June 3, 2005: Stronach denies defection anything like Grewal's power play
Stronach denies defection anything like Grewal's power play
Anne Dawson. CanWest News. Don Mills, Ont.: Jun 3, 2005. pg. 1
OTTAWA - New Human Resources Minister Belinda Stronach said her defection to the government was nothing like the murky negotiations between Tory MP Gurmant Grewal and the Liberals _ she did not record her talks and her decision was based on "fate and circumstance."
Stronach, in her first interview since the furor over the Grewal tapes, said she did not do any negotiations with Prime Minister Paul Martin or his chief of staff Tim Murphy.
Rather, it was former Ontario premier David Peterson, an old friend, who talked to Murphy, suggesting possibilities that might interest her. She admitted she phoned Peterson the day after running into him at a dinner a few days before she defected to tell her how unhappy she was in the Conservative party and what a "gut-wrenching decision" she faced in last month's budget vote.
She said she did not even speak with Murphy until just hours before she met Martin at 24 Sussex Dr., although Peterson had told her through his discussions with Murphy that the Liberals were interested in having her play a significant role in democratic renewal and human resources development.
"David then went and spoke (to) Tim, yes. You'll have to ask him about the details though. I didn't tape the conversation," said Stronach, perched in her newly decorated office in the Justice Building near Parliament Hill. "He came back and said yes ... there's a positive interest in you serving in this capacity and then it flowed."
Stronach's surprise defection stunned political players and observers two weeks ago. She has been labelled a hero by some, a traitor by others, and a whore and a prostitute by some of her former Tory colleagues. The move was considered a huge coup for the Liberals, who were destined to be toppled without her on side, and is now being looked at as the template for how the Liberals may have approached Grewal to seek his support as well.
Stronach said her jump to the Liberals was based on "principle" and has no similarities whatsoever to Grewal's negotiations. Like Stronach, Grewal also had a third party broker in his dealings with the Liberals, but Stronach said she really knows nothing about what went down with him because she has been too busy concentrating on learning about employment insurance.
"They are absolutely not connected in any way. Mine is a question of fate and circumstance and based on principle. I had to make a very difficult decision in the lead up to the vote. I did not feel comfortable bringing down the government lining up with the Bloc when the only winner at the end of the day would have been the Bloc."
Stronach _ who was CEO at her family's giant autoparts company Magna International Inc., led a global restructuring of the human resources department _ told Peterson about her desire to bring about democratic renewal because her brief experience in politics taught her the "system doesn't work."
"(Peterson) said: `Look, would you serve in another capacity?' and I said yes I would and my interest lies in democratic renewal. The system doesn't work," said Stronach.
Peterson spoke to Murphy and that is when he returned to tell her the Liberals were interested in having her play the two roles.
Stronach said it was only at dinner that Martin brought up the idea that she could assist the government in implementing the Gomery recommendations.
The Gomery role "falls under democratic renewal," she said.
"When I went and saw (Martin) Monday night, he said: `Look, are you serious about democratic renewal?' and he said: `Look, yes, I'm serious about doing this and you would have the authority to make sure that the Gomery recommendations get implemented."'
"So there was no negotiating with the prime minister. It was not that at all," insisted Stronach.
Stronach, 39, conceded it has been a tough few weeks given the pressure she faced in the lead up to the vote, the negotiations with the Liberals and a sick daughter who was rushed to hospital to have her appendix removed, following Stronach's defection.
Stronach became uncomfortable Thursday at the mere mention of her former boyfriend, Tory deputy leader Peter MacKay.
"We have an OK relationship," she insisted. But quickly added: "I'm not going to comment on the personal side. I'm not going to go there."
Stronach said she consulted one other very important person before making her decision to jump ship, although she corrected a reporter who labeled the move as such saying she prefers to call her move "joining the Liberals." She spoke to her father, Frank Stronach, founder of Magna, one of the richest men in Canada, and a former failed candidate for the federal Liberals.
"I talked to him Sunday, yes. He said, `Look, do what you think is right.' He might give me his best advice and at the end of the day, he knows I'll make my own decisions and he'll support that."
CanWest News Service