Friday, June 11, 2004

June 11, 2004: Constituent complains about Grewal's householder

MP's newsletter generates complaint

Marisa Babic

A Surrey man is accusing Conservative MP Gurmant Grewal of abusing his parliamentary privileges by using his taxpayer-funded householder to boost his campaign fortunes.

Robert Slaven said yesterday he has filed a complaint with the commissioner of Elections Canada over concerns that Grewal may have broken the rules.

Slaven believes some of the content in the mailer is an attempt "to sneak around the Elections Act by using his newsletter privileges as a campaign tool."

"I'm not 100 per cent sure what the rules are so the complaint says, if this is against the rules can you please check it out and if it isn't against the rules it should be," he said.

Slaven has sent copies of his complaint to Canada's chief electoral officer, Conservative party headquarters and Grewal's office.

Slaven questions information contained in the householder under the headline The Bottom Line, which slams the Liberals' record and makes comparisons between the Liberals and Conservatives. It also encourages readers to support the Conservatives.

The missive, in bold print, concludes, "The new Conservative Party under the Leadership of Stephen Harper is offering Canadians a real choice. The choice is yours!"

Slaven says the mailer unfairly gives incumbents free publicity during an election campaign at taxpayers' expense. "It gives unfair advantage to anyone who's an incumbent MP," he said. "Incumbents already have an advantage through name recognition so the last thing they need is more help."

Grewal, who is running in the riding of Newton-North Delta, insists he has done nothing wrong. Grewal said he abided by parliamentary rules and blames the timing of the newsletter's delivery on the bureaucrats in Ottawa and Prime Minister Paul Martin for his failure to adopt fixed-date elections. "I don't have a crystal ball to see when the prime minister is going to drop the writ. Moreover, I didn't ask for money in any of the householders and I didn't ask people to vote for me in the householders. These two things we are prohibited to do," he said. The bottom of the householder lists Grewal's Web site, which includes campaign information and offers visitors an opportunity to make financial donations, volunteer for his campaign and obtain campaign signs.

But Grewal rejects any suggestion there is anything improper about printing the Web address on the householder. He said his new Web site, which was launched in February or March, was restricted to information about his duties as MP until the election was called. But according to the rules, MPs were allowed to add campaign information to the Web site after May 23, at their own expense.

"When my householder was written that information was not there on it," he said. "The modifications were made after the writ was dropped.

"I have the right to make these changes to the Web site as other MPs are doing."

Grewal rejected Slavin's criticism about the political flavour of his householder. "I also reject this accusation. I also want to make it clear that the contents of this householder were cleared by the House of Commons staff. They would never have cleared this content if it was not meeting their requirements, their rules and regulations," he said.