Saturday, January 28, 2006

Ethics Commissioner's report seriously flawed (1): he doesn't answer the question asked

At this evening's Blogger meet-up, I met Andrew Coyne, who mentioned that he has a column coming out tomorrow in which he will slam Ethics Commissioner Shapiro's report. Knowing this blog's work, he said that he assumed that I had a different opinion.

We didn't get a chance to explore this any further, but I think Coyne would be surprised to hear that I have at least two serious problems with what Shapiro has done.

First, let us consider the allegation that he was set
(i) Mr. Grewal sought inducements from Minister Dosanjh or that Minister Dosanjh offered inducements to Mr. Grewal to change his vote on matters before the House of Commons of Canada. (emphasis added)
It seems to me that Shapiro has ignored an important phrase here.

There is nothing in the tapes that suggests that Grewal sought an inducement to change his vote. What Grewal wanted was to change his party, and he hoped to score a senate seat for Nina and a cabinet post for himself in the process. The prospect of Grewal's abstention from the confidence motion of May 19 was brought in only at the end of the negotiations. (For a brief overview of how I interpret the course of the courtship, see here.) More importantly from the point of view of this inquiry, the quesiton of abstention was raised by Murphy, and (as I read the transcripts) never seriously entertained by Grewal.

Grewal was not trying to sell a vote, but his over-all political allegiance. He would become a Liberal if they gave him x and y. Now, in so far as Shapiro has identified Grewal as the initiator of the negotiations and the one who had asked for (rather than being offered) a cabinet, diplomatic post, and/or senate seat, he's been correct. And in so far as he's cleared Dosanjh of having offered any of these things, he's correct.

But by having misidentified the goal of negotiations he misunderstands the affair and finds Grewal guilty of something that he didn't quite do. Although I am no friend of Grewal, that's not right.

(I'll discuss my second problem with Shapiro's in a subsequent report.)

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