should suspect that the meat of the negotiations have not been given to us is that getting the Grewals Liberal nominations for their ridings is nowhere clearly discusssed. It surely will have been.)

Did Martin know about the negotiations with Grewal? Obviously. And appropriately. Did Steven Harper know about negotations with John Bryden before the last election?

So, what is the degree of culpability here? This has been an embarassment to the Liberals. That is not in itself insignicant or unimportant. But given their other black-eyes recently, this is not much.

For the Conservative Party? This is still unclear, since the next day or two will (1) reveal many new problems in the tapes and (2) expose the mechanisms by which these problems developed. I note, however, that the CPC itself has not indulged in much of the irresponsible claims of illegality. (This may be because they knew that Grewal asks for more on the tapes than he is offered, and attempting to acquire is equally illegal under s. 119.)

Who gains? The NDP. They will win Grewal's seat in a cake-walk, and probably some other seats in BC.


Blogger Rhetoric said...

I think that your analysis of Liberal culpability is fairly good. I agree with the conditions you state for meeting the illegality test (more or less) and your conclusion that it was not met. I feel though that you give a too narrow definition of what constitutes an ethical breach. I notice that you leave out any mention of interference by Dossanjh or Murphy on the issue of the Volpe accusations. To me at least, the fact that Murphy was clearly more interested in having the Grewals abstain than cross the floor immediately, while leaving open the possiblity of future consideration, demonstrates that he acted unethically.

8:50 AM  
Blogger buckets said...

I mentioned Volpe here, though I see in a very preliminary way.

In short, the first tape that was released seemed to imply that TM would get Volpe to interfere with the RCMP investigation. Now that we know more, we can see that all that Grewal requests is that Volpe apologize or retract. TM and UD suggest that an apology might be possible. I'll agree that to be seen to arrange such an apology is politically embarassing; but I don't think there is much unethical here.

Yes, TM suggesting that the Grewals abstain may cross the line between embarassing and ethics. I'll think some more about that.

9:03 AM  
Anonymous Darren James Harkness said...

Sadly, the NDP won't gain in BC. The CPC will post someone a little less volatile in the Newton riding (but still, obviously, Sikh) and they'll win it again, no question.

5:33 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home