Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Vancouver Sun: Grewal quit because he feared probes

There are some more detail in the Vancouver Sun article quoted below, which makes the more specific point that the 'unresolved issues' that Grewal cites as potentially damaging to the Conservatives are Shapiro's investigation of his taping fellow MPs and questions about his campaign contributions.

Also worth noting: Grewal admits that the optics of taping fellow MPs is not good.
Grewal bows out, fears probes could harm Harper

Peter O'Neil, Vancouver Sun
Published: Wednesday, November 30, 2005

OTTAWA -- Controversial B.C. MP Gurmant Grewal announced Tuesday he is quitting politics because he fears two ongoing investigations into his activities would hurt Conservative leader Stephen Harper's chances of becoming prime minister.

Grewal, who rose to national prominence earlier this year after releasing secretly taped conversations of him negotiating a plan to join the Liberals, informed Harper of his decision in a brief written statement. "Due to certain still-unresolved issues, which I believe my political opponents would use against me and our party in the coming election, I have reluctantly decided to take this course of action," wrote Grewal, who has said he was only trying to ensnare senior Liberals in a "sting" operation last May.

Harper, who described Grewal as a victim of an ongoing Liberal "hatchet job," said Grewal wasn't pushed out, although he acknowledged the MP consulted with some caucus colleagues before making his decision. "Unfortunately I think Gurmant's probably right, these things could become issues for him and the party during the campaign," Harper said in a televised interview. "So I think he's done what's in the interests of the party by deciding not to run."

Harper said the party hasn't identified a candidate to replace Grewal in the Newton-North Delta riding. He noted that Grewal's wife Nina, the MP for the neighbouring riding of Fleetwood-Port Kells, remains the Tory candidate there.

Newton-North Delta NDP candidate Nancy Clegg said Grewal's decision has changed the dynamics of the election in the riding. "It could help us; it could hurt us. But this election is now wide open," she said. Clegg said Grewal did the right thing. The investigations would have detracted from issues important to voters in the riding, she said.

"The events of the last year and a half have cast him in sort of an unfortunate light and that light might have dominated the campaign," she said. "I knew it would come up but I wasn't going to be the one to raise it."

Harper predicted Grewal will be cleared in separate investigations. One is by Bernard Shapiro, the House of Commons ethics commissioner, who is looking into the secret taping incidents.

The other, by the RCMP, is looking into the MP's experimental scheme of asking constituents to sign performance bonds before he would endorse applications to the federal government for temporary visitor visas to bring in relatives.

Shapiro has already cleared Grewal in his own investigation of the bond controversy, while the RCMP has looked into the tapes incident and found no evidence of anyone illegally seeking or offering a bribe.

Grewal, first elected as a Reform MP in 1997, edged out Liberal Sukh Dhaliwal by only 520 votes in the 2004 election. With Dhaliwal running again, some media commentators have predicted Grewal was doomed.

In an interview, Grewal, 47, said he believes he could have won re-election, and said he's sure he'll be cleared in the two investigations.

He said his bond scheme was intended to prevent foreign visitors from staying in Canada after their visa expired. He said he never collected -- or intended to collect -- any money from the constituents.

Shapiro, meanwhile, is currently investigating Grewal's actions in the secret taping of conversations in May with Health Minister Ujjal Dosanjh and Tim Murphy, Prime Minister Paul Martin's chief of staff. Murphy and Dosanjh were discussing whether the Grewals would cross the floor to help the Liberals survive a confidence vote. The Liberals survived after luring Belinda Stronach over and giving her a cabinet post.

Grewal said he never intended to become a Liberal and was engaged in a secret "sting" operation to prove Martin's lieutenants would offer bribes, in the form of patronage rewards, to survive politically.

But there were no clear patronage offers in the transcripts, and the Liberals turned the tables on Grewal by accusing him of unethically asking for patronage rewards in return for votes.

Grewal, who has been publicly criticized by some of his own caucus colleagues for secretly taping other MPs, acknowledged Tuesday that the tactic didn't come across positively.

"The optics were not very great, but there was no other way to catch the Liberals doing this kind of sleazy politics behind the scenes," he said, noting the media had ignored previous Tory claims that the Liberals were trying to buy votes.

Grewal said he leaves politics with his head high.

He said he has been a "very innovative" MP who was one of the first to push issues like recognition of foreign credentials, malfeasance in Canadian embassies abroad, and the need for whistleblower legislation.

"I have had a very brilliant political track record for the last almost nine years," he said.

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