Saturday, June 11, 2005

June 11, 2005: Herb Dhaliwal comments on the Grewal controversy


Former federal minister Herb Dhaliwal speaks out on the Grewal-Dosanjh controversy
Herb Dhaliwal, the first Indo-Canadian in Canada's history to become a federal minister, made the community proud with his personality, his obvious political acumen, his sophistication and his blunt honesty and courage to stand up for what he believed to be right, especially after 9/11.

He was also known for his fierce loyalty to then prime minister Jean Chretien and was instrumental in getting a consulate general in Chandigarh.

There could be no better person that Dhaliwal to comment on the sad state of political affairs in Canada, terribly vitiated by the Gurmant Grewal-Ujjal Dosanjh tapes controversy.

Here's my interview with Dhaliwal:

VOICE: What's your take on this Grewal-Dosanjh controversy?

Dhaliwal: First of all my view is that it's totally unethical to surreptitiously record a meeting with someone at any level, never mind sort of at the highest political level where people expect us to have the highest ethical standard and conduct. So I think it's totally unethical that (Grewal) recorded these conversations.

The other thing is that I think the Liberals looked way too desperate in trying to deal with the NDP first of all and having Belinda (Stronach) come over (from the Conservative party) and then trying to bring other people over. They were out fishing or trolling to get people in. I think they were just looking too desperate and it's going to hurt them in the long term, because they're looking so weak and desperate.

So I think nobody looks very good and I think Parliament and parliamentarians get discredited with all this. Although it's only one or two people, but everybody gets discredited by this. So I think the sooner they put this behind them, the better for everyone.

But what was surprising is that Stephen Harper didn't condemn this type of action of taping these conversations. He said he condoned it. So really the question will be to Stephen Harper does he say that this is acceptable behaviour to go out and surreptitiously record conversations. I think people will have to start asking him some questions. This is the guy who wants to become prime minister. So if he thinks it's okay to go around recording private conversations and then (releasing) them to the public, I just wonder what kind of ethics he has.

I can tell you from my own experience when I was political minister, we had a request from one of the Opposition members saying that he'd like to cross over but he'd like to get into Cabinet. And I remember taking to Chretien and he said: 'No. No promises are going to be madeā€¦If you want to come over and cross the floor, that's fine. But there will be no commitments made or any promises to them and they'll have to work like every other member in the Liberal caucus.'

So that was the position we took and I took at the time and we were not going to make the type of promises that are happening now for people. I think it just makes the Liberals look weak and you know Canadians want members of Parliament to have the highest ethical standards and I think that they haven't upheld the type of standards that Canadians would want them to and, unfortunately, it hurts all Parliamentarians.

VOICE: Was this Opposition MP from BC?

Dhaliwal: It was an MP from BC. (Laughs) I don't want to name anyone, but it was an MP from BC and I said just said 'no way.' And there were some MPs we just said that we were not interested in even talking to them. But these names were in confidence, so I can't give out names of anybody. It wouldn't be appropriate.

VOICE: What do you think will be the fallout from all of this?

Dhaliwal: I think first of all there's a lot of pressure on Harper (from the Conservative caucus) to have Grewal removed from caucus and the stress leave was a compromise. And I think that he will have trouble getting the nomination or getting the ticket or support from the party in the next election which is only six to eight months away. I think they will not allow him to get the nomination. So he'll have a tough fight to come back in politics. He's going to have a hell of a problem and I think the Conservatives will make it difficult for him to get the nomination.

VOICE: What implications will this have on Dosanjh's career?

Dhaliwal: I think it's probably too early to say. Obviously, he's hurt himself by being involved in this and I guess it will depend on what the Ethics Commissioner comes up with because it's now before him. He'll review all the facts and it depends on what his view and what his position is.

VOICE: Do you think there should be a comprehensive RCMP inquiry into all of Gurmant Grewal's affairs because so many things are popping up now from his past?

Dhaliwal: I think what happens in a situation like this is that the media focuses on all sorts of things, everything. Then they focus on the negative. So I don't think we should have a blanket review of everything in his past, but I think obviously if there are things that are brought to their attention, they have a responsibility to look at it. But I don't think all of a sudden they should be doing a wholesale investigation. I think that there are legitimate things they will obviously look at but I don't think they should be going out on a fishing trip.