Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Nina stands by her man

From the Now comes an interview with Nina Grewal. (There's a few new things here.)

Nina stands by her man

Tom Zytaruk

The Surrey MP on whom the Globe and Mail newspaper bestowed a degree in "political silence" last month is coming out loud and swinging in an exclusive interview with the Now, over the media storm swirling around her husband and fellow MP, Gurmant Grewal.

Nina Grewal, Conservative MP for Fleetwood-Port Kells, has been targeted by the national media for not speaking up on behalf of her husband - who's been at the centre of a political perfect storm since May - after he made public taped recordings of conversations between himself and Liberal officials in which he claims attempts were made to coax him across the floor.

The MP for Newton-North Delta went on stress leave after becoming front-page news for secretly taping conversations with Liberal Health Minister Ujjal Dosanjh and Tim Murphy, the prime minister's chief of staff, in May. The tapes are being reviewed by police to determine who offered what, if anything, in exchange for Grewal's vote.

Since then, Gurmant Grewal has made national headlines in connection with no less than six scandals, some of which have proven to be bogus. Grewal himself maintains he's the victim of a campaign to discredit him because he blew the whistle on the Liberal government.

Both MPs appeared Thursday before ethics commissioner Dr. Bernard Shapiro in New Westminster to testify about the tape recordings.

In an exclusive interview at her constituency office Thursday, Nina Grewal complained of media bias and Liberal spin-doctoring. The result, she said, is that people "are focused on stupid things" and not on the real issues.

"It's just been a roller coaster for us, just a nightmare," she said of the past couple of months. "It's so difficult to stand by and watch people destroy the reputation of someone you really care about, who you love so dearly. It's really scary."

Grewal said her husband "did the right thing" in the taping incident. "You need someone with guts and courage. I highly admired him for that, what he did. Everyone is worried about their job and here Gurmant, he has the guts. And all of us do admire him - especially his sons - that dad, he did the right thing."

Since her husband was first elected in 1997, she said, the Liberals have approached him "three or four times," trying to get him to change parties. But with the confidence vote coming up last May, which would determine the fate of the Liberal minority government, the stakes were suddenly much higher.

"This time, since they had come and talked to numerous MPs, and they had talked to Inky Mark, a member of parliament, and he didn't have any evidence, so this time we wanted to catch them red-handed, so that's what he (Gurmant) did."

But when Gurmant Grewal dropped his taping bomb, he couldn't have known how big a hole it would make. In the aftermath, the national media has had a Mordor-like eye on the couple ever since, coming to their Surrey home and "looking through windows as if we are murderers out there."

"We haven't done anything wrong," Nina Grewal said. "All we did was we caught them (the Liberals) red-handed." She appeals to people to use their "common sense" in examining the taping scandal.

"Why would Gurmant go through a third party - an insurance agent?"

"He's been a member of parliament for almost eight, nine years now. He's got better people so that he can tell 'I want to join the Liberals.' He could have gone to the Prime Minister straight."

Asked how the stress of the media and political onslaught has affected their marriage, Grewal couldn't hold back the tears. "As you know, marriage is that you have to go through thick and thin. We are a united family," she cried. "It's really very tough on us, especially my children and my family."

"When you haven't done anything wrong and the people are after you day after day, writing such unfair stories which have no legs to these stories, it is terrifying." The result has been many sleepless nights. "We are going through hell, that's for sure," she said.

The couple is unique in Canadian political history in that they are married MPs representing side-by-side ridings. She realizes she's a "pioneer," still, she wants people to know she's her own woman and resents being treated like Gurnina.

Grewal said she wasn't at the meetings between her husband and the Liberals and had nothing to do with the tapes. "I didn't participate in the conversations," she said. "I wasn't there at all." In fact, she added, she was in Ottawa at a training session when Gurmant met the Liberals in Vancouver.

But that didn't stop the media's relentless pursuit of her, she said.

"They tangled Gurmant in that web, they also wanted me to be tangled in that web."

She's "particularly troubled" about a story that appeared in the Globe and Mail on June 11, headlined "Nina Grewal's degree in political silence." The story, she said, claimed "I'm just a silent person not talking on anything. Why would I, when I was not part of this controversy?"

"The Globe and Mail did that hatchet story on me _ I'm such a silent person out there, I don't speak, I'm a dummy MP, and I won't let them do that to me."

Asked what she considered to be the worst day in all of this, Grewal replied, "the whole thing was the worst for me."

Still, one incident particularly came to mind: "The CBC, they chased on me, I was in the washroom and they just put the cameras on the washroom that Nina's going to come out_they were after me all the time."

Despite this "nightmare," as she puts it, Grewal says she and her husband still plan to seek re-election. Even if Gurmant Grewal decided not to, she said hypothetically, " If he wants to do that, let him do that. I'm doing my own thing."

What has she learned through this process? "One should not shy away. Somebody should be there to show people what's going on behind the scene. You need the guts, that's all."

Darlene Bowyer, president of the Conservative Riding Association for Fleetwood-Port Kells, hopes the RCMP investigation into the taping is finished before an election is called. If not, she said, "we don't have enough time to clear their names because they (the media) have reported all this stuff."

Dane Minor, Nina Grewal's campaign manager, expects a reckoning in all this. "The big mistake in this is there's too much. We've got a guy who for eight years was flawless and all of a sudden he releases tapes and there's six scandals in less than two and a half months? It's too much, and I think what eventually will happen is once he does get cleared the public is going to take a look and say 'All those stories that quick? Something was wrong.'"


Blogger Rick Barnes said...

I am so pleased the Tories have this pair and Harper is standing by his man as is Nina.

Keep the love fest going in the CPC.

11:54 AM  

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