Thursday, July 28, 2005

What did Harper know and when did he know it (revisited)?

One of the questions that was raised at the height of the Grewal circus was whether Harper knew about the taping, approved of it, or had been involved in any way in the editing of the tapes (or some combination of those three). I have generally been sceptical of any suggestion that Harper knew an awful lot about Grewal's antics--partially because I thought he was smarter than that.

In this recent his recent interview with the Surrey Leader, however, Grewal's openly admits that Harper knew of the taping, approved of it, and decided when to bring the taping to an end (here):
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.' "
This made me go back through the old stories (collected and posted here by Bear of Blankout Times) and noticed a small report that I had missed. In a story about reactions to the Grewal affair, the Hill Times reported on June 13:
Mr. Harper in a scrum after a caucus meeting on June 1 told the reporters that he became aware of the existence of the tapes on Tuesday, May 17 when he had a telephone conversation with Mr. Grewal. According to the dates of the tapes released, Mr. Grewal kept on recording the conversations with the senior Liberals on May 17, 18 and 19.

Geoff Norquay, director of communications to Mr. Harper last week refused to comment whether Mr. Grewal had permission from his leader to record those conversations after he was informed on May 17. "No comment,"said Mr. Norquay.
Another report, however, reports a slightly different date. On June 1, the CBC (archived here) reported:
Harper said Grewal informed him of the tapes on May 16, three days ahead of the crucial vote, and asked whether he should take a meeting with Prime Minister Paul Martin to discuss crossing the floor. The Conservative leader said he told his MP no.
So, did Harper approve of Grewal's taping on May 16? or May 17?

If the question, as Kevin Michael Grace has put it (here) is what did Harper know and when did he know it, then we may be a little closer to knowing something that he knew and roughly when he knew it. (Grace, by the way, is the topic of an interesting exchange in the comments in Zerbisias' blog here.)

But the 16th or 17th? That one day is not a triviality. If Harper OKed Grewal's taping on the 16th, that would mean that he approved of all of the taping of his parliamentary colleagues. (Grewal's tapes from the 15th and 16th are his phone calls with the go-between, Sadesh Kalia.) If the approval came on the 17th, the degree of Harper's complicity is less clear: did he OK the taping of the conversation of Dosanjh-Murphy (which took place that day), or was he presented with a fait accompli, then approving of the rest of the exercise? [Update: Grewal has now retracted his statement that Harper knew and approved of the taping, see here]

This is, of course, not the only question about Harper's involvement. We still need to know (as (KMG asked) how much he knew about the editing of the tapes. Approving Grewal's recordings was just bad judgment. Approving of their fraudulent editing would be a serious breach.


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