Thursday, May 26, 2005

May 26, 2005: CTV Reports Volpe Confirms Chat With PMO Aide Over Grewal

CTV REPORTS: Volpe Confirms Chat With PMO Aide Over Grewal
Canadian Press
TORONTO — Immigration Minister Joe Volpe says he had no interest in helping a Conservative MP who alleges Prime Minister Paul Martin's chief of staff offered him rewards in exchange for his abstention from last week's crucial budget vote. Volpe confirmed Wednesday that Tim Murphy, Martin's top aide, "alerted" him to a conversation Murphy had with Tory MP Gurmant Grewal -- a conversation secretly recorded by Grewal that's now at the heart of allegations that the Liberals tried to buy him off. Grewal said last week he was offered an ambassadorship and his wife Nina, also a Tory MP, a Senate appointment if they would abstain from last week's narrow confidence vote in the House of Commons, a vote the Liberals survived by the slimmest of margins. In the taped conversation, Grewal asked Murphy to ask Volpe if he would back off allegations that Grewal and another Tory had offered to aid immigrants in return for money - allegations now being examined by the RCMP. Grewal was making "a series of requests, including some nice things to be said by me," Volpe said Murphy told him. "I said, 'Look, I'm not going to say anything that's going to interfere with an impartial third-party investigation." Volpe, who was in Toronto to deliver a luncheon speech to an audience at the University of Toronto, said Murphy didn't ask him to take any action regarding Grewal. Instead, Murphy simply conveyed that Grewal had "a series of requests on the table," and had expressed concerns with respect to "initiatives" that had come the minister's office, he said. "I said, 'Listen, I've already put those things forward and they're going to see their way through,"' Volpe said. "And he said, 'Yeah, well, I agree with you. I'm just giving you an indication that we've been approached and these are some of the discussions that he wants to have."' Grewal secretly taped conversations
with both Murphy and Health Minister Ujjal Dosanjh which he says back his claims the Liberals were trying to convince him and his wife to abstain from voting. He said he ever intended to accept any offers, but was trying to gather evidence. Grewal has acknowledged wanting Volpe to retract the allegations, but describes as "absolutely false" suggestions by Martin spokesman Scott Reid that he had asked for interference in the investigations. Volpe said he didn't try to discourage Murphy from having the discussions with Grewal, saying that wasn't up to him. "I said to him, 'Well, good luck for you if you're going to have a conversation with him, but I'm not going to be doing anything that's going to in any way interfere in that third-party system,"' Volpe said. "He respected that and right off the bat said, 'None of us would ever go in that direction.' I said, 'Good, so we're all on the same page."' The Conservatives have been criticized for releasing an eight-minute snippet from tapes that are thought to span two hours. Party sources said Tuesday they would be handing over the bulk of the tapes to the RCMP for investigation The RCMP has said it has received a letter from the Bloc Quebecois asking for an investigation. On the segment of tape released by the Conservatives, Murphy is heard offering advice to Grewal about how he and his wife could miss the vote and guarantee a Liberal victory. He also indicates a willingness to negotiate something later with Grewal. Ultimately, the Liberals survived last week's razor-thin budget vote thanks to former Conservative Belinda Stronach's high-profile defection to the Liberal benches and the support of Independent MP Chuck Cadman. Murphy, meanwhile, has hired a lawyer and is considering taking legal action against Grewal.