Wednesday, June 08, 2005

June 8, 2004: The Now reports on Grewal's airport problem

Grewal checks out

Ted Colley

Conservative MP Gurmant Grewal is taking a break.

"I met with Mr. Harper today and I told him I'm under a lot of pressure. I told him I'm going on stress leave," Grewal said Monday afternoon.

"You can call it indefinite because I haven't put a time on it, but it will be short."

Grewal's announcement came hard on the heels of reports he is under investigation for an incident Saturday in a waiting area at Vancouver International Airport. He was observed asking passengers to carry a package to Ottawa for him, a violation of security regulations that say a passenger must be on a plane that is carrying his luggage.

Christine Hayvice, the communications co-ordinator for the Canadian Auto Workers - the union that represents airline workers - and a long-time Air Canada employee, said airport staff reported Grewal was told several times that getting someone else to carry his package onto the flight was against security regulations.

"He was told all along, from the check-in counter on, that he couldn't do that. An Air Canada agent reminded him of the Air India incident," Hayvice said.

"He spoke to numerous people. It's what happens when people want to do something against the regulations. We see it all the time."

Grewal said Hayvice's version of events is wrong. Grewal said he was booked on a flight to Ottawa on Sunday, but needed to get an envelope there by 7 p.m. Saturday.

He would not say what was in the envelope.

"It was a small envelope. It was something important and time sensitive. It was related to parliamentary business," was all Grewal would say.

According to Grewal, courier companies couldn't guarantee delivery that evening, so he decided to go to the airport and see if he could find another MP to take the envelope to Ottawa for him on the Saturday morning flight. Failing that, he said, he was prepared to fly to the capital a day earlier than planned to make sure the envelope arrived on time.

"Before I checked in, I asked (airline staff) if they found any of my colleagues. They said no," Grewal said.

Hayvice said Grewal did ask several staffers if any other MPs were on the passenger list, but was told the information was confidential and could not be given to him.

Grewal said he told several airline employees what he wanted to do and claims none of them objected. Hayvice said several staffers told him he was breaking security rules.

Grewal said he spotted a man he recognized in the waiting lounge and approached him.

"I introduced myself and asked if he would take the envelope. He was not an MP, but I had travelled with him before. He agreed and inspected the contents of the envelope. It was open and he sealed it," Grewal said.

He would not identify the man who took the envelope onto the flight.

Transport Canada's Rod Nelson would not say if Grewal had broken any security rules or what, if any, penalties might apply.