Saturday, June 04, 2005

Grewal's previous taping episode

The Star has a story on the 1995 episode where Grewal taped a private meeting (see here):

Jun. 4, 2005. 01:00 AM

Has he had his finger on the record button before?
Gurmant Grewal and the tapes

B.C. Liberal says it happened to him

OTTAWA—In 1995, well-known Liberal activist and Vancouver lawyer Bryan Baynham was vetting candidates for his party for an imminent provincial election.
One of the applicants for a riding south of Vancouver was Gurmant Grewal, an immigrant entrepreneur who hailed from India's Punjab region.
A decade later, Grewal, 47, is now a Conservative MP and is known across the country as the man caught up in a dispute with the federal Liberals over his secret recordings of talks with Prime Minister Paul Martin's senior colleagues.
But in 1995, Grewal's qualifications for elected office in Canada left a lot to be desired, Baynham recalls. Grewal and his family had arrived in Canada only four years earlier from Liberia via the United States and Britain. They left the strife-torn West African country after president Samuel Doe was ousted in a bloody coup in 1990.
Grewal had taught business management at the University of Liberia and helped run a successful import business there.
There has been confusion and controversy over his relations with Doe, one of the country's most brutal dictators. Newspapers have reported that he said he advised Doe at one point on an environmental program, but Grewal later denied any close contact with the dictator.
Grewal did not respond to numerous requests for interviews by the Toronto Star.
Baynham, who in 1995 was reviewing potential election candidates' backgrounds to ensure they would stand up to public scrutiny, was not impressed.
"He had no connection to the community and a very sketchy sort of background," Baynham says.
"So, I had him in ... and told him that, of all the people I'd seen, he was the least qualified person to stand for election, and. . . he was being rejected as a candidate for the B.C. Liberal party."
The incident became a hot local issue, with Indo-Canadians accusing the party of taking a racist stand against Grewal.
Soon afterwards, according to Baynham, Grewal went up the line of the Liberal party hierarchy, complaining about the decision of the vetting committee.
"Within a few days, I was advised he had tape-recorded (the interview)," Baynham recalls. "He (Grewal) had a body pack on to record it. People came back to me and told me there was this tape and it would be damaging because of what was contained on the tape."
But no one ever came forward with a copy of the tape or a transcript, he says.
Grewal's version of events was much different. He said at the time that he would easily have won the nomination for the Liberals in Delta North riding but he withdrew from the contest.
And he said a senior provincial Liberal, acting on behalf of B.C. Liberal leader Gordon Campbell, had offered him a deputy minister's job in a Liberal government in exchange for stepping aside. Campbell denied it.
"I consider it to be a bribe if anything is offered to me like that, so I didn't take it," Grewal said in 1995. He refused to name the official who allegedly offered him the plum government job.
`He had no connection to the community and a very sketchy sort of background'
Bryan Baynham, Liberal organizer, on dealings with Gurmant Grewal
But the hard feelings didn't end there. Grewal, who had switched to the Reform party to run as a candidate in the 1996 B.C. election but lost, received an angry phone call on election night.
While listening to the call, which Grewal said was from B.C. Liberal party secretary Sandeep Powar, Grewal dialled 911 on a different line and held the two telephone receivers next to each other. As all 911 calls are recorded, the RCMP wound up with a tape of the exchange.
Powar was arrested and charged with verbally abusing and threatening Grewal. Powar denied making the call but resigned from his Liberal party position. The following month, the Crown declined to proceed with the charges and Powar was reinstated as party secretary. The 1995 and 1996 incidents are eerily similar to the current controversy. Grewal, who now holds the riding of Newton-North Delta for the Conservatives, secretly made tapes of conversations with key Liberals discussing the possibility that he and his wife, Nina Grewal (also a Conservative MP), might eventually be given prestigious posts if they helped keep Martin's precarious minority government afloat.
The now-public recordings of Grewal talking with Health Minister Ujjal Dosanjh and Tim Murphy, the Prime Minister's chief of staff, have prompted calls for investigations by the RCMP and federal ethics commissioner Bernard Shapiro.
Allied to the Grewal-Murphy exchanges is another controversial event.
At a Commons committee meeting on March 24, Grewal divulged an unorthodox way of responding to his constituents' requests for help in arranging temporary visas for their relatives coming from abroad.
In a statement that shocked other MPs, Grewal said he had demanded guarantees of $50,000 to $100,000 from constituents to ensure the visitors would return to their countries when their visas expired.
He said people come into his office and "I ask them if they could sign a guarantee for me — I just experiment with an amount. People say, `Okay, I'm prepared to sign for $1 million.' I say, `No, that's too much. Let's do something reasonable, that is legally possible.' I prepare a guarantee bond document and ask them to sign it.
"When they sign it, I write a letter to Immigration saying that I vouch for them because they have assured me that their potential visitor will go back," Grewal explained.
Immigration Minister Joe Volpe's reaction was to ask the federal ethics commissioner and the RCMP to investigate what he called a questionable legal practice.
Grewal denied any wrongdoing and said subsequently that he misspoke in the committee. He has never actually accepted any bond, let alone a cash payment, from a constituent, Grewal said.
This disputed practice has come up again in connection with the taped discussions that Grewal had with Dosanjh and Murphy. At one point, Murphy says that if Grewal and his wife Nina abstain in a key vote in the Commons, then there could be discussions about the Grewals' future if they switched parties and joined the Liberals.
"If that proposal is of some interest to you, then I will talk to Volpe and get something happening," Murphy says, adding that he has already mentioned to Volpe that he was in discussion about the Grewals' allegiances.
"Is he manageable?" Grewal asks of Volpe. "Yes," Murphy replies.
Some Liberals have suggested Grewal wanted Murphy to get Volpe to intervene in the RCMP investigation in exchange for the Grewals' help in Parliament. But others say Murphy was only referring to the possibility Volpe might apologize for negative remarks he made about Grewal in the Commons.
At another point in the tapes, Murphy suggests that the government might be able to get Shapiro to do something "to take the cloud off" Grewal by speeding up the ethics commissioner's probe of Grewal's dealings.
For his part, Volpe denied Murphy had made any requests on behalf of Grewal. Nor was there any chance he would have intervened with the police or the ethics commissioner, Volpe said.


Blogger Mark Francis said...

"How do you make a Grewal float?"

Omit the cement shoes?

9:45 PM  
Anonymous koby said...

I think it is time to hold a contest for the best Grewal nickname. On the left coast some people have started calling him wormal. My personal favorite is agent Grewal. One the progressive bloggers came up with the latter.

10:37 PM  

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