Saturday, July 30, 2005

Which tapes did Grewal make after Harper told him to stop?

Update: My argument below is probably wrong. Harper was incorrect when he said that he told Grewal on the 17th to stop taping. It was the 18th. Thus it is not absolutely clear whether any of the tapes come after Harper's instruction. (See here).

The last few days have coughed up a little bit of extra detail about Grewal's tapes and Harper's approval (or--as is more likely--lack of approval). Reviewing the evidence, I think that the likeliest explanation is that Harper and Grewal spoke on the morning of the 17th, shortly after the news of the Belinda defection but before meeting with Dosanjh and Murphy at 1 pm. Grewal offered to get tape of the Prime Minister; Harper told him to stop taping; Grewal went on to tape about an hour-and-a-half of discussions. Here is why I think that.

Several days ago Grewal said this in his interview with the Surrey Leader:
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 was contradicted by the Conservatives' office, as is reported by the Edmonton Sun:
Harper's office insisted yesterday the leader only learned about the taping when Grewal offered to tape the PM, not before. Harper instructed him to stop immediately after he learned of what was going on, said spokesman William Stairs. "Harper said 'No, I think that would be a very bad idea and I think we should put an end to this,' " Stairs said.
Grewal then issued a clarification that we discussed yesterday that says that Harper did not approve (here).

So, pulling together our few scraps of in formation:
  • Grewal had already made some tapes when he informed Harper (at least the Kalia phone calls, and maybe more)
  • Grewal mentioned to Harper the possibility of taping Martin
  • Harper told him not to.
  • This may have been on the 16th or 17th (see here)
One approach to the question might be to consider whether this phone-call came before or after the meeting with Dosanjh and Murphy at 1 pm on the 17th. When he spoke to Harper, Grewal offered to tape a conversation with the Prime Minister, and a conversation with the PM is a subject that comes up in the Dosanjh-Murphy tape. The context, I think, is suggestive. Grewal and Dosanjh are waiting for Tim Murphy to arrive; they've already discussed the day's big story, Belinda's defection, which was announced less than four hours ago, and how it affects their negotiations (it makes it easier). They had met to discuss matters the night before for pizza, and now, 2'37 into the conversation , they return to where they had left off the night before (p. 1 of the transcript, here or here):

GG - Anyway, let's talk

UD - I talked to the PM moments ago. He said he is going to Regina right now and he said he will be happy to talk to you over the phone tonight or in person if you want to move. I think you should have thorough conversation with Tim.


UD -Tim is the Chief of Staff, it's just like talking to the Prime Minister

The way this is brought up, I think, suggests that the prospect of a conversation with the Prime Minister had been mentioned the night before, Dosanjh is confirming the necessity of such a discussion, and restating the involvement with Murphy as a necessary pre-cursor.

A little bit later (at about the 4 minute mark, p. 2 of the transcript: here or here) ,
UD - But you will do the right thing. I will push as far as I can. At the end, I don't control those things. That is why it is important for you to meet him and, after, the PM. He just told me now that he will talk to you after the discussion if everything is alright.

GG - Ask who?

UD - If it appears there is some understanding. If there is no understanding, there is no use to talk to him.

The red, by the way, marks what was edited out of the May 31st tape and transcript, and it contains what I think is the vital point. Before this point, Grewal could have expected a conversation with Martin. After this point, he knows that he can only talk to Martin once there is an 'understanding'--that is, after Grewal commits to crossing the floor.

If there was any ambiguity about this, Murphy repeated not long after he arrived (p. 5 of the transcript):

TM: That's why I wanted to come 2 reasons - one is, PM was quite happy to do this, but literally he is going to get a plane to meet the Queen, but he is prepared, depending on how the conversations go, to talk to you directly both by phone and subsequently in person as you, as we see it fit.

Later, after complaining bitterly about Volpe and demanding an apology as a precursor to further negotiations

GG - We don't have much time.. if the apology...-work it out today, for example, Tomorrow I may be talking to the big guy and the road will be clear for us to make any decisions.

Which Dosanjh picks up on and corrects

UD - I think you should really focus on - my sense usually is and Tim correct me if I'm wrong, that much of the discussion is carried on generally with you, and then when you see the big guy that we are close to an understanding.

TM - Ya, that's right.

The negotiations reach an impass when Grewal won't negotiate further without an apology, and Dosanjh and Murphy say they can't arrange an apology before an understanding is reached:

UD - May I say this? I never bargain about these things, you guys. I am not a good negotiator. But that we would be able to prevail upon him to do that if we know we have an understanding and you're coming. Then I think Tim or I or anyone else will talk to him and say do this, we need it.


UD - Can I say something, what Tim is saying to you and what I understand is Tim is saying, is that we can make him do that [i.e., make Volpe issue an apology] if there is a deal and he will do it before the deal is public.

TM - Yes

UD - So that I'm using very simple language

GG - I understood that. My point...

UD - So, I think that before we talk to him, to do that, we need to have a deal in place. We should have a deal in place here and with the Leader you simply, actually formally... [inaudible]

In rest of the conversation, however, no understanding is reached: Grewal asks for a senate seat for Nina and is rebuffed, and his open hints at a cabinet post for himself are not picked up. (Again, you can read the whole thing here).

What this means, however, is that the prospect of a meeting with the Prime Minister was dimmer at the end of the meeting than at the beginning. In light of this, Grewal's offer to Harper to tape the PM came before this discussion. But with Grewal's offer came Harper's order to Grewal to stop taping.

But Grewal continued taping. Why? That is something that is unclear. But the fact that he defied Harper is noteworthy and (I think) yet another sign of how unreliable and dangerous Grewal is to his own party.


Blogger PR said...

"That is something that is unclear. But the fact that he defied Harper is noteworthy and (I think) yet another sign of how unreliable and dangerous Grewal is to his own party."

Exactly. I've defended Grewal up until this point. But if he defied Harper, Grewal should face punishment from the party.

If he is kicked out of caucus, I'll bet anyone right now that he gets invited into the Liberal caucus.

5:27 PM  

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