Friday, August 26, 2005

Surrey Leader: Own party plagues Tory MP

Thanks to Al from Vancouver, who emailed me to point out this editorial:

Own party plagues Tory MP

By Dan Ferguson
Aug 26 2005

These days, Newton-North Delta Conservative MP Gurmant Grewal must be wondering whether he would have been better off to simply switch sides rather than rolling tape on his negotiations with senior Liberals. It's one thing to take a drubbing from political rivals and old adversaries with an axe to grind, but taking hits from your own people has got to hurt.

Grewal's party has managed to add to the series of controversies that have plagued the embattled politician ever since he held a May 18 news conference to announce the Liberals were engaging in vote-buying by dangling plum appointments before Grewal and his MP wife Nina.

Since then, the MP has become a magnet for controversy, with questions raised about everything from his immigration to Canada in 1993 to his handling of his 2003 campaign finances.

While Conservative Leader Stephen Harper and other party heavyweights have defended Grewal, that defence has become more muted as the weeks have dragged on. When maverick Tory MP John Cummins broke ranks in July to say that Grewal's "antics" were damaging their own party, the comment did not produce a rush of fellow Tories coming to Grewal's defence.

And Harper unwittingly managed to create a controversy by getting his dates mixed up and leaving the impression Grewal had defied him by continuing to tape conversations after Harper had told him not to. Harper told reporters in Ottawa on June 1 that he told Grewal to stop taping the day after a caucus meeting that Harper said was on Monday, May 16.

That produced a number of stories that Grewal had continued taping one day after Harper told him to stop. However, the caucus meeting Harper referred to was actually held on May 17, one day later. In other words, Grewal stopped taping on May 18 when Harper told him to.

Despite that, the accusation he defied his own boss has continued to haunt Grewal, with a Vancouver daily newspaper most recently reprinting the erroneous claim in an editorial.

There has been no correction or clarification from Harper or his spokesman, William Stairs, another Tory that Grewal has no reason to love at the moment. It was Stairs who told a Canadian Press reporter that Grewal had been cleared by an RCMP review of the Grewal tapes.

"We're pleased that the RCMP has cleared Mr. Grewal," Stairs said. "We were confident all along of his integrity and the RCMP has confirmed our judgement," Stairs added.

The problem is, Grewal's conduct in making the tapes wasn't at issue. The RCMP stated that the investigation was into "allegations of bribery and other related offences or laws" on the audio recordings.

Perhaps Stairs didn't want to admit the RCMP ruling undercut a key Conservative claim that the tapes prove the Liberals broke the law against vote-buying.

But trying to spin it the way Stairs did, he managed to make Grewal look like a potential suspect. With friends like these, Grewal must be wondering whether he needs any enemies.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005


My warmest thanks to our 20,000 visitor '', from Toronto (Latitude 43.6667, Longitude 79.4167) who visited for 0 seconds at 8:09:57 pm.

Please come again.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Does anyone know about the technical aspects of recordings such as Grewal's?

Via email, a reader sends the following question.
From the moment I first saw Grewal in a scrum brandishing a tape player I've wondered about the technical (tradecraft?) aspects of this affair (and what that, in turn, might add to our understanding of Grewal). Do you know (or has it ever been discussed to your knowledge) what exactly Grewal would have used to make the recordings in the first instance?
The question, if it has been raised, has not been fully answered.

Personally, I don't know very much about this. But perhaps someone else does. So can anyone tell us much about such recordings?

Perhaps this picture can help. Anyone recognize the make/model, etc.?

Friday, August 12, 2005

The RCMP's press release--a study in ambiguity

Here is the RCMP press release:

RCMP completes review of Gurmant Grewal's recordings

Ottawa, August 12, 2005 — The RCMP has completed its review of complaints of criminal wrongdoing with respect to MP Gurmant Grewal’s audio recordings.

Persons the RCMP believed may have relevant information were interviewed and the tapes were examined.

The RCMP has determined that no criminal investigation is warranted at this time. It has advised the complainants and those whose conduct was being examined that the review is now concluded.

For more information, please contact:
RCMP Media Relations
(613) 993-2999
The press release is deliciously ambiguous. Who, specifically, one might wonder, are these 'persons the RCMP believed may have relevant information'? Presumaably Grewal, Dosanjh, and Murphy. The 'complainants' are presumably Duceppe and/or Layton.

The big question is who 'those whose conduct was being examined' were? Murphy and Dosanjh, one assumes. (It was their behaviour about which the Bloc and NDP had complained.) But was Grewal's conduct considered, too?

Everyone's a winner!

The National Post also has a story that the RCMP has decided not to pursue criminal investigation into the Grewal tapes. An interesting quote
"We're pleased that the RCMP has cleared Mr. Grewal," said Williams Stairs, the communications director for Conservative Leader Stephen Harper. "We were confident all along of his integrity and the RCMP has confirmed our judgment," Stairs said.
I would have thought that if anything, the RCMP's decision would be regarded as a setback for Grewal, since it was his allegations of 'vote buying' that they decided not to pursue.

We also here from the Liberals. Further down the column we learn
"Mr. Murphy co-operated fully with the RCMP review and is pleased with the outcome," Melanie Gruer, a spokeswoman in the Prime Minister's Office, said Friday.
So. Everyone's happy.

RCMP will not investigate Grewal tapes

RCMP will not investigate Grewal
Friday, August 12, 2005 Updated at 5:48 PM EDT
Canadian Press

Ottawa — The RCMP will not launch a criminal investigation into the Germant Grewal affair.

The Mounties say they have reviewed complaints of criminal wrongdoing with respect to audio recordings the Conservative member of Parliament made of conversations with Liberal officials last spring.

The RCMP say they listened to the tapes and interviewed the principals involved and determined no criminal investigation is warranted.

Mr. Grewal claimed that Health Minister Ujjal Dosanjh and Tim Murphy, Prime Minister Paul Martin's chief of staff, had offered him and his wife Nina, also an MP, patronage positions if they joined the Liberals just before an important budget vote May 19.

Mr. Grewal made headlines again in June when he was spotted at a Vancouver airport trying to get someone to take an envelope full of audio tapes to Ottawa. He later went on stress leave.

Update. See now also the National Post story and CBC story

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Grewal's accusations on May 18th

It was announced today that the RCMP has decided not to pursue a criminal investigation into the conversations that Grewal taped (see here. Some will no doubt be disappointed for partisan reasons; others will be happy for partisan reasons; still others will be relieved that this sorry affair is slipping over the horizon.

It might be worth remembering precisely what the accusations were. As many of you remember, just hours before a crucial non-confidence vote in the house on May 18th, Gurmant Grewal appeared before a press scrum and delivered his block-buster--he had taped four hours of secret negotiations with the Liberals. The video of his statement is still available at this CTV story, it is behind the link 'CTV Newsnet Live: Conservative MP Gurmant Grewal 5:46' on the right. A transcript is here. In light of the delay in the release of the tapes, I think it would be useful to review the statements of the principles in these first few days and judge them in light of what we know from the tapes themselves. I have inserted numbers into the text which correspond to commentary below.

Grewal: As you have already heard, (Reading a prepared statement) [1a] I was approached early this week by Ujjal Dosanjh [1b] and asked to abstain or vote with the government on the budget vote. [2] In exchange, I was given an understanding that I would be rewarded in some fashion. [3] Some of the options discussed were different diplomatic appointments, or a future senate seat for Nina. [4a] Yesterday I met with both Tim Murphy and Ujjal Dosanjh at their request. In Mr. Dosanjh's office and later on in my office. [4b] In that meeting, I was offered the opportunity to later talk with the Prime Minister by telephone, or to meet with him at 24 Sussex Drive about these possibilities. [5] Today, Tim Murphy came to my office,to meet me, where we discussed this further. [6] He told me that the Liberals were talking to three or four other Conservative MPs. [7] I told Mr. Murphy that if any offer was being made, I needed certainty about what it was and the timeframe involved. [8] Mr. Murphy told me he would get back to me. [9] At no time did I have any intention of accepting these offers. [10] I responded to Mr. Dosanjh's invitation and entered these discussions to determine the level to which the Liberal party and Paul Martin were willing to sink to save their government. Do you have any quick questions?
[1] 'I was approached early this week by Ujjal Dosanjh.' The tapes do not show who approached whom (see here), but the balance of evidence leans towards Grewal having made the intitial approach (see here). Grewal here glosses over Sadesh Kalia, who acted as middle-man to bring Grewal and Dosanjh together.

[1b] '… by Ujjal Dosanjh and asked to abstain or vote with the government on the budget vote.' Nowhere in the surviving tapes does Grewal discuss abstaining on the confidence-vote with Dosanjh. That discussion was with Murphy on the 18th (the morning of this news conference). The discussions in which Dosanjh was involved are about whether Grewal would cross the floor immediately and whether an apology from Volpe could be arranged.

[2] 'In exchange, I was given an understanding that I would be rewarded in some fashion.' This is half-correct. Both Dosanjh and Murphy clearly imply that there will be a future reward for crossing the floor. In this context, however, Grewal seems to imply that rewards were offered for abstaining or voting with the government in the confidence motion, which is not something that appears in any of the conversations in which Dosanjh was involved and is nowhere clearly proposed in the other tapes.

[3] "Some of the options discussed were different diplomatic appointments, or a future senate seat for Nina." This is highly misleading. Nowhere in the tapes are diplomatic appointments mentioned. According to Kalia (the middle-man), Grewal had asked that Nina be made ambassador to the UN, but this is nowhere in the tapes that we have them--except perhaps if there is an allusion to this when Murphy tell Grewal (Dosanjh-Murphy-Grewal, p. 6) that the Prime Minister did not think a reward 'outside politics' was the 'right thing to do'. (This got edited out of the first edition of the tapes.)

A senate seat does come up in the conversation. But it is Grewal asking for the senate seat (Dosanjh-Murphy-Grewal, p. 2 and ibid., p. 13 and ) and and both Dosanjh (ibid. p. 2) later Murphy (ibid., p. 14) explaining that this was not possible.

[4a] Yesterday I met with both Tim Murphy and Ujjal Dosanjh at their request. In Mr. Dosanjh's office and later on in my office.… Not quite correct. He met with Murphy and Dosanjh in Dosanjh's office 'yesterday' (i.e., May 17th) and with Murphy alone in Grewal's office on the 18th.

[4b] In that meeting, I was offered the opportunity to later talk with the Prime Minister by telephone, or to meet with him at 24 Sussex Drive about these possibilities. Again this is not quite accurate. Dosanjh does say at 2'37 of the Dosanjh-Murphy-Grewal tape that Martin would speak to Grewal (p. 2 of the transcript). Again at about 4'00 (p. 5 of the transcript) Murphy points out that a meeting with Martin is possible 'depending on how the conversations go'. (I've pulled together several other places where these comments are made here.)

[5] "Today, Tim Murphy came to my office,to meet me, where we discussed this further." Correct. We have a recording of this conversation.

[6] "He told me that the Liberals were talking to three or four other Conservative MPs." Murphy mentions that there were 'other members of your current caucus who are facing the same dilemna that you face' (p. 4 of the Murphy-Grewal transcript). As far as I can see no specific number was ever mentioned.

[7] "I told Mr. Murphy that if any offer was being made, I needed certainty about what it was and the timeframe involved." True. See p. 3 of the transcript: "Happy I will be when I know, not exactly but some sort of nature of what kind of things will happen after that -- what the time frame, what will happen, those kind of things you know."

[8] "Mr. Murphy told me he would get back to me." I can't find anywhere in the tapes where Murphy made such a commitment to a request for a firm offer. There are several places where Murphy offers to keep the lines of communication open.

[9-10] "At no time did I have any intention of accepting these offers. I responded to Mr. Dosanjh's invitation and entered these discussions to determine the level to which the Liberal party and Paul Martin were willing to sink to save their government." We have only Grewal's word for what his true intentions were. Where we can check his version of events against the tapes, he does not seem entirely truthful. Given that, I am inclined to doubt his word here.

Another point needs to be made. At the point of this news conference, Grewal and the Conservatives had not yet decided to release the tapes to the public. Grewal probably never expected that his version of events could be checked. As you can see, he took full advantage.

Buckets' Official List of Grewal news stories (in progress)

Since the emergence of Jim Holt's letter to local Conservatives defending Grewal (here), the Conservative strategy for the rehabilitation of Grewal has become clear: first, to create a canonical list of six scandals that have embroiled Grewal; second, to assert that these scandals were part of an organized Liberal smear; and third, to argue that those scandals have been resolved in Grewal's favour.

This basic communications strategy has been seen in several places, first in Holt's letter (here):
In essence, there have been six topics which have been at the centre of an attack on our MP over these past few weeks.
  1. Immigration Bonding Accusations
  2. Taping of Liberal attempts to have our MP cross the floor
  3. An incident at the check-in counter at Air Canada
  4. Old Allegations re Immigration Investment Issues
  5. Release of "New Tapes" by Gurmant
  6. Claims re Missing Donation Receipts
The same basic points are made in Nina's interview with the Surrey Now (here, with my notes here), then in Grewal's own interviews with the Surrey Now, the Surrey Leader, and most recently the Western Standard.

Part of this is misdirection. Limit the discussion to the six topics, which may result in other things being ignored. In fact, however, Holt's list has missed a few stories involving Grewal. I therefore offer you Buckets' Official List of Grewal news stories (this is in progress, I'll try to fill in links and dates as time passes):
  1. Grewal's claim to have been an advisor to Liberian dictator, Sam Doe (here and here)
  2. Grewal's claim to have been an honorary vice-consul for Liberia (here)
  3. Stories about his disputes about a provincial nomination in 1996 and his taping of meetings (here)
  4. Grewal's claim that his life was threatened following the the 1996 BC election in which he was a BC Reform candidate (here)
  5. Grewal's decision to hire Rachel Marsden under a fake name to work in his constituency office, against the advice of Conservative central office (see here, here, here, etc.)
  6. Stories about the way Grewal and his wife both filed nomination papers in two ridings in the lead-up to the 2004 election (here)
  7. Grewal's independent system for temporary visa bonding (= Holt #1), on which see here
  8. Stories from Grewal's accusation that the Liberals were trying to bribe him and revealed that he had tapes (=Holt #2)
  9. Stories about the intermediary who said that Grewal had approached the Liberals through him (here, here, etc.)
  10. Stories about NDP and Bloc calls for an RCMP investigation into the tapes (e.g., here, here)
  11. Stories that the Conservatives had decided to surrender the tapes to the RCMP (May 24) (here, etc.)
  12. Stories about whether the Conservatives would release all of the tapes to the public (e.g., here and here)
  13. Stories about the release of the tapes on May 31st
  14. Stories about whether the May 31st tapes had been altered (beginning June 1)
  15. Stories deriving from the Conservatives' admission on June 2 that the tapes had been altered … accidentally (e.g., here)
  16. The airport incident (=Holt #3) (June 4)
  17. Grewal's taking of stress leave (June 7) (e.g., here)
  18. Old Allegations concerning Grewal's own immigration under the Investment programme (June 9) (here) (=Holt #4)
  19. Stories that the Conservatives' audio expert judged the recordings unedited (June 9) (here)
  20. Stories that Conservative MP John Reynolds filed complaints against three Liberals with the Ontario and BC Law Societies (June 15) (e.g., here)
  21. News that Grewal surrendered further tapes to the RCMP (July 9) (=Holt #5) (see here)
  22. Stories about missing campaign donation receipts (July 12) (=Holt #6)
  23. Stories about Conservative MPs denouncing Grewal (July 14) (e.g., here)
  24. Grewal's claim that Harper knew and approved of the taping (July 29) (here with here) and then retraction of that claim (July 30) (here)
  25. Stories that the Conservative party had unsuccessfully attempted to get one of their MPs to retract his criticisms of Grewal of July 14 (see above) (e.g., here)
  26. Stories related to his announcement that he would not stand for re-election in his riding

[edited and rewritten several times with new links ]


Tuesday, August 09, 2005

The Western Standard asks Grewal about the tapes

Several of you sent me a heads up about the Western Standard having an 'interview' with Gurmant Grewal. Here is the second part of it.
Question Period: Gurmant Grewal
Duncan McMurdo - August 22, 2005

GG: The individual who [originally] said that they were altered--he has given us a clean sheet, saying the tapes are unaltered. We have a letter from Mr. Randy Dash, who is an [audio] expert, which has been given to the RCMP and posted on the web, [that says the tapes] are unaltered. What else do we need? It was the Liberals who were saying that the translation [of the discussions with Dosanjh, in Punjabi] was not good. The Globe and Mail conducted an independent translation, and they found out the translation done on the Punjabi portions was absolutely correct. The Liberals change their story nine times on this issue. And they are saying the tapes are edited or spliced or whatever--that is not the case.

WS: How has this series of attacks and investigations affected you and your family?

GG: It is tough on the family, as well as friends, as well as my constituents. But I am very confident that I will come out clean out of all these investigations, because these investigations are baseless. Even on the taping incident: they are investigating the whistle-blower and forgetting what the message is. Why would you shoot the messenger? Focus on the message and not on the messenger. The tapes speak for themselves. I will be vindicated from this investigation as well, as I have from the other two or three.

Several points.
  1. Mr. Dash did not say that the tapes were unaltered. He said that three of the 'clips' that he examined seemed unaltered and the fourth was too poor in quality for him to form a judgement. (see here)
  2. The recordings that Dash examined, I am told by a reporter who asked Norquay this exact question, were those that are on Grewal's site now. But those were not the recordings that had been put up on May 31st. (Indeed, even Harper has admitted that "the incorrect tape was posted on our website": here.) Those first tapes were clearly edited, as has been amply demonstrated in this blog, you can start here.
  3. My understanding is that the Globe and Mail did not do an independent translation--I suggested it to one of their reporters who interviewed me and was told it was decided it was too expensive.

The Western Standard asks Grewal about the cheques

Several of you sent me a heads up about the Western Standard having an 'interview' with Gurmant Grewal. Here is the first part of it. I insert my comments at the end.
Question Period: Gurmant Grewal
Duncan McMurdo - August 22, 2005

Born: December 21, 1957, Barundi, India. Member of Parliament for Newton–North Delta. Former real estate agent.

Western Standard: Why is the RCMP looking into accusations by some people who donated to your election campaign that they did not receive receipts?

Gurmant Grewal: Two of those people [who claim they wrote cheques but got no receipts], both these individuals, they are related to the Liberal party. One of them is on the riding executive of the Liberal party of [federal Health Minister] Ujjal Dosanjh. The other person, who wrote the $600 cheque, he also [was linked to] the party [and] Ujjal Dosanjh at that time.

WS: How well do you know the men involved in this? One of them has said he’s a friend of yours, even though he’s part of Mr. Dosanjh’s riding association.

GG: No, he’s not a friend, actually. These two individuals, they came to myself. They said, ‘Gurmant, you are doing a very good job for the community.’ They said they would like to support me, but they don’t support my party. So they didn’t want to be associated with the party at that time, therefore they chose not to write the cheque in the party’s name, but they wrote the cheques in my name. Therefore, no receipt was supposed to be issued to them, and no receipt was issued; no receipt was promised, no receipt was expected, either.

WS: What do you think the motive behind the accusations is?

GG: Once I blew the whistle on [those in the] Prime Minister’s Office, who were attempting to bribe me for changing my vote along with a cabinet minister, . . . all hell broke loose after May 15. Many accusations have been proven that they were false; for example, the Air Canada incident [where Grewal was accused of trying to pass a package to passengers of a flight he was not travelling on]: I was cleared by the RCMP within 48 hours and it took nine days for Transport Canada to clear me, and the Air Canada to clear me. Similarly, my visitor visa bill [which requires that anyone receiving a visitor’s visa to Canada put up a monetary bond, refundable when they leave the country] . . . the immigration minister [Joe Volpe] didn’t want changes [to immigration policy] coming from Opposition MPs. Once it was passed, he took it personally, and he went on to attack me personally. He said I was profiteering from it. I did not. He said I was asking people to sign bonds in my office. I did not. People were asked to put it in writing, the pledge that the potential visitor from a foreign country, where the Canadian [host] was or my constituent was sponsoring, that they would go back. I am absolutely cleared of those allegations as well. The Liberals are trying to attack me on any front they can to hurt my credibility and my good reputation of nine years, simply to defend themselves on this incident where I caught them on tape, making those rewards and offers in lieu of my vote [on the May 19 confidence motion].

Several points. 1. Grewal doesn't really answer the question, which was why the RCMP were looking into the cheques.

2. Grewal only discusses two of the cheques in question here, the two $600 from Grewal's fund-raiser of 27 December 2003. There is also a $1800 for Nina from July 2004 (see here); a $1000 cheque from Imperial plumbing from March 2004 (see here and here), and a $500 cheque from Jan. 2003 marked 'fund-raiser' (here) that remain to be explained.

3. The RCMP and Transport Canada will have had their own, separate, investigations, and the fact that the RCMP took less time to determine that there was no criminality than it took Transport Canada to determine that there were not regulatory issues at issue is not in itself surprising.

4. Grewal explains the various controversies as Liberal conspiracies against him because of the taping, and includes the visa-bond issue among them. The visa-bond controversy predates the tapes by at least a month.


Sunday, August 07, 2005

Calls for Grewal's ouster increasing in the Conservative caucus

In this morning's news is a story coming out of India about Grewal. Most Indian news services have tended to write stories that seem derived purely from Canadian stories. This one, however, claims to have spoken to sources 'in the party caucus'. (One might reasonably guess that Deepak Obhrai, who hinted darkly here that the Conservative caucus would deal with the Grewal issue, might be one of them.)

Pressure mounting to expel Indo-Canadian MP
Toronto | August 07, 2005 10:42:12 AM IST

Pressure seems to be mounting on Conservative party leader Stephen Harper to show the door to beleaguered Indo-Canadian MP Gurmant Grewal. Although Harper hasn't made up his mind just as yet, sources in the party caucus revealed to the South Asian Observer that the number of party members seeking the ouster of Grewal has increased manifold.

Grewal faced severe criticism when he implicated his own party leader in the infamous Tapegate - the surreptitious recording of conversations between him and senior Liberals.

In an interview with a British Colombia newspaper, Grewal first said Harper had approved his efforts to tape conversations with Tim Murphy, the prime minister's chief of staff, and Health Minister Ujjal Dosanjh. Grewal however later said he had informed Harper what he was doing but "no approval was sought or given".

Some political observers feel that Grewal has now become a burden for Harper, whose popularity has been on the slide. Experts feel that while Harper should be talking taxes, healthcare and education, he has been forced to discuss the details of Tapegate. He has even defended Grewal by suggesting Murphy should have known that all conversations are on record.

Of course there are some tricky optics at work as well. All political parties want to be seen as ethnically inclusive. They also want to welcome and support MPs from across the country.

Grewal has already been sent on stress leave, an apparent bid to get him out of the limelight, at least for the time being.

Some party leaders feel that it's high time for Harper to take a decision as the episode has already damaged the party's image. Some have suggested that Harper should refuse to sign Grewal's nomination paper for the next election. Grewal represents Fleetwood-Port Kells, British Columbia.
-- (IANS)

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Winnipeg Sun: It's a Grewal World (satire)

by Ross Maclean (Winnipeg Sun, August 4, 2005, p. 11)

Gurmant Grewal's assistant, a large man by the name of Benjamin Farnsby, introduced me to the controversial MP and then left us alone in the hotel room. I shook hands with Grewal, and we sat down at a small table.

"Ie-k, do, iqMn ... " Grewal said in a low voice.

"Sorry?" I said.

"Did you bring a tape recorder?" he said.

"Er ... Yes, I did."

"Uh-huh. Lucky I asked, eh?"

"It's standard equipment for an interview."

"Lemme see it."

"OK," I said. "I was just about to put it on the table."

"Sure you were," he said.

I gave him the tape recorder.

"It's very small," he said. "Small enough to fit right into your pocket, where it can't be seen."

"Well, the big, 125-pound, war-surplus two-reeler I usually lug around with me is in the shop right now," I said, "along with the Enigma machine I use to keep the competition from stealing the stories I file."

"Now you're being a wise guy," he said.

"I take them to interviews in a suitcase and tell everybody I'm going for an accordion lesson after we're finished. That way the suckers don't know I'm secretly recording them."

"Funny you should mention Enigma." Grewal said. "I told Stephen we should use those machines for secret party communications. If they worked for the Germans, they should work for us."

"They didn't work for the Germans," I said. "The British broke the code."

"Yes, but I doubt they handed it over to the Liberals."

"Does Stephen Harper still talk to you?" I said.

Grewal smiled and fingered his tie clip.

"Let's just say that things have been said which allowed me to persuade Stephen how indispensable I am to the party," he said.

"Why are you wearing that tie clip?" I asked.

Grewal laced his fingers together over the tie clip and sat back in his chair, pretending to relax.

"Tie clip?" he said.

"Yeah, the one you just hid under your hands."

He smiled and shrugged.

"Why does anyone wear a tie clip?" he said.

"To hold down his tie."

"Well, then."

"You're not wearing a tie."

He didn't move.

"Yes, I am," he said.

"No, you're not."

"Yes, I am."

"No, you're not. Are you wired?"

"Of course not," he said. "Dammit, Farnsby," he muttered, "you forgot the tie."

"Farnsby? You're talking to Farnsby? He's not even in the room."

"Oh ... right ... "

"Put that tie clip on the table," I said.

Grewal took the tie clip off his shirt and put it on the table. I took off one of my shoes and smashed it down on the tie clip.

There was a bellow of pain from outside the room, and Farnsby came crashing through the door, a set of earphones dangling around his neck.

"That's it, Grewal," he shouted. "No more tapes. No more recordings. I don't care what you have on that Harper tape about how much he hates making small talk with 'those bloody barbecue bozos,' I'm through, finished -- "

Grewal held up his hand and smiled at Farnsby.

"Ben, Ben," he said. "Have you forgotten about your ill-advised tete-a-tete with Carolyn Parrish?"

Farnsby raised a shaking fist, opened and closed his mouth soundlessly and then turned abruptly and left the room, slamming the door behind him.

"Now, Mr. Swakhammer," said Grewal, "shall we continue with the interview?"

He leaned forward, fiddling with the top button on his shirt.

"Only, I wonder if you could speak a little louder. My hearing isn't as good as it used to be."

NOTES: Winnipeg Sun ace investigative reporter Emile Swakhammer has filed this exclusive interview with B.C. Conservative MP Gurmant (Tape Worm) Grewal ...

Friday, August 05, 2005

A chronology of meetings and tapes

The Grewal dossier includes numerous tapes, and there are several events that are relevant. Although not every relevant item can be dated with absolute precision, several can, and the rest can be set in chronological order, thus:

  1. First phone calls with Sadesh Kalia: Sunday, May 15th. (one of which is taped: Kalia call #1)
  2. More phone calls with Sadesh Kalia, the last of which sets up the pizza date with Dosanjh: Monday, May 16th. (calls #2-#6 taped)
  3. Pizza date with Dosanjh, Monday, May 16th, 8 pm. (not taped)
  4. Belinda Stronach defects: Tuesday, May 17th, 9:30 am
  5. Grewal meets with Dosanjh and Murphy, Tuesday, May 17th, 1 pm (taped)
  6. Phone call #1 from Dosanjh, Tuesday, May 17th, afternoon
  7. Emergency Conservative caucus meeting, Tuesday, May 17th, evening; Grewal mentions discussions with Harper
  8. Phone call from Murphy, Tuesday, May 17th, evening (this refers to the caucus meeting and arranges to meet with Grewal in his office the next morning at 10 am) (taped: Murphy #1)
  9. Phone call with Harper; Grewal is instructed to stop taping, Wednesday, May 18th, 'morning' here
  10. Grewal meets with Murphy, Wednesday, May 18th, 10 am (taped)
  11. Phone call #2 from Dosanjh, Wednesday, May 18th (after lunch)
  12. Phone call #2-3 from Murphy, Wednesday May 18th
It is unclear whether the phone-call with Harper, which we know happened on the morning of the 18th, came before or after his meeting with Murphy. Presumably this came before the last calls from Murphy, which seem to belong to the afternoon.

Harper wrong about when he learned about the Grewal tapes

Harper was wrong, it seems, when he said that he told Grewal on May 17th to stop taping.

As regular readers will know, there has been some contradictory statements in the last week or so about Harper's role in the tapes and their aftermath. This began when Grewal said in an interview that he Harper approved of his taping (here). This was quickly contradicted by Harper's office (here) and retracted by Grewal (see here).

This led to a story in the Globe & Mail (here), which pointed out that several of the tapes must have been made after Harper told Grewal to stop. This was based on Harper's press conference of June 1, where he backed Grewal and explained his involvement in the tapes (my archive of that event is here). Here are Harper's exact words
Gurmant approached me at our caucus meeting on Monday, May the 16th, and told me—it was just the end of the meeting--he had something important to tell me about his discussions with the Liberals. I didn’t have time to talk to him then because I was on the way to the airport. I said I’d call him the next morning [Buckets: that is, the 17th]. And at that point he told me that, uh, he had the option of meeting that evening with—he and Nina--of meeting that evening with the Prime Minister to discuss Liberal offers. Mr. Grewal, Gurmant, said to me in his conversation, when he told me that he taped these, uh, conversations, he said to me that, uh, he had the option of meeting that evening with the Prime Minister. … Gurmant did ask me if I wanted him to meet with the Prime Minister and I said no. Thanks.
Now Grewal says that Harper got this wrong (here and here): that he was told to stop taping on the 18th.

So, who do we believe? Unless I'm mistaken, Harper has to be wrong here. The caucus meeting that Harper mentions should be the emergency meeting held on the evening of Tuesday, May 17th (mentioned here); Harper says that he was on the way to the airport, which will have been to go to Regina for the Queen's visit, where we know he was on the 18th (see the three stories here).

Unless someone can show that there was also a caucus meeting on the 16th (a Monday; the Conservatives weekly caucus meeting normally takes place on Wednesday), and that Harper flew somewhere else on Monday, I think we have to accept Grewal's version of events. (There's a man-bites-dog story: Grewal telling the truth!)

I'll try to post what I think this means later.

Update. I missed a story from the Surrey Leader a few days ago which quotes William Stair:
William Stair, a spokesman for the Conservative party leader, appeared to contradict Grewal's claim that Harper was informed of the taping before the May 17 meeting.

"That isn't true," Stairs told The Leader on Friday. "They spoke (about the taping for the first time) on the 17th of May."

Stairs declined to discuss Grewal's apparent contravention of Harper's stop-taping order. "I don't know what sort of conclusion you can draw from that," Stairs said when asked about the May 18 recordings. "This is an issue between the two of them (Harper and Grewal)."

Stairs offered a muted defence of Grewal, saying the MP has "done nothing wrong that anyone has proven."
Stairs' version, however, contradicts Harper, not Grewal. It was Harper who had said that he had first learned of the tapes on the 16th.


Thursday, August 04, 2005

Grewal: Harper is confused about chronology; I did not defy him

Final update: See now my most recent post where I conclude that Grewal is probably right (see here).

In Did not defy leader: Grewal in today's Surrey Leader, Grewal says that he did not defy Harper. Here's the text:
By Dan Ferguson Staff Reporter
Aug 03 2005
MP says Harper's comments created confusion over dates

Newton-North Delta Conservative MP Gurmant Grewal says he did not defy party leader Stephen Harper by continuing to record conversations with key Liberals after Harper ordered him to stop. "I am a team player," Grewal told The Leader Tuesday.

The issue arose after Grewal issued a written statement last week that appeared to show he was told to stop taping on May 17, yet recorded at least two more conversations on May 18.

Grewal said the meeting where Harper told him to stop taping occurred on May 18, not May 17, as Harper has said. In an interview aired June 1 on CBC radio, Harper said he first spoke to Grewal briefly "on Monday, May the 16th" then discussed the matter in more detail the next day, May 17.

"He (Harper) may have added to the confusion," Grewal commented

The Surrey MP has said he secretly recorded conversations to prove that the minority Liberal government was engaging in vote buying by offering plum appointments to him and his wife if they would switch parties.
Off the top of my head, I'm not sure what to believe. I have a hard time believing that Harper will have gotten this wrong--getting all those little facts correct are what a Party Leader has a staff for.

If Grewal is correct, however, we may need to rethink my argument about the chronology of those days

Update. In his phone call to Murphy (the second call on the phone-call tape), Grewal mentions that he had just finished a caucus meeting and arranges to meet Murphy at 10 am the following day (the 18th). So there was a caucus meeting on the 17th. Harper said (on June 1) that Grewal had mentioned discussions with Liberals at the caucus meeting on the 16th (here, with my analysis here) and told him to stop taping by phone the next day. According to Grewal, he told Harper at the caucus meeting of the 17th with the phone-call on the 18th.

Was there also a caucus meeting on the 16th?

Update 2. Looking through old news, several stories mention that the conservatives held an emergency caucus meeting on the evening of the 17th that lasted two hours. (Whether this is relevant yet remains to be seen.)

Update 3. Harper was in Regina on the 18th for the Queen's visit, but was in Ottawa on the 16th to meet with McGuinty. The regular Conservative caucus meeting is held on Wednesdays.

G&M: Tories lose bid to rein in MP over Grewal

In this morning's Globe and Mail is an interesting story. Apparently John Cummings was asked to retract his statement that Grewal's 'antics' were harming the party. One point of significance that arises out of this story is the disunity within Conservative ranks about Grewal. Several MPs and prominent Tories have tried to distance themselves from him (Cummins, here; McKay in early June). Grewal does have his supporters in the party, including (it seems) Harper. But their endorsement often comes off as tepid.

There will be more of this in the days to come if, as we read a few days ago, Grewal will be dealt with at the Conservative caucus meeting this week.

Tories lose bid to rein in MP over Grewal
B.C. member won't retract comments about colleague's 'antics,' sources say
Thursday, August 4, 2005 Page A10
OTTAWA BUREAU CHIEF; With a report from Gloria Galloway

The Conservative Party leadership tried and failed to extract a retraction from one of their B.C. MPs, who said recently that the "antics" of controversial MP Gurmant Grewal are hurting the party.

Sources said that John Cummins, MP for the riding of Delta-Richmond East, was asked by party Whip Rob Nicholson to sign a statement renouncing comments he made in a radio interview last month, in which he said Mr. Grewal's "antics have hurt the party." Mr. Cummins told Mr. Nicholson that he would not sign the retraction, the sources said.

In a brief interview, Mr. Cummins would neither confirm nor deny he was asked to retract his remarks, saying the issue was two weeks in the past. Mr. Nicholson also would not comment.

However, the issue will almost certainly come up for discussion at today's Tory summer caucus meeting in Toronto.

Although no other Tory MPs have spoken against Mr. Grewal in the controversy over tapes he made of discussions with senior Liberals about crossing the floor, some, such as deputy leader Peter MacKay, refused to support him on the matter.

The Grewal controversy has bubbled beneath the surface since the member for Newton-North Delta secretly taped two senior Liberals -- Health Minister Ujjal Dosanjh and Paul Martin's chief of staff, Tim Murphy -- during discussions to get him to cross to their side of the House.

Last week, Mr. Grewal admitted in a written statement that Stephen Harper told him to stop taping talks with senior Liberals about leaving the Tories, a demand that was apparently made before Mr. Grewal's taped meeting with the senior Liberals.

Mr. Harper has not commented on the matter, but the party leaders continue to be sensitive about it, seeking the retraction from Mr. Cummins and, most recently, asking Mr. Grewal for public clarification of statements about the taping that he made to a newspaper in his riding.

One MP told The Globe and Mail that Mr. Harper's defence of Mr. Grewal has harmed the party's efforts to criticize the Liberals for ethical lapses.

"If you don't deal with it, it makes it much more difficult for you to turn around and criticize the government for its actions. And I think that's the issue," the MP said. "If Grewal was a minister they'd be going after him like there was no tomorrow."

But Peter Van Loan, a Conservative MP from Ontario, said that he does not believe Canadians are focused on the Grewal saga.

"I have spoken to literally thousands of people, and I don't think Mr. Grewal's name has come up once," said Mr. Van Loan, who has been going door to door in his York-Simcoe riding since the Commons broke for the summer.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Deepak Obhrai: "The Grewal issue is something the party is handling internally"

CTV's Question Period has a report that Harper is concentrating on Ontario this week, noting recent weakness in the polls. After discussing the Conservatives' chances in Ontario, the report moves onto BC, where support seems to be slipping.
While Harper focuses his attention on drawing up support in Ontario, critics wonder if he's risking potential votes in B. C., where voters have never been fully committed to the party. "B.C. is not a Conservative stronghold. It's a stronghold of people who get annoyed at the Liberals and then vote for the next best alternative," Mair warns.

David Beers, editor of the online news website The Tyee, believes that with Harper's absence, B.C. voters will focus their attention on another Conservative member. "Who's the public face of the federal Conservatives right now? A guy named Gurmant Grewal," Beers told CTV's Question Period. Beers believes Grewal tainted they party's reputation when he secretly taped conversations between himself, Liberal Health Minister Ujjal Dosanjh, and Tim Murphy, chief of staff to Prime Minister Paul Martin. Grewal said he taped the conversations to show the Liberals were attempting to buy support, while Liberals countered that Grewal was offering to sell his vote.

Conservative MP Deepak Obhrai believes the Grewal incident will not affect the party's popularity in B.C. "The Grewal issue is something the party is handling internally," Obhrai told CTV's Question Period. "And I think that at the end of the day if we stick to our message and get it out there, our numbers in British Columbia are not something that we need to be concerned with."
Obhrai's allusion to Grewal seems ominous. The reference to 'the Grewal issue' seems oddly impersonal, as does the statement that it will be 'handled internally'. What might this entail? There is little that they can do except expel him from the party. Or am I missing something?

Monday, August 01, 2005

FAQ 2a. Who is Gurmant Grewal

Gurmant Singh Grewal is a Conservative MP for the British Columbia riding of Newton—North Delta. He was born in Barundi, India, and emigrated first to Liberia and, later, in 1991, to Canada. He became active in local politics, unsuccessfully competing for a Liberal nomination to the BC legislature in 1995, and standing for election as a member of the BC Reform party in the same election. (See here.) In 1997, he stood for the Reform Party in Surrey Central, and was elected, being re-elected in 2000. For the 2004 election, he was elected to represent the new riding of Newton—North Delta, while his wife, Nina Grewal was elected MP for Fleetwood—Port Kells.

Much useful material is collected in the Wikipedia article on Grewal (which I have contributed to)

Return to the FAQ


Grewal admits that Harper told him 'to end the taping process' (but he continued to tape)

Update: This post was based on the assumption that Harper was correct when he said that he told Grewal on the 17th to stop taping. This is probably wrong, it was the 18th. (See here).

At the bottom of this story in the Hill Times is a summary of what Grewal said about Harper's role and a quotation from Grewal's press release correcting his earlier statement. Grewal's press release is quoted in full:
"An interview published in this week's Surrey Leader concerning the taping of conversations between myself, Health Minister Ujjal Dosanjh and Chief of Staff to the Prime Minister, Tim Murphy, regarding the attempt to purchase my Parliamentary support in the spring of 2005 contains a statement to the effect that Conservative leader Stephen Harper gave his permission for me to tape these conversations. Once I had begun taping I informed Mr. Harper that I was doing so. No approval was sought or given. Subsequently when I told Mr. Harper that I had an opportunity to meet with and tape the prime minister, Mr. Harper told me to end the taping process."
As I argued here here and proved here, this must have happened on the morning of the 17th.

That means that after he had been told to stop taping, Grewal made seven more recordings
  • his conversation of 55 minutes with Dosanjh and Murphy beginning at 1 pm on the 17th
  • two phone calls with Dosanjh on the 17th and 18th (c. 6 minutes)
  • 26 minutes of his conversation with Tim Murphy on the 18th
  • three phone calls with Murphy totalling c. 20 minutes on the 17th and 18th.
That's almost two hours of taping after he had been told to stop. Indeed, of the tapes that we have, only the Kalia tapes (which total about 8-and-a-half minutes) come before Harper told Grewal to stop taping.