Saturday, July 09, 2005

July 9, 2005: Grewal hands over more tapes to RCMP--Police probe extended

Grewal hands over more tapes to RCMP
Police probe extended

Simon Doyle
CanWest News Service

July 9, 2005

OTTAWA - Embattled Conservative MP Gurmant Grewal handed over additional tapes to the RCMP within the past two weeks, a move that suggests the recorded talks between himself and senior Liberals that he had earlier made public were incomplete.

Mr. Grewal made recordings available in late May that showed he had been in talks with Health Minister Ujjal Dosanjh and Tim Murphy, Prime Minister Paul Martin's chief of staff, about exchanging rewards, such as a Cabinet post or Senate seat, for crossing the floor or abstaining from key confidence votes.

At the time, the Conservatives insisted Mr. Grewal had handed over "all of the tapes" to Opposition leader Stephen Harper, and the party posted "the complete audio file" on to Mr. Grewal's Web site for public scrutiny. The party also said it would give the tapes to the RCMP.

However, the RCMP says it has received new tapes that will extend the original timeline of its review of the affair.

"We have received additional tapes from the previous tapes that we had," Sergeant Gilles Deziel said. The RCMP received the first batch on June 1, he said, one day after Mr. Grewal made the recordings available on his Web site. The police force said it received the newest batch of tapes within the past two weeks.

Mr. Grewal, Mr. Murphy and Mr. Dosanjh, now under investigation by ethics commissioner Bernard Shapiro, are also under the scope of the RCMP to determine whether the matter deserves a formal investigation for possible violations of anti-bribery measures under the Criminal Code.

The Liberals have cried foul over the recordings, pointing to the comments of audio experts who said they had been edited.

"If true, it certainly serves to highlight the cautious, careful wisdom of Mr. Harper that the tapes were pristine, complete and unaltered," Scott Reid, Paul Martin's communications director, wrote in an e-mail. "We look forward to the release of the director's cut."

Mr. Grewal says the government tried to lure him into abstaining or crossing the floor, but the Liberals say it was Mr. Grewal who approached them first, looking for rewards.

The RCMP would not confirm whether the additional tapes were recordings of a May 16 meeting with Mr. Dosanjh, which Mr. Grewal has alluded to but has never been released, and which the Conservatives say was not recorded.

Nor would the RCMP confirm whether the new tapes were those that one witness alleged Mr. Grewal tried to give to an airline passenger to transport from Vancouver to Ottawa in early June.

NDP MP Pat Martin said the senior ranks of the Conservative party have to take responsibility for Mr. Grewal's actions because Mr. Harper and Conservative deputy leader Peter MacKay stood up for him, even after experts said the tapes were edited. Mr. Harper also supported Mr. Grewal's move to take a stress leave from the House in early June.

"The CPC [Conservative Party of Canada] had a choice. They could hang Grewal out to dry, or they could rally around him," Mr. Martin said.

"The party leadership has to answer for this now. It ceased to become just one rogue MP's responsibility when the party sent him home on stress leave and assumed responsibility for the file."

Support for Mr. Grewal within the Conservative party appeared to wane last month, however.

William Stairs, a Tory communications strategist, said he had not heard of any additional tapes, and said he cannot comment until the RCMP finishes its work.

"I don't know anything about what's going on about Gurmant, his lawyers and the RCMP," Mr. Stairs said.

Conservative campaign chairman John Reynolds recently told CanWest News Service that he expects Mr. Grewal to be cleared of any wrongdoing after the RCMP and the ethics commissioner are through with their investigations.