Wednesday, June 01, 2005

June 1, 2005: Edmonton Journal Reports: Grewal Releases Tapes and Transcript Implicating PM

Martin in the loop on talk of deal-making with Tory: Grewal releases tape transcripts, Liberals want them verified
Edmonton Journal
Wednesday, June 1, 2005
Page: A5
Section: News
Dateline: OTTAWA
Source: The Canadian Press; with files from CanWest News Service

OTTAWA - Senior Liberals discussed everything from Senate seats to cabinet posts to woo a Conservative MP, but secret recordings suggest much of the negotiation revolved around how to hide the horse-trading from the public.

"I'm sure rewards are there at some point, right?" Health Minister Ujjal Dosanjh assured Tory Gurmant Grewal, according to transcripts of Grewal's surreptitious tapes released Tuesday.

"No one can forget such gestures, but they require a certain degree of deniability."

Minutes after the transcripts -- which have not been independently verified -- were released to the public and the RCMP, Prime Minister Paul Martin rose in the House of Commons and denied Grewal was offered anything in return for his support on a crucial confidence vote May 19.

"I have ... talked to the ministers of the government and the statement is absolutely clear: no offer was made; an offer was solicited (by Grewal)," Martin said during question period. "No offer was made, and that is the truth."

Later, at an unrelated news conference, Martin said he was "obviously informed" of the talks between Grewal, his chief of staff Tim Murphy, and Dosanjh, but only after Grewal approached the government looking for a cabinet job for himself and another post for his wife, Nina, also a Tory MP.

"There is a credibility issue, and it is not with the members of my staff or my government," said Martin. "From what I've been told about today's tapes ... there is doubt about the adequacy and veracity of the translation (from Punjabi)."

Yet the transcripts clearly show that Murphy and Dosanjh were deeply embroiled in negotiations with Grewal in the days before the May budget vote -- and suggest Martin was fully apprised of efforts to get the MP from Surrey, B.C., onside.

The Liberals subsequently squeaked through the budget vote.

The Grewal tapes provide an almost unprecedented glimpse into Parliament's backroom dealings. While illuminating, they do not reflect well on anyone involved.

Liberal claims that Grewal made the initial approach on behalf of himself and his wife Nina, also a Tory MP, appear to be corroborated by parts of the transcripts, which are incomplete.

The Liberals also released a letter Tuesday from an intermediary, Sudesh Kalia, stating it was Grewal who made the initial approach. In return, Kalia wrote, the Grewals sought a United Nations posting, Senate seat or cabinet post.

The transcripts of Grewal's tapes clearly show at least two of those options were seriously discussed by Dosanjh and Tim Murphy, Martin's chief of staff.

The trick, as both men told Grewal, was to delay the quid pro quo until sometime after the crucial budget vote was won. Dosanjh suggested it should

be "two or four weeks" later, while Murphy referred to the case of former Tory Scott Brison, who was rewarded with a parliamentary secretary's position weeks after crossing to the Liberals in December 2003.

"What you are looking to be able to do, right, was to play an ongoing important role, an elevated role, right?" Murphy asked Grewal in one taped telephone conversation.

"And you know, I think, what I'm saying is obviously if someone does (defect) out of conviction and courage like you are, the person plays an elevated role."

In another conversation, Murphy discusses the practical difficulties of finding a Senate opening in B.C.

"I understand what you are saying in terms of wanting some sense of security for your wife and that is understandable," Murphy told Grewal. He added that the Liberal party "is a welcoming mat that has a lot of nice comfy fur on it."

Yet Dosanjh and Murphy repeatedly stressed that Grewal's defection needed to be sold as a selfless act.

"I think as you will see the PM will say we are not offering and making no offers," said Dosanjh. "And I think that is the narrative, we have to stick to it."

Murphy spells it out clearly:

"The first question people will ask you is, 'Well, what were you promised, did you seek it out or did they seek you, were you promised anything, did you ask for something.' I think we want the answer to all those questions to be 'no.' "

Dosanjh said Tuesday the transcripts are suspect and include material translated from Punjabi. "I want the translation authenticated, I want the audio authenticated," said the minister.

The New Democrats and Bloc Quebecois have asked Parliament's ethics commissioner to look into the affair.

ONLINE

Audio files and transcripts of Tory MP Gurmant Grewal's taped conversations with Tim Murphy and Ujjal Dosanjh can be accessed on Grewal's website: www.gurmantgrewal.ca

Jun 1, 2005: CBC Reports: Harper says Party didn't Authorize Grewal To Record

Conservative Leader Stephen Harper says the party didn't authorize Grewal to record his conversations with high-ranking Liberals, but defended his right to do so, saying anyone has the right to record his private conversations. CBC STORY: Tories didn't authorize secret tapes: Harper

June 1, 2005: CP: Liberals claim Grewal tapes doctored

Canadian Press NewsWire
June 1, 2005
SECTION: Pg. n/a

ACC-NO: 852235951

LENGTH: 793 words

HEADLINE: Liberals claim Grewal tapes were doctored, defend beleaguered colleagues

BYLINE: Bueckert, Dennis; Panetta, Alex

BODY:
OTTAWA (CP) - The Liberals claim that tapes of conversations with a British Columbia Tory were doctored, with phrases deleted and words from one conversation spliced into another to create false meanings.

The counterattack came as government members closed ranks around two Liberal colleagues who were caught trying to induce Tories to skip a crucial vote.

They shrugged off backroom discussions between Health Minister Ujjal Dosanjh, prime ministerial aide Tim Murphy and Tory MP Gurmant Grewal as routine political horse-trading.

At a closed-door meeting Wednesday, Prime Minister Paul Martin led a cheer for Murphy, his chief of staff, even as opponents called for his dismissal.

And Dosanjh's office released a detailed list of alterations and omissions allegedly made to recordings of his conversations with Grewal.

For example, the Liberals dispute a sentence in which Dosanjh hinted at Grewal being rewarded if he crossed the floor. The released transcript said: "No one can forget such gestures but they require a certain degree of deniability."

But the Liberals say the word "deniability" was spliced into the sentence from another conversation not released by Grewal.

Speaking outside the Commons on Wednesday, Dosanjh stopped short of charging that the tapes - some of which record conversations in Punjabi - had been manipulated.

"From whatever we're able to hear, the Punjabi to English translation is inaccurate in places and it is in fact sometimes difficult to decipher the tapes."

When told that a Toronto newspaper had obtained its own translation of the tapes, and had found only minor glitches, Dosanjh said he was not able to hear all the words on the tape.

Dosanjh did not respond when asked to confirm that it was his voice on the tapes.

In a later interview with CBC, Dosanjh conceded he was trying to persuade Grewal to change parties, but denied offering an inducement, saying he was not in a position to make any promises.

"I was going to try to talk to anyone based on no promises, because I couldn't make any promises," he said.

Conservative Monte Solberg called on the Liberals to prove their allegations that the tapes had been doctored.

Opponents accused the Liberals of criminal corruption. Bloc Quebecois MP Michel Gauthier said they violated Section 119 of the Criminal Code, an offence punishable by up to 14 years in prison.

But the Liberals were determined to fend off such allegations.

Sources said the prime minister sprang to his feet at a weekly caucus meeting to lead a cheer for Murphy while Nova Scotia MP Rodger Cuzner was extolling his merits.

"I think the respect for Tim Murphy is universal in our caucus," Cuzner said in an interview.

"He's a man of honesty and he holds the support of our caucus."

A chorus of Liberals chimed out with the same spirited defence of their boss's top aide. But one suggested anonymously that MPs felt they couldn't criticize him publicly.

"Nobody believes a chief of staff should have acted the way he did," said the MP. "(But) they all live in fear."

The Bloc Quebecois and the New Democrats called for Dosanjh's resignation. Tory heavyweight John Reynolds said Wednesday that Murphy should be fired.

In case Liberals wondered how they should respond to the tapes' release, party officials e-mailed them a series of talking points with the headline: "Release of Grewal Tapes Confirm No Offer Was Made."

The Liberal spin machine produced a handful of messages:

_ The quality and accuracy of the tapes remains in doubt.

_ It was Grewal who approached the Liberals, not the other way around.

_ No job offer was ever explicitly made.

_ Grewal has at least twice in the past claimed he was lured and offered an appointment.

_ Given that the government's survival was at stake in a confidence vote, "it was only natural" that Liberals would speak with Grewal.

Another Liberal MP echoed that sentiment, saying the Grewal tapes now being broadcast in news bulletins are a banal occurrence in politics.

"Horse-trading happens every single day," said Toronto MP Jim Karygiannis.

"What you're seeing now is the intricate conversations. But conversations happen every single day."

He was more critical of Grewal, questioning why he would presume to speak for his wife in political negotiations.

The tapes include numerous references to Nina Grewal, also an MP from British Columbia, and how she could join her husband in skipping the vote in exchange for some later reward. She was not present during those discussions.

He accused the Indian-born Grewal of harbouring an "old-school mentality" toward his wife.

"You've come to Canada. You are a politician in Canada," Karygiannis said.

"Respect your wife. Respect your mate. She is an equal."

June 1, 2005. Hansard. Question period exchange about Grewal tapes

From Parliamentary Hansard:

Member for Newton—North Delta

Hon. Stephen Harper (Leader of the Opposition, CPC): Mr. Speaker, yesterday the Prime Minister told the House, “At no time...did I ever say that I would meet with the hon. member”, meaning the member for Newton—North Delta, and yet the tapes show the Prime Minister's chief of staff saying quite clearly that the Prime Minister was “prepared to talk to you directly, both by phone and in person”.

Why did the Prime Minister tell the House that he was unwilling to meet the member for Newton--North Delta when clearly he was?

Right Hon. Paul Martin (Prime Minister, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the member for Newton--North Delta called to say that he was interested in crossing the floor. I essentially said to members of the government and my staff that they could pursue discussions but that under no circumstances could any offer be made, and no offer was made.

Clearly, if the hon. member had indicated that he was prepared to cross the floor under those conditions, obviously anybody would meet with somebody who was interested in crossing the floor.

The fundamental fact is that no offer was made, no request was accepted and under those circumstances--

The Speaker: The hon. Leader of the Opposition.

Hon. Stephen Harper (Leader of the Opposition, CPC): Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister is shifting his story. Now he admits that he did authorize his senior people to engage in discussions.

Yesterday in the House, I repeat, the Prime Minister said, “At no time, however, did I ever say that I would meet with the hon. member”, and yet his health minister is on tape saying, “I talked to the Prime Minister moments ago. He will be happy to talk to you over the phone or in person”.

Why did the Prime Minister not tell the truth in the House of Commons?

Right Hon. Paul Martin (Prime Minister, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, we are dealing with serious matters here. The fact is for the Leader of the Opposition to deliberately misconstrue what was said, for the Leader of the Opposition to cast that kind of aspersion, is certainly not the level of stability and the kind of debate that Canadians are looking for.

I made it very clear that I would not meet with the hon. member unless it was under conditions that said he would cross the floor with no request being accepted and no offers being made.

Under those circumstances and unless those were there I was not prepared to meet with him.

Hon. Stephen Harper (Leader of the Opposition, CPC): Mr. Speaker, this is another story. The Prime Minister said that he would never meet with him. Now he says that he would meet with him under certain conditions.

When the government was courting the member for Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette, the President of the Treasury Board said, “Only the Prime Minister has the authority to make an offer”.

Is not the reason the Prime Minister wanted to meet the member for Newton—North Delta so that he could make him an offer, just as he did in several other cases that we are aware of?

Hon. Tony Valeri (Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister gave his chief of staff one instruction, not to make any offers, and that was the case.

The Prime Minister has been very clear about this. He was aware that his office had been approached and that the member wanted to cross the floor. The member of Parliament did not cross the floor and there was no meeting set up with the Prime Minister.

Mr. Peter MacKay (Central Nova, CPC): Mr. Speaker, the President of the Treasury Board has said that only the Prime Minister has the authority to buy off opposition members.

The Minister of Health says that talking to the chief of staff is like talking to the Prime Minister.

Published tapes now reveal that the Prime Minister's chief of staff, Tim Murphy, made offers to the Conservative member for Newton—North Delta.

Does the Prime Minister now admit that he made an offer and that his chief of staff was doing the big boss's bidding and acting on his instruction?

Hon. Tony Valeri (Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister gave his chief of staff an instruction and that was not to make any offers. That instruction was followed.

Mr. Kalia, a friend of the member for Newton—North Delta, confirmed that in his statement yesterday, “they said they cannot offer anything.

Frankly, there are serious questions being raised about the accuracy of the tapes and the transcripts. Let us be clear that if there is any credibility on this particular issue it lies solely with the member for Newton—North Delta.

Mr. Peter MacKay (Central Nova, CPC): Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister's chief of staff is caught on tape saying that he was prepared, “to get the Ethics Commissioner to give an interim report or something to take the cloud off that would be helpful”. Clearly, the government was and is prepared to do anything to cling to power and go to any length, including offers of cabinet posts, for votes or interference with an ethics investigation.

Is the Prime Minister and his staff suggesting he can influence an independent officer of Parliament? Why will the Prime Minister not admit that he is engaged in a sordid, deal making practice? Get up and answer the question.

Hon. Ujjal Dosanjh (Minister of Health, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, it appears the hon. member rented a dog. If he owned one, he would not be so upset.

However, the member for Newton—North Delta made demands. No offers were made and no demands were accepted. The tapes are faulty. There is no authenticity of the tapes. The translation is faulty. The transcription from English to English is faulty. My mother tongue is Punjabi, fortunately. I can say that Conservative staffers were involved in doing the transcription--

The Speaker: The hon. member for Laurier—Sainte-Marie.

[Translation]

Mr. Gilles Duceppe (Laurier—Sainte-Marie, BQ): Mr. Speaker, in the tape affair, instead of assuming his responsibilities, the Prime Minister is short circuiting reality. It was all very well to state in this House that no offer had been made to the member for Newton—North Delta, but nothing justifies his being so categorical.

Contrary to what he is claiming, will the Prime Minister admit, in the light of the released transcripts, that his chief of staff and his Minister of Health were dangling future considerations, which is just as bad?

Right Hon. Paul Martin (Prime Minister, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I repeat that no offer was made and no offer was accepted. This is obvious from the tapes.

Mr. Gilles Duceppe (Laurier—Sainte-Marie, BQ): Mr. Speaker, let us look at the transcription of the tapes. On the eve of a crucial vote in the House, the chief of staff said “those people who take risk, ought to be rewarded for the risk they take”.

Will the Prime Minister finally assume his responsibilities and recognize that the Conservative MP was promised future consideration in exchange for his vote?

[English]

Hon. Tony Valeri (Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I think the Prime Minister has been very clear. The Prime Minister gave his chief of staff one instruction: not to provide any offers. The member for Newton—North Delta said that he had four hours of taped conservations. He has released less than two of those. Is it any wonder that his credibility is being called into question?

I guess the real question is why so many members across the way want to leave the Conservative Party.

[Translation]

Mr. Michel Guimond (Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord, BQ): Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister's only defence is to repeat that he made no offer to the MP.

If the chief of staff's intention was not to buy the vote of the member for Newton—North Delta, could the Prime Minister clarify the interpretation to be given the remarks by his chief of staff that the Liberal Party, “is a welcoming mat that has a lot of nice comfy fur on it”?

[English]

Hon. Tony Valeri (Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the issue is that I see the hon. member as picking and choosing different parts of a tape, not all of which have been released.

The member for Newton—North Delta has four hours of taped conversations and has released less than two. If there is any credibility in question with respect to what has happened, I think the member would have to speak to the member for Newton—North Delta. The Prime Minister has been very clear on this.

[Translation]

Mr. Michel Guimond (Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord, BQ): Mr. Speaker, the PM's chief of staff ruled out all direct discussion of a seat in the Senate before the May 19 vote, but mentioned there would be more manoeuvring room after the vote.

How can the Prime Minister keep saying that no promise was made, when the remarks of his chief of staff leave no doubt as to his intentions, that is, to influence, in exchange for future consideration, the vote of the Conservative MP for Newton—North Delta?

Hon. Tony Valeri (Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the member for Newton—North Delta approached, wanting to cross the floor. He wanted an offer. He did not get an offer. He did not cross the floor. There was no meeting with the Prime Minister. That is what happened.

Hon. Jack Layton (Toronto—Danforth, NDP): Mr. Speaker, I need to know whether the Prime Minister condones the remarks by his chief of staff or the health minister.

The real tragedy is that we should be discussing the important issues of the nation, but these tapes are deeply concerning, so much so that Canadians are wondering what goes on in this place and whether they can really trust the political process any more.

We have now heard discussions of plausible deniability of positions. Will the Prime Minister tell us whether he condones the remarks that are now available to all Canadians to read and to listen to?

Right Hon. Paul Martin (Prime Minister, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Health was approached by a third party on behalf of the member for Newton--North Delta who said that he wanted to cross the floor. A meeting was held. The Minister of Health and indeed, my chief of staff in subsequent discussion made it very clear that there would be no offers forthcoming and that we would accept no requests. That is what happened.

However, I do agree with the leader of the NDP that it is a tragedy we are not discussing important issues, such as the aboriginal meeting which took place yesterday.

Hon. Jack Layton (Toronto—Danforth, NDP): Mr. Speaker, we may have just witnessed an example of plausible deniability being exercised here. I am not sure.

However, I was asked, for example, what would I do if my minister of health were to have been involved in something like this. I can tell members that I have no doubt that she would have offered to step aside while the investigations from the RCMP and the Ethics Commissioner were under way so that the air could be cleared.

Does the Prime Minister have a plan to help restore confidence in this place?

Right Hon. Paul Martin (Prime Minister, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the best way to restore civility to this place is that regardless of the debate, it take place in a civil way, that arguments be made in a way in which they can be made, that the leaders of the opposition stop yelling, trying to shut people down when they are on their feet, that we do what Canadians want us to do, and that is to deal with the principal issues that concern them, and that we do it in a way that would make them proud of this place, as opposed to the catcalls over here from the other side.

Mr. Jason Kenney (Calgary Southeast, CPC): Mr. Speaker, there is nothing more important than integrity in government. Once again the Prime Minister's version of events is at variance with the facts.

He said that the member for Newton--North Delta approached the government, and he just said it again, but the Prime Minister's own chief of staff is caught on tape saying, “you didn't approach us”.

Then the Prime Minister claimed the member was refused unequivocally and he would not take no for an answer, but the word “no” does not appear once in these four hours of discussions. In fact, the chief of staff says that the Liberal Party is a welcoming mat that has a lot of nice, comfy fur on it.

Why does the Prime Minister's version of events--

The Speaker: The hon. government House leader.

Hon. Tony Valeri (Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the hon. member across the way talks about four hours of tape. They have released less than two hours of tapes and that is all we have seen or heard. There is some credibility that is being called into question. As well, there are certainly some serious questions being raised about the accuracy of the tapes and the transcripts.

I guess the real question that needs to be asked again is this. Why are so many members wanting to leave the Conservative Party and why are so many members questioning the leadership of the official opposition?

Mr. Jason Kenney (Calgary Southeast, CPC): Pretty pathetic diversions, Mr. Speaker. The Prime Minister is sticking to his story just like his chief of staff predicted when he said, “The PM will say we are not offering and making no offers. And I think that is the narrative that we have to stick to”, just as his health minister said, “I'm sure rewards are there at some point, right? No one can forget such gestures, but they require a certain degree of deniability”.

Is it not clear that the Prime Minister has invented a story that he is sticking to, rather than admitting to the fact that his chief of staff tried to buy the vote of a member of the opposition?

Hon. Ujjal Dosanjh (Minister of Health, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the fact is I was approached by a third party, Sudesh Kalia, with demands of the member for Newton—North Delta. Those demands were rejected. He reasserted the demands. Those demands were again rejected. No offers were made. None were accepted. That is why he is not sitting on this side of the House.

June 1, 2004: CBC reports that Harper 'didn't pressure Grewal' to make tapes

Tories didn't authorize secret tapes: Harper
Last Updated Wed, 01 Jun 2005 22:04:30 EDT
CBC News
Conservative Leader Stephen Harper said Wednesday he didn't pressure Gurmant Grewal to record private conversations with top Liberal officials, but defended the B.C. member of Parliament's right to secretly tape the meetings.

Grewal alleges that Health Minister Ujjal Dosanjh and the prime minister's chief of staff offered him and his wife, Nina, also a Tory MP, Senate and diplomatic positions if they abstained from voting against last month's Liberal budget.


Conservative Leader Stephen Harper speaks Wednesday.
RELATED STORY: Martin, Dosanjh question authenticity of tapes
Harper said Grewal informed him of the tapes on May 16, three days ahead of the crucial vote, and asked whether he should take a meeting with Prime Minister Paul Martin to discuss crossing the floor. The Conservative leader said he told his MP no.

Harper said the tapes show Grewal couldn't be bought and expose Liberal tactics.

"The Liberal party has denied in the past ... that they attempt to buy off members of Parliament. They've lied about that," said Harper. "We know several instances where they've done it. What the tapes of Mr. Grewal show is exactly the process they use."

Harper defended Grewal's actions, saying "a person has the legal right to tape their private conversations."

In the business of politics, "you should assume you're on the record at all times," said Harper.

He says he's convinced Grewal has handed over all of the recordings and believes his MP's version of events.

"I have to rely on Gurmant's word," said Harper.

The Liberals insist Grewal approached them with an offer to cross the floor.

While the tapes do not include explicit offers, they do suggest the Liberals were courting the pair of Tory MPs and hint toward future rewards.