Notes on Holt's letter 7: Grewal's visa-bond scheme and the Ethics report
As has been well publicized, Jim Holt, president of Grewal's riding association, wrote a lengthy memo to riding Conservatives defending Grewal that was released last week. (You can read the whole thing here; to download a copy of the circulated Word file, go to Bound by Gravity.)
One paragraph in Holt's letter concerned the controversy surrounding a system that Grewal set-up to before he'd help contituents get temporary visas for visiting relatives. Holt's writes
In spite of a flood of negative press and completely unfounded accusations by Liberal Immigration Minister Joe Volpe [Buckets: for Volpe's letter see here], it is now a matter of public record that Gurmant Grewal did absolutely nothing wrong, illegal, or unethical regarding his practice of obtaining a pledge from residents hoping to sponsor offshore visitors on a short term Visitors Permit. …. As the Ethics Commissioner outlined in a detailed report dated June 22, our MP was completely cleared of any and all charges that were improperly advanced by our political opponents, or perhaps of even greater concern, reported in the national media.
Like any political communication, of course, Holt's letter has 'spin'. This does not necessarily mean that it is not true or partially true. In itself 'spin' can cover a wide spectrum of communicative acts--anything from telling your side of a story to being deliberately misleading. Where in this spectrum does Holt's act fall? I encourage you to make up your own mind. Here is a scan of the conclusion to Shapiro's report (pp. 7-8, with a slight formatting error at the page break):
Holt insists that "Grewal did absolutely nothing wrong, illegal, or unethical" in this affair and the Ethics Commissioner "completely cleared [him] of any and all charges". I encourage you, of course, to make up your own mind. But on my reading at least the Ethics report is not uncritical of Grewal and can hardly be characterized as 'clearing' Grewal. Here is my summary of the conclusions:
- There is no real conflict of interest.
- Grewal's scheme created an apparent conflict of interest and made the immigration politicies in regards to temporary visas less clear to constituents. "MPs must be careful not to develop unsanctioned supplmental requeirement to statutory regimes."
- Grewal did not aim to benefit personally
- Grewal's behaviour, therefore, falls under the "mitigated contravensions", that is, he has breached the code through inadvertence or poor judgement.
- "Mr. Grewal has not fully complied with an obligation under the Code, but I believe that his actions were an error in judgement …. [H]is intentions, however misguided, were reasonable.