June 17, 1996: BC Report: Reform Candidate Grewal says his life was threatened by a political rival
A Reform candidate says his life was threatened by a political rival
British Columbia Report, June 17, 1996, v.7(42) June 17, 1996 pg 7
From the 11th-hour resignation of Social Credit leader Larry Gillanders to
the fact that voters overall preferred the losing B.C. Liberals--by three
percentage points--to the victorious NDP, last month's election may be
remembered as one of the strangest in the province's history.
But few absurdities from the 28-day campaign can match that which led to
the arrest of the Liberal party secretary, Sandeep (Sandy) Powar, on
charges he threatened to kill B.C. Reform's Delta North candidate Gurmant
Grewal during a telephone call the night of the election.
Mr. Powar, who strongly denies the charges, has stepped down from his
Liberal post while the matter is being resolved. He is scheduled to appear
in court on July 11 and is out on bail on condition he stay out of Surrey
and away from Mr. Grewal.
Mr. Grewal was in his Scott Road office a little after midnight when he
picked up the phone and an unidentified phone caller immediately began
abusing him in Punjabi. The Reformer dialled 911 and held the two handsets
together, knowing that all 911 calls are recorded.
The candidate, who was soundly defeated by Liberal Reni Masi, says he
recognized the voice as that of Mr. Powar. (Later, Mr. Grewal says, the
caller identified himself when talking incidentally to another person.)
I asked him who he was and he abused me," says Mr. Grewal. "He continued
abusing me for a few moments and then he threatened me with my life. In
Punjabi he told me he would kill me. Translated it means 'I won't spare
you. I'll kill you.'" Mr. Grewal suspects Mr. Powar "had two or three
beers, maybe some shots."
Later that morning, the RCMP arrested Mr. Powar in his Abbotsford home.
According to Mr. Powar, the Reform candidate has made "outlandish
accusations" against both him and other party executives in the past. In a
statement, Mr. Powar says someone else made the call from his phone, adding
witnesses will verify the identity of that caller.
Mr. Grewal says he has no idea why anyone connected with the Liberal party
would want to make threats or verbally abuse a Reform candidate considering
the fact that a Liberal won in the riding, beating NDP incumbent Norm
Lortie. The Reformer took just 769 votes.
Mr. Grewal suspects that some bad blood developed between the two last year
and in 1994. At that time he believed he was the Liberal nomination
favourite in Delta North. But the party brass and the party's
then-president, Mr. Masi, had other ideas. Mr. Masi resigned as party
president in November 1995 to seek the Liberal candidacy and eventually
won. Mr. Grewal's reluctance to back down may have sparked bad feelings.
Mr. Grewal says in April last year he was offered a plum posting as deputy
minister of multiculturalism--in the event of a Liberal government--if he
withdrew from the nomination race. He declined. He recalls saying: "Go tell
Gordon [Campbell] we in the Liberals, we are different than the NDP. We
don't give appointments based on friends and insiders. We want to fill
those positions based on merit."
Mr. Grewal's nomination problems were recorded by Vancouver Sun columnist
Vaughn Palmer eight months ago, but Mr. Powar's name wasn't mentioned. "I
didn't want to get into mudslinging," Mr. Grewal says. "I wanted to focus
on the issues and the future, so I left Sandy's name out of it."
By October last year, the pressure for him to withdraw intensified. Mr.
Grewal bowed out and offered himself as a candidate to the Reform party.
I myself don't know why he called," Mr. Grewal told B.C. Report. "I hadn't
spoken with him since August. It was beyond my imagination. I leave it to
your imagination why he called me."
Mr. Grewal, a real estate agent, says the bad blood existed throughout the
campaign. He claims his Reform signs were persistently vandalized and
stolen, while Liberal signs were left alone. Of his 1,000 lawn signs, 700
were stolen of his 32 large (eight feet by four feet) signs 29 were broken
In the latter stages of the campaign when the B.C. Reform party's
popularity took a fall in the polls across the province, accusations were
levelled that Liberals were "strongarming" Reform candidates and their
workers to get them to either quit or to go over to the Liberal camp.
The Liberals maintained calls made to Reform offices were merely forthright
attempts to consolidate the anti-NDP vote under the Liberal banner. But
many Reformers, including leader Jack Weisgerber, say the Liberals often
crossed the line of propriety.
Says Mr. Weisgerber: "I'd like to think it didn't go as far as threats but
I know that there certainly were accusations that it would hurt people in
their business life if they continued to support Reform B.C."
For example, Reform's Vancouver-Langara candidate Christie Jung claims he
was pressed to step aside in exchange for a job in a Liberal government--a
charge denied by the Liberals.
Oddly, bribing a candidate isn't illegal under the Elections Act. It is
illegal to bribe a government official or a voter, but not a candidate,
Carlos Brito, a lawyer and failed Burnaby-Edmonds Reform candidate, says
he'll be pressing the government to make inducements or bribes illegal in
future elections. Such a law "wasn't necessary a while ago, but based on
this election and what came from it, I think it is necessary [now]," he