Tuesday, February 17, 2004

Feb. 2004: Grewal defends his and Nina's recent nominations

Republished in June 2005 at http://www.voiceonline.com/voice/050611/headline3.php:

On joining politics:

When I moved from Africa, I was doing business and when I migrated to Canada, I wanted to be in business. I was doing pretty well there and (my wife) Narinder was watching what was happening in this country. In Africa, we saw people dying and being raped, all kinds of things. It was a bloody civil war and we lost all our business in Liberia. I lost about US$420,000 worth of inventory alone and I went to that country with only $18, worked very hard, and I had a monopoly in the country in three businesses. I am simply referring to this because it impacted our thinking and mental situation altogether. When we were in Canada, my wife wanted to go into politics. I wanted to go into business. So my father, who doesn't interfere much, said that our kids were young and we should take care of the kids first. Once they are on the wrong track, it would be difficult for them to make a U-turn. We took his advice. So we postponed the idea of going into politics for some time. Then after a little while, my wife said that why don't you go join politics. I thought about it and I agreed and I jumped into politics. I was elected and stayed in Ottawa Monday through Friday, working very hard, raising very important issues, never being afraid to raise an issue and did a lot better than many average M.P.s. But being an ethnic minority, my recognition will be half that of a white M.P. or Caucasian M.P., even if I work twice as hard as a Caucasian M.P., not because of my party situation but that is the overall perception, the way we live in this country.

The mainstream media (is biased). Now they have been talking about the whistle-blower legislation (to protect government workers for revealing government wrongdoing) for three days. No one will mention that it was Gurmant Grewal who introduced whistle-blower legislation four years ago. It was debated in the House and the Liberals voted against it. And many other things they will not mention because it involves me. If it was a white man, they would have probably mentioned it 20 times by now.

On wife's political involvement:

So I was an M.P. and Nina (wife Narinder) was quite involved in the party. She was member of the party. She has been a member of the party ever since I became involved in politics in 1995-96. She has been a board member ever since. She contributed in fundraising for the party. She contributed in distributing the literature and going from door to door. She has been spending time on the phone, talking to people and having them come during the campaign to vote and attending the party policy formulation conventions, our national conventions, party's caucus and all kinds of AGMs and everything.

People even call her at home to tell her their immigration cases because I was in Ottawa. She would then tell me and then communicate my response to them because in our community, people call home. In 'gora' communities they will only go to the M.P. after making an appointment. But they just walk into my house. I have been getting calls even at 5 a.m. Can you believe that? Or 12:30 at night for some problem. And I never felt bad. I didn't tell people, "Why are you calling at this time?" I always pick up the phone and answer.

So she has been quite familiar with the policies and everything and watching and then knowing and she has been representing me in the constituency for the last four years, Monday through Friday, when I have been in Ottawa. I used to send my wife to schools or to various events in the community. For example, Remembrance Day ceremony is held at three different places. I can only be at one place. So I send my wife or my staff to the other places - people appreciate that. At one time she was in Ottawa. You know she was in touch with Preston Manning, Stockwell Day, Deborah Grey, Stephen Harper and everyone. Some time ago she was in Ottawa and she was talking to some people and Stephen Harper knew she wanted to run at one time. People started to encourage her to run. Two months ago the board of Newton- North Delta asked me if Nina wanted to run. I said, 'No, she will not run. You go ahead and look for a star candidate. Once you find a star candidate, it's fine. But if you don't find one, let Nina know. She will probably think twice about it."

I thought that people would think that husband and were probably running together for money or power. But that was not our idea.

On prospects in ridings:

The Newton- North Delta riding is a little difficult for Conservative Party to win as compared to Fleetwood-Port Kells. John Cummins who represented the Delta component of the riding went to Richmond to run even though he lives in North Delta. I represented the largest riding in Canada in population - Surrey-Central - and it is split in almost two. Eighty-seven (87) per cent of Fleetwood-Port Kells is comprised of the Surrey Central federal riding and 53 per cent of Newton-North Delta is comprised of Surrey Central.

So both the boards were twisting my arm to run in their respective riding. They thought that I was an excellent M.P., hardworking. I did not make any announcement. So after two months when I said that Nina will not run, they started twisting my arm to run in Newton-North Delta. Now if I was a selfish politician like John Cummins or anyone else, I would have gone to Fleetwood-Port Kells where my chances of winning are more and I would run there and that would be the end of the story. But that was never my intention.

But then the Newton-North Delta board said we can't find any credible candidate who is so popular, will work hard and is familiar with the party policy and we want you to run here. So I said, "OK I will take the risk," because Newton-North Delta is a comparatively difficult riding to win.

(Grewal explained that if he lost the election, his elder son would have to give up the idea of joining Harvard Business School because in that case, Grewal would have to go into business to make ends meet and it would take time to start making money).

Now if I represented both these ridings (carved out of Surrey Central) very well, people are supporting me. At the same time, Nina wanted to run. She's an individual in her own right. She was born in Japan, educated at Convent of Jesus and Mary school in Shimla (India), which is one of the best private schools in India. Husband and wife can be doctors, they can be engineers, they can be lawyers, they can be anyone.

On the process and Mary Polack:

Now I intended to run in Newton-North Delta and my wife wanted to run in Fleetwood-Port Kells. Our leadership in the party knew about. That and they had no objections. In fact they encouraged her to run and both the boards were feeling very comfortable.

To win a nomination, you sign up members. Every party gives a certain time that is the cut-off date for signing members and then after that there is a cut-off date for submitting your papers for nomination.

In our party, 21 days prior to the cut-off date for nomination is the deadline for submitting membership forms. Fourteen (14) days prior to the nomination date is the cut-off for submitting the application forms of the candidate. They give you one week. What is the purpose of the one week? The purpose is that after you submit membership, the party will tell you the total count. Then you assess and re-assess your situation with respect to your opponent. If you think that you have reasonable chances, then you submit your application form and run in that riding. So that's what everyone wanted to do. Our party is overwhelmed with membership because of simultaneous nominations going out in the country and the party leadership contest is going on at the same time. During that one week I called the national office many times. They would not tell me the numbers. Now I had no idea if Mary Polack who had all the slate of SET behind her would sign up 2,000 members or 300 members or 5,000 members. I had no idea. Similarly in Newton-North Delta, I had no idea how many members Tony Bhullar or others (Brad Tepper, Rick Tone, Anita Chetal and Joginder).

Hypothetically, if Mary Polack has signed 5,000 members then we would have lesser chances of winning and I would forget about Nina and run in Fleetwood-Port Kells. That would be the end of the story. But if they have signed much fewer members, and we thought that we could win, we would have been filing our nomination papers. We would take advantage of the one-week gap between these two cut-off dates.

Since the party was unable to provide us the numbers, one hour before the cut-off date I called them again. It was suggested by my friends and my advisors that I sign up in both the ridings and that as soon as the party would give us the membership numbers, one of us could then withdraw from that riding. At the same time we would inform the nomination chair about our intentions.

I went to the nomination chair, to whom you give the applications forms, and told him that I intended to run in Newton-North Delta and Nina intended to run in Fleetwood-Port Kells, but it was subject to the membership numbers. We worked very hard for sometime and signed up quite a large number of members, about 900 in each riding.

It was a similar story during the party for leadership when Preston Manning was running, and then Stephen Harper. I had done it a few times, signing up almost the same numbers.

The nomination chair told me that I was not violating any rules and that he understood my reasons. It was simply a technicality

I had been following up with the party for the last three or four days since then about the membership numbers, but they were not able to confirm them. Then day before yesterday (Monday) they gave us approximate numbers and said they would confirm them the next day. Then yesterday (Tuesday), at ten to one in the afternoon, Ottawa time, the party called me and told me the numbers, and I made my decision at one o'clock and told all my friends in the media, because I was interviewed by the radio.

In the meantime, from the previous numbers which were told a day before, which were preliminary, Mary Pollack had decided to withdraw. I signed about 900 members. Nina singed about 900 members, close to that or 1,000. Mary Pollack signed between 50 to 75 only. Now the numbers were not in her favour and naturally she had no chance to win. She has a sour-grapes attitude and she withdrew. Maybe another candidate who has signed fewer members will also withdraw. I worked hard, I signed more members. Right from the beginning I had never an intention to run in two ridings simultaneously, but due to the technicality we had to do that, we were forced to do that.