Wednesday, June 08, 2005

June 8, 2005: Edmonton Journal NDP May Go After Martin To Get At Murphy

NDP may go after Martin to get his aide in tape scandal: Chief of staff not subject to ethics commissioner
Edmonton Journal
Wednesday, June 8, 2005
Page: A7
Section: News
Byline: Allan Woods and Grant Robertson
Dateline: OTTAWA
Source: CanWest News Service; Calgary Herald

OTTAWA - The NDP is threatening to call on the ethics commissioner today to investigate Prime Minister Paul Martin over the role his chief of staff, Tim Murphy, played in the secret-taping scandal.

After discussions Tuesday night, the consensus among senior party members was that calling for a probe of Martin's actions is the only way to hold Murphy accountable for his involvement -- along with Health Minister Ujjal Dosanjh -- in talks with Conservative MP Gurmant Grewal about defecting to the Liberals last month ahead of a critical May 19 confidence vote.

Ethics Commissioner Bernard Shapiro ruled last week that investigating Murphy was beyond the reach of his mandate, though he agreed to assess the conduct of the two MPs.

"To me it seems virtually impossible to conduct his investigation without examining the actions of the chief of staff," New Democratic Party Leader Jack Layton said Tuesday.

NDP MP Ed Broadbent said the prospect of the prime minister going under the ethics microscope " is a serious matter. But the more serious would be to find out that he is guilty," he said.

Shapiro has been roundly criticized for taking a "narrow view" in his decision to bypass Murphy's conduct in the investigation. New Democrats said they were "forced" to consider calling for a review of the prime minister, and even the Conservatives -- who already have one of their own under examination -- have looked at the possibility.

Scott Reid, a PMO spokesman, declined to comment on the possible move today by the NDP, saying it is a question for the ethics commissioner to decide. He did reiterate Murphy is accountable to the prime minister and follows a code of conduct for public office holders.

Reid defended Murphy, saying he is vindicated each time new information damaging to the Conservatives emerges from the secret recordings.

While the latest twist places additional pressure on the government, the taping scandal is also causing angst and division in the Conservative party.

Tory Leader Stephen Harper continued to defend Grewal's allegations, and his integrity, and said the onus should rest solely on the Liberals.

"Somebody should ask Mr. Dosanjh or Mr. Murphy if they're actually denying saying anything on the tape, because they sure as hell did," Harper said Tuesday outside the House of Commons.

Some have questioned Harper's handling of the affair, including B.C. Tory Randy White, who called the decision to send Grewal on indefinite, paid stress leave Monday "perplexing."

"I've been a CEO and manager all my life and I've never seen anything like this," White said. "I just don't agree with stress leave for politicians. Come on. We're in the business of stress."

Word also emerged Tuesday that two Tory strategists -- Jim Armour and Mike Storeshaw -- have quit the party for other work, while other Conservatives admit to growing increasingly frustrated by the fallout of a scandal that has left the Tories looking as bad as the Liberals.

Also on Tuesday, Transport Canada confirmed it is looking into a June 4 incident involving a possible security breach at a Vancouver airport.

Grewal reportedly asked airport staff, and later passengers, to transport audio tapes for him on a flight to Ottawa. He did so successfully in what may be a violation of federal aviation laws. Party spokesman Geoff Norquay said Tuesday the tapes were of original telephone conversations relating to what the Tories contend was a sting operation exposing the Liberal attempts to buy Grewal's vote.

The fate of another possible investigation, by the RCMP, won't be decided for at least two weeks, the Mounties said Tuesday. Currently the authenticity and content of the recordings, some of which are in Punjabi, are being examined by police experts, said Insp. Tim Cogan.

Opposition parties have charged that Martin may have been involved directly or indirectly in the negotiations to sway Grewal through his top aide and a senior cabinet minister. The Liberals counter that Grewal was trying to sell his vote for a plum government appointment.