Friday, February 10, 2006

Surrey Leader: rumours of Grewal's defection preceded meetings

The Surrey Leader is reporting:
Grewal switch rumoured in advance: Dhaliwal

By Dan Ferguson
Staff Reporter
Feb 05 2006

Before the controversy over Gurmant Grewal's secret tapes erupted last May, Sukh Dhaliwal said he heard something was in the works that could displace himself as the Liberal candidate for Newton-North Delta.

"I heard rumours in the community... that Grewal was going to switch to the Liberals," Dhaliwal said Wednesday.

If Grewal, the Tory MP for Newton-North Delta, had crossed the floor to join the Liberal minority government last year, Dhaliwal would have been denied the party nomination because Grewal would become the incumbent Liberal MP for the riding.

Dhaliwal said there was no hint from the Prime Minister's Office that such a change might be coming when he phoned the PMO in Ottawa to ask if there was any substance to the rumours.

"They said no," Dhaliwal said.

Dhaliwal went on to win the party nomination and the subsequent federal election after the controversy-plagued Grewal decided against seeking another term.

Dhaliwal was one of 21 witnesses interviewed by parliament's ethics commissioner during the investigation into Grewal's taping of talks with senior Liberals, whom he accused of illegally offering inducements to switch sides from the Conservatives.

The MP-elect said he was asked if he had any advance knowledge of the Grewal negotiations, and told the commissioner that he had only heard rumours.

Commissioner Bernard Shapiro's report was released last week and concluded that Grewal's surreptitious taping wasn't illegal or a specific violation of MPs' rules of conduct, but the overall effect was to weaken the public's confidence and trust in the integrity of the House of Commons and its members.

Grewal, who claims the initial draft of the report exonerated him, said he is considering legal action over the alleged altering of the findings.

"It's political," Grewal protested. "Ten of the witnesses are well-known Liberals."

Other witnesses interviewed by Shapiro included Gurmant and Nina Grewal, staff members in the Newton-North Delta constituency office, Prime Minister Paul Martin's chief of staff Tim Murphy and prominent Surrey developer Bob Cheema.

According to the findings of the report, Cheema set things in motion on May 14 when he phoned then-Liberal health minister Ujjal Dosanjh to say both Grewals would be willing to join the minority government in return for "a United Nations position or Senate appointment for her and a cabinet post for him."

The commissioner said he was "unable to clarify who, if anyone, encouraged Mr. Cheema to make this approach, and Mr. Cheema himself claimed no knowledge of any such meeting."

Despite Cheema's denial, the commissioner concluded that Dosanjh was "the more credible witness" of the two and the contact did occur as described. Contacted by The Leader on Wednesday, Cheema refused to elaborate. "I got no answer and I don't talk to media," he said.
What do these rumours mean?

One point that probably should be made is that rumours about Dhaliwal's nomination are probably derivative from general rumours about Grewal's defection. According to the Ethics Commissioner's report, there were rumours about the Grewals defecting for a cabinet post and senate seat/UN post already in April. Once the idea of a defection was out there, it would have been a natural conclusion to see that this might affect Dhaliwal. (Indeed, I pointed out in a post of June 3rd that the issue of the Liberal nominations will have been discussed at some point.)

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