Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Grewal interviewed by Surrey Leader

Thanks to Al, who emailed me to point out this story at the Surrey Leader. There are several new points here that I will address shortly.


Voters 'will appreciate my guts...'

CHUNG CHOW/THE LEADER
Newton-North Delta MP Gurmant Grewal says he will seek re-election next spring and predicts voters will see through the torrent of allegations against him.

By Jeff Nagel Black Press
Jul 27 2005
MP Gurmant Grewal will run again despite political damage

Gurmant Grewal says he will trust his constituents to see through what he calls the "lies and spin" about him opponents have fed to an either willingly partisan or incompetent news media. The Conservative MP for Newton-North Delta predicts he will emerge clean from ongoing investigations since he secretly taped conversations in which he alleges top Liberals tried to buy his vote.

And he says voters will then pass the final judgment as to his character when they go to the polls in the next election.

"I am going to run," he told The Leader in an interview Monday. "After the positive resolution of these issues I am sure my constituents will appreciate my guts and courage."

"They will appreciate my honesty and integrity. And they will reward me for my hard work."

Confident words for a man many observers have written off as political road kill. Grewal denies his career has been mortally wounded. "I have been cleared from so many so-called investigations already," he said. "On Air Canada, I'm absolutely cleared. The bonding immigration issue I am cleared. The cheques issues is now cleared."

And he predicts the investigation arising from his secret taping will also exonerate him and instead put the Liberals on the hot seat. "It is the mother of all my troubles," he said.

The tapes scandal - in which Grewal in May recorded a series of phone conversations and meetings with health minister Ujjal Dosanjh and Tim Murphy, the prime minister's chief of staff about possible rewards if he and his wife MP Nina Grewal crossed the floor to join the Liberals - has triggered investigations by the RCMP and the federal ethics commissioner.

The explosive revelation came just after Tory MP Belinda Stronach crossed the floor to join the Liberals, and just before she and Surrey North MP Chuck Cadman helped the Liberals narrowly win a crucial May 19 budget vote and stave off an election. But instead of shining a spotlight on Liberal corruption, the Grewal tapes soon backfired. The Tories released selected segments and transcripts - fuelling a perception that they were hiding damaging material.

"We were short of time," Grewal said. "When you do this kind of thing, admittedly errors do happen."

They ultimately released all the recordings, posting them both on the web and providing them to the RCMP. But Grewal says that created an incorrect impression that he hoarded a full set of tapes he only released later.

In fact, he says he gave the Conservative communications office everything he had immediately.

Grewal says the RCMP's later request for tapes were for personal copies identical to the ones he had already provided.
"There are no 'new' tapes," Grewal said, calling it one of the elements the national media in particular has most persistently misreported.

Since then a series of other allegations against Grewal have emerged - often from Liberal-connected complainants - questioning the legitimacy of his immigration status, political contribution cheques and his behaviour at the airport one day in June. The nine-year MP says his foes are motivated by a desire to keep the public focus away from both the sponsorship scandal and the taped evidence that the Liberals engaged in vote-buying.

"It's an attempt to smear and destroy the messenger in the hopes that by destroying me the public will forget the real story is about bribing a Member of Parliament," he said. "I didn't break any law by taping - they broke the law by offering a bribe."

Grewal denies he ever contemplated crossing the floor to join the Liberals. He says this occasion is just the latest of three or four attempts by the Liberals to lure him across since 2003.

Once he began taping the conversations, he says, he informed Conservative leader Stephen Harper, who approved the ongoing efforts.

He said he stopped short of trying to tape prime minister Paul Martin.

"We didn't want to damage the reputation of the country, so we decided not to tape the prime minister," he said. "Mr. Harper said, 'Gurmant, I think we end it there now.' "

Grewal said he was already performing a delicate dance to keep Liberals convinced of his interest and keep the talks going, and trying to implicate the prime minister would have been more complex.

"It would also have been risky," he said. "The prime minister would have his security. It could have blown up in my face that I had a tape recorder. I was playing with fire."

Publicly exposing the sting ended any chance to involve the RCMP or other authorities.

But Grewal also revealed that the Conservatives hoped the revelation of the vote-buying tapes would put the brakes on any further Conservative defections after Stronach's stunning departure.

The Tories heard the Liberals were in talks with more in their ranks and both parties were scrambling to shore up support ahead of the critical confidence vote.

"We had a political crisis also taking place," Grewal said. "If we had not done it the way we did, maybe three or four other MPs could have moved to the Liberals like Belinda Stronach has done."

Grewal maintains the Liberals will face serious repercussions as a result of the tapes. It is an affront to democracy when someone is trying to buy a vote of a Member of Parliament by bribing that Member of Parliament."

Exposing the practice, he said, is why he has been under fire on so many fronts.

Still, Grewal doesn't believe he has passed a point where it is impossible to recover and remain electable. "The public opinion is going to change," Grewal predicts. "I am quite confident that with the right information they are going to make the right decision."

VISITOR VISA PLEDGES

What he did: Revealed in March he has accepted pledges from constituents to put up money guaranteeing overseas visitors didn't overstay their visas. Immigration minister Joe Volpe called for an investigation of the unauthorized practice.

Outcome: The ethics commissioner found in June no actual money ever changed hands and largely cleared Grewal. Although the MP claims he was fully cleared," the report called his actions an error in judgment that created some appearance of possible conflict-of-interest.

Unfinished business: Grewal's private members' bill, which would legitimize the practices, is to come back to Parliament for a vote.

VOTE BUYING ON TAPE

What he did: Secretly taped top Liberals, including health minister Ujjal Dosanjh and PMO chief of staff Tim Murphy, during talks in May about what might happen if he crossed the floor. They discussed possible cabinet or diplomatic posts, but the Liberals were cautious not to guarantee an explicit trade for his vote.

Outcome: RCMP and the ethics commissioner are investigating.
Unfinished business: Findings of the two investigations. Possible legal action between Grewal and Dosanjh.

AIRPORT SECURITY INCIDENT

What he did: Passed through airport security at YVR June 4 and asked another passenger to carry an envelope to Ottawa for him.

Outcome: RCMP quickly cleared Grewal but it took Transport Canada another nine days to issue a finding that no contravention occurred" - a delay Grewal says kept the non-story" in the media.

IMMIGRATION INVESTMENT

What he did: Entered Canada as an immigrant investor by buying into a business in Surrey in 1992. The ex-partner claims the money was kicked back. Grewal says he sold his shares legally about 10 months later. Complainant is a business partner of Grewal's Liberal challenger in the last election.

Outcome: Even if the claim could be verified, so-called transient capital schemes weren't technically illegal at the time.

Unfinished business: Grewal plans legal action against his accusers and a formal complaint against CBC to the Canadian Broadcast Standards board.

CHEQUE CONTRIBUTIONS

What he did: Accepted cheques in 2003 outside election campaign period addressed to him personally without supplying a receipt. Grewal endorsed the cheques over to pay for a hall rental. Key complainants are active workers for Ujjal Dosanjh.

Outcome: Elections Canada said the law at the time did not require receipts be issued outside campaign periods. But some receipts were either issued by the party or Elections Canada or are being issued after the fact.

2 Comments:

Blogger Mark Francis said...

I'll leave you to it, but I love this one:

"instead of shining a spotlight on Liberal corruption, the Grewal tapes soon backfired. The Tories released selected segments and transcripts - fuelling a perception that they were hiding damaging material."

And yet, we have the suicide note...

I'm quite interested in seeing how, over time, this story changes.

7:19 PM  
Blogger Noel M said...

Now we know why Harper has been supportive - he endorsed this fiasco and, I bet, Gurmant has the tapes to prove it.

I think this is gonna backfire on Harper. Mr "squeaky clean" isn't above playing dirty politics.

7:44 PM  

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