Thursday, June 02, 2005

June 2nd: Reporter Tells Strange Story About CPC Press Release "Suicide Note"

Bucket's Reports Here, that on the evening of June 2nd, A reporter who he has been interviewed by claimed that the CPC official who handed out the "CPC June 2nd Press Release" referred to it at the time as a "A suicide note".

Mike Of Rational Reasons, also claims to have heard something similar on CBC Radio at 18:10 (I think the next day, or that evening) The CPC Press Secretary handed out this June 2nd Press Release out to a bunch of reporters in a bar. This conversation also was reputed to make reference to the terminology of a "suicide note" being applied to the press release.

June 2, 2005: CPC Press Release

There is no name attached to this press release. It is not affixed with any CPC letterhead. It was only distributed to "NealeNews" in the following fashion.

June 2, 2005 Edmonton Journal: Harper Defends Taping, PM condoned meetings but maintains "no offer was made"

Harper defends Grewal's taping tactics: PM condoned secret talks but maintains 'no offer was made'
Edmonton Journal
Thursday, June 2, 2005
Page: A6
Section: News
Dateline: OTTAWA
Source: CanWest News Service; The Canadian Press; with files from The Canadian Press

OTTAWA - Gurmant Grewal's Conservative colleagues privately castigated him Wednesday, but Stephen Harper publicly defended his MP's controversial tactics in exposing alleged Liberal skulduggery.

Grewal's tapes continued to reverberate around Parliament Hill, with Prime Minister Paul Martin admitting he condoned the secret talks between top Liberals and Grewal to join the Grits and was prepared to meet the Tory MP to complete a deal.

But the prime minister maintained he did not authorize an offer to be made to entice Grewal to change parties on the eve of a crucial confidence vote.

"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," Martin told a raucous House of Commons.

Harper pounced on the shift in Martin's story. "Now he admits he did authorize his senior people to engage in discussions," he said.

RCMP Commissioner Giuliano Zaccardelli and Ethics Commissioner Bernard Shapiro are considering investigations into the vote buying-allegations stemming from the secretly taped conversations between Martin's chief of staff Tim Murphy, Health Minister Ujjal Dosanjh and Grewal.

Harper, however, threw his support behind Grewal, contrary to skeptical caucus colleagues, and said he was aware of the negotiations. But he told his B.C. MP not to meet with the prime minister for further discussions.

After meeting on Wednesday with his caucus, Harper explained he first learned Grewal had made audiotapes in a May 17 telephone conversation with the MP. Grewal told Harper the tapes had "damaging" information that could hurt the Prime Minister's Office, the Tory leader recounted in his first public comments about the tape.

Harper said he trusts his MP's stated intentions -- to expose the Grits -- because Grewal was "always clear" he had no plan to abandon the party.

"What the tapes of Mr. Grewal show is exactly the process they use. I think the only issue now is why they (the Liberals) continue to lie about what they've done," Harper said.

While agreeing the Liberals have been caught with their hand in the cookie jar, many other Conservatives reacted with public ambivalence and private vitriol to their colleague's ruse. Sources said there's deep distrust of Grewal in caucus and his future in the party was limited even before this incident.

He was taken to task at caucus Wednesday and told his actions were dishonest, wrong and brought disrepute to all politicians. If indeed this was a sting operation, as Grewal maintains, he was told Harper should have been informed from the outset and the negotiations carried on far longer than necessary to obtain incriminating evidence.

There is also a sentiment among some Conservatives that information remains to come out and -- if it turns out Grewal lied to Harper about his involvement with the Liberals -- he should be turfed from the party.

But the Conservative distaste for their own colleague is tempered by their deeper frustration with Martin's suspect history of denials. If Grewal's personal integrity is forever besmirched by the episode, said one, it's a fair exchange for revealing the operating methods of the Prime Minister's Office.

For the record, a host of Conservatives said they would never secretly tape a conversation and several were at pains to keep Grewal at arm's length.

"Is it immoral? I don't think there's any question that selling your soul for a cabinet position, being enticed on the eve of votes, changing the outcome of something as critical as a vote like this -- people have to answer to themselves and look at themselves in the mirror," said deputy leader Peter MacKay, who watched his Tory love interest Belinda Stronach bolt to the Liberal's last month.

Bloc Quebecois Leader Gilles Duceppe, who has called on Dosanjh to resign and Murphy to step aside until an investigation is carried out, said Martin should have called in the RCMP immediately upon learning Grewal may have attempted to sell his vote.

NDP Leader Jack Layton said "everyone in this process has plenty to answer for."

June 2, 2005: CBC Reports: 2 Experts Hired by CBC and CP say Tapes Were Altered

Two audio experts, hired by CBC News and the Canadian Press, independently conclude that the Grewal tapes have been altered. Both point out sound anomalies that indicate the recordings have been changed. Dosanjh claims he and Grewal had a two-hour conversation in Dosanjh's home in which he repeatedly insisted he could make no promises of advancement in exchange for Grewal's vote on the confidence motion.
» CBC STORY: Experts say Grewal tapes were altered

June 2, 2005. Audio Expert finds gap in Tory tape

Audio expert finds gap in Tory tape
By JIM BRONSKILL AND ALEXANDER PANETTA

OTTAWA (CP) - One of Canada's top forensic-sound analysts says a conversation secretly taped by Tory MP Gurmant Grewal sounds like it was altered.

Stevan Pausak told The Canadian Press a 46-second segment of the recording now at the centre of a political storm has an abnormal break that indicates a portion may have been cut out. The gap occurs in a recorded phone chat between Grewal and Health Minister Ujjal Dosanjh about the possibility of Grewal joining the Liberals in exchange for an unspecified reward.

"It appears to be altered," Pausak said.

"This brief segment at the beginning shows that it's not continuous, and it should be."

Pausak, a physicist, MIT-trained forensic scientist and former Ontario government expert, provides analysis for court trials through his Oakville-based company, Forensic Science Services Inc.

After defending the integrity of the tapes for days, the Conservatives conceded late Thursday that small gaps occurred when the master tapes were transferred to CD.

But the two examples they provided did not explain an entirely separate abnormality Pausak found.

Pausak examined just one segment of the tape Thursday at the request of The Canadian Press and raised questions about it.

He says there's a discontinuity in that audio file, what he calls a "zero-signal gap" - commonly known as dead air - of about 0.3 seconds. The signal goes abruptly to zero in that interval, and afterward it continues.

"I'm talking about alteration. I am trying to avoid the word tampering," Pausak said.

"When you are using the word tampering, that means intent, right? Most of the time there is no way to show intent through the examination of the recording. You just see that it's altered."

Several tapes surreptitiously recorded by Grewal have been turned over to the RCMP and could potentially be the subject of a criminal investigation.

He denied Thursday that he doctored the recordings, copies of which have been posted on his website.

"No, no, no," the Tory MP said when asked if he had tampered with any of the evidence.

"I can't answer any other questions simply because the RCMP is investigating. Let them do their job."

He added nothing else as he hurried away from a group of journalists following him.

The phone conversations and a meeting with Dosanjh and Tim Murphy, Prime Minister Paul Martin's chief of staff, took place on the eve of a confidence motion that could have spelled defeat for Martin's minority government.

The recordings suggest the Liberals tried to get the support of Grewal and his wife, fellow MP Nina, in exchange for future posts with the federal government.

Grewal has said he recorded two to four hours of audio, but barely 90 minutes were released earlier this week.

The RCMP, which has received the recordings, won't say whether it will launch a full investigation.

The Tories say questions about tampering are a distraction from the real story: that top Liberal officials were trying to bribe Tories on the eve of a crucial vote.

They say the Liberal tactics could violate Criminal Code anti-corruption laws that carry penalties of 14 years maximum in prison.

"(It's) an attempt to discredit what was said on the tapes," said Tory deputy leader Peter MacKay.

"For proof as to whether the prime minister and the government are capable of this he only has to swivel his head in his seat and take a look at his cabinet.

"And take a look at the number who have crossed the floor for either cabinet positions or parliamentary secretary positions."

Two former Tories - Belinda Stronach and Scott Brison - now sit in the Liberal cabinet.

The portion Pausak analysed contains a discussion of Brison's jump to the Liberals in late 2003.

Martin brushed off calls to dismiss Dosanjh and Murphy while the Mounties look into the matter.

"The fact is that it's not their credibility that's at stake," he said. "It's very clearly Mr. Grewal's."

All three opposition parties say Murphy should go.

Bloc Quebecois Leader Gilles Duceppe said the RCMP contacted the party to follow up on the Bloc's original complaint that there may have been criminal activity in the affair.

Martin repeated allegations Thursday that the tapes had been manipulated. He said that raises questions Grewal and Conservative Leader Stephen Harper must answer. "The allegations in terms of the tapes - the tapes have been doctored and this kind of thing - I think are actually very, very disturbing," he said. "And I think the questions really should be put to Mr. Harper and Mr. Grewal."

The prime minister said he authorized talks between the party and Grewal, but stressed that no job offers were made in exchange for votes.

Dosanjh said Wednesday that some portions of the tapes were altered to take out parts of conversations, and to move other parts to suggest wrongdoing. The tapes and subsequent allegations of tampering have the potential to trigger legal and political nightmares for both the Liberals and the Tories.

Pausak has been involved in political intrigue in the past. In 1977, a listening device was found in the Parliament Hill office of then-Tory MP Elmer MacKay - whose son, Peter, was leading the defence of the tapes' integrity Thursday. Pausak, then with the Ontario government's Centre of Forensic Sciences, was asked by police to examine the bug found near the elder MacKay's chair. "It was a small transmitter designed for surreptitious recordings, but it wasn't functional," Pausak recalled. Ironically, a detective who had been hired by the Conservatives was later convicted of planting the device.

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For a discussion of this and other stories related to Gurmant Grewal, his tapes, and other scandals follow this link.

June 2, 2005. The Current interviews Grewals' constituents

13'11

Tremonti: OK, now, you know as we discuss this, of course, voters all have different opinions, and of course, as is clear, your party is standing behind Mr. Grewal. We wanted to know how his constituents feel about all of this and we went to the streets of his British Columbia riding of Newton-North Delta and I just want you to hear a little bit of what people there had to say.

Voice 1: Uh, I think Grewal has made some mistakes in judgement in how he's handled this, but I think the fault is with the government for trying to bribe him to go over on their side. So, umm, he could have used better judgement. But I don't think he did anything wrong. I think it's definitely clandestine. This certainly isn't the first time that anybody's recorded a conversation that they've had with other officials. In fact, he'd be kind of stupid not to, if you want to protect your good name.

Voice 2: Both of them are responsible; both are members of parliament of a country like Canada. If the government has asked somebody then there's nothing wrong in a democratic country, or in any democratic form of system, to ask somebody if you'd support this particular motion or not. Nothing wrong with making an offer, 'if you want to support us in this bill, then you'd go into parliament. But if they discuss selling your opinion, then that's wrong. Selling your vote, either in the parliament or even on the outside, for one vote, that's against the spirit of the democratic system.

Voice 3: It's pretty underhanded. And who's to say, you know, I mean, who's to say that Grewal didn't pursue the Liberals and who's to say the Liberals didn't pursue him. I mean, I just think it's underhanded just to be taping in the first place. And obviously there's some kind of intent if you're taping.

June 2, 2005. The Current interviews Jason Kenney about the Grewal affair

This interview with Jason Kenney can be heard on the June 2 broadcast of the CBC Radio program, the Current. You can hear the statement for yourself at here. This section begins at 6:39.

Anna Maria Tremonti: The Current requested an interview with Stephen Harper, but he was not available this morning. So to talk about this I'm joined by Jason Kenney, the Conservative MP for Calgary Southest. Good morning, Mr. Kenney.

Kenney: Good Morning

Tremonti: As we heard your leader is basically defending Mr. Grewal. Do you think he's right to do that?

Kenney: Well, Mr. Grewal did what Belinda Stronach didn't do, which was to turn down offers to buy his vote as an opposition member, that of he and his wife. It's very clear from the tapes …. Let's keep this in perspective, about four weeks ago one of my colleagues, Inky Mark, an MP from Manitoba received a phone-call from a cabinet minister offering him rewards for crossing the floor, changing his vote. Uh, he refused to do that. But he didn't tape the call, and so the government came out and lied that it ever happened. Some people in the media were sceptical that he ever received those kind of, effectively, br… offers to … bribes … bribes to do his vote. And so Mr. Grewal, I think, has--observing that--has decided that, in the midst of these discussions, he was going to catch them at their own game. Which is an absolute part of a pattern. It's clear to anybody with eyes to see that they bought Belinda Stronach's vote with an inducement to cabinet, and that's what they were effectively offering Mr. Grewal.

Tremonti: OK, well, there are a couple of issues here. There's the tapes and there's the whole idea of the deal-making. Let me ask you about the first one. How appropriate do you think it is for an MP to secretly tape conversations.

Kenney: Well, I don't do it. And I don't think it's a normal practice around here, but it demonstrates the level of … how low the level of trust has declined in Paul Martin's Ottawa, that MPs, uh … And you know, quite frankly, I think at the end of the day, what Gurmant did, in retrospect, is a public service because he has revealed the kind of underhanded and potentially criminal fashion in which Paul Martin's Prime Minister's office operates. People weren't willing to believe Inky Mark when he talked about the cabinet minister who called him. Apparently they were willing to look the other way when Belinda Stronach's vote was essentially bought off by an inducement to cabinet. And so what Mr. Grewal has done is to shed a very bright light on effectively corruption in government. It is illegal in the criminal code to offer a Member of Parliament an inducement to change his vote.

Tremonti: It's also illegal to ask for one, is it not?

Kenney: And you don't see that being asked for anywhere in these transcripts. [Buckets: that is, the May 31st transcripts; the June 5th transcripts have several places where Grewal asks] And the Prime Minist… And you know what? The real problem here is the Prime Minister's integrity. Because he claimed, before these tapes were released, that Mr. Grewal approached them. But Mr. Murphy, Paul Martin's chief of staff, says twice 'you did not approach us'. Mr. Martin said Mr. Grewal wouldn't take no for an answer and was given an unequivocal no. In these nearly two hours of tapes [Buckets: at this point, 1 hour and 20 minutes of tapes had been released], the word 'no' is not uttered once. Instead they're told there is a 'furry welcome mat' that will be rolled out; that a cabinet job could be arranged 'right away'; that, uh, uh, 'I'm sure rewards are there at some point'; 'no one can forget such gestures but they require a certain degree of deniability'; they have the chief of staff to the Prime Minister saying 'the Prime Minister is saying that we're making no offers and I think that is the narrative we have to stick to'. I mean, this is like Richard Nixon's plausible deniability.

Tremonti: Well, you certainly make the point that those phrases are all in there. But what we don't know is … Mr. Grewal says the Liberals approached him, the Liberals say the reverse, the tapes don't really make clear who approached whom. There's no hellos and goodbyes on some of these tapes. What is clear is that Mr. Grewal did engage, as you point out, in several conversations about getting political rewards in exchange for his vote and his wife's vote. But how appropriate was that kind of conversation on the part of Mr. Grewal.

Kenney: Well, let's put it this way, if Mr. Grewal, hypothetically, had in fact initiated these calls--contrary-to-the-fact, by the way, the chief of staff says that he didn't--had he initiated these conversations and was seeking inducements to change votes and that of his wife, the Prime Minister's chief of staff and his Health minister would have had one responsible, ethical, and legal option, which is to say, 'Mr. Grewal, we cannot engage in such a conversation, to do so would be unethical and illegal, this conversation is over, good-bye'. Instead, Tim Murphy went to his office, called Mr. Grewal's office six times. Mr. Dosanjh met with him and spoke with him over half-a-dozen times, and the so-called Liberal intermediary called Mr. Grewal 23-times in the 72-hours prior to the vote. Does that sound like the actions of people who are shocked and appalled with an MP approaching them for inducements? Or, indeed, is it consistent with the record of people who have bought off Belinda Stronach's vote with an inducement to a cabinet job and tried to do the same with Inky Mark. I don't think so. I think it's clear where … who's wearing the ethical problem here.

(13'11)

Tremonti: OK, now, you know as we discuss this, of course, voters all have different opinions, and of course, as is clear, your party is standing behind Mr. Grewal. We wanted to know how his constituents feel about all of this and we went to the streets of his British Columbia riding of Newton-North Delta and I just want you to hear a little bit of what people there had to say.

Voice 1: Uh, I think Grewal has made some mistakes in judgement in how he's handled this, but I think the fault is with the government for trying to bribe him to go over on their side. So, umm, he could have used better judgement. But I don't think he did anything wrong. I think it's definitely clandestine. This certainly isn't the first time that anybody's recorded a conversation that they've had with other officials. In fact, he'd be kind of stupid not to, if you want to protect your good name.

Voice 2: Both of them are responsible; both are members of parliament of a country like Canada. If the government has asked somebody then there's nothing wrong in a democratic country, or in any democratic form of system, to ask somebody if you'd support this particular motion or not. Nothing wrong with making an offer, 'if you want to support us in this bill, then you'd go into parliament. But if they discuss selling your opinion, then that's wrong. Selling your vote, either in the parliament or even on the outside, for one vote, that's against the spirit of the democratic system.

Voice 3: It's pretty underhanded. And who's to say, you know, I mean, who's to say that Grewal didn't pursue the Liberals and who's to say the Liberals didn't pursue him. I mean, I just think it's underhanded just to be taping in the first place. And obviously there's some kind of intent if you're taping.

(14'41) Tremonti: Jason Kenney, some mixed responses there. How do you think this is going to play out among Conservative supporters in long run.

Kenney: Well, I think that whether it's Conservative or other … supporters of other parties, what they're going to see here is a pretty disgusting picture of how Paul Martin's Ottawa operates. That, that, you know, all it is confirmation of a very clear pattern, that

Tremonti: But you heard the cynicism about both sides there. You heard people saying both had a responsibility. Are you at all concerned about the fact that this could actually bite your party as well.

Kenney: Look. The difference between Gurmant Grewal's situation and Belinda Stronach's is that she took the inducement and didn't reveal the offers that she got to change her vote. Mr. Grewal did. I don't think he should be penalized.

Tremonti: OK, let me ask you about that, because you're basically saying that there had to be a conversation. What are you saying about what might have gone on, or what you might suspect went on with Ms. Stronach before.

Kenney: Well, it's absolutely clear. She, she, she went from being, um, from being a Conservative member of Parliament, voting non-confidence in the government one day to senior minister the other, changing her vote. The two are clearly connected. It was not a coincidence that she was appointed a minister the precise moment she changed her vote on a question of confidence in the House of Commons. I believe that was clearly unethical. And, and, you know, Mr. Grewal should not be blamed for telling the truth and turning down inducements to he and his wife to change his vote. He acted, ultimately--I mean, I'm not someone who goes around recording my conversations but at the end of the day, it's the Prime Minister's staff who were violating integrity, ethics, and potentially the law. It was Mr. Grewal who's revealed that. And in that sense, I believe he's done a public service. I'll tell you this. Because of what he's done, I don't believe this sort of incident will happen again. I think the prime minister's staff and ministers will be far, far more careful in the future

Tremonti: Or check for bugs.

Kenney: (laughing) before they try buying people off and in that sense I think some good will come of this whole incident.

Tremonti: Well let me ask you this, though. Mr. Harper has indicated that he did know that Mr. Grewal was going to see the Prime Minister and he was asked if he wanted him to go and Mr. Harper says he told Mr. Grewal, no. Was there more of a concerted effort? This was a very crucial moment in a vote. The Conservatives wanted to see the government fall. Was there not more of a concerted effort to convince Mr. Grewal, on the Conservative side? (17'00)

Kenney: I don't think it was necessary, as I think I … as it's … this is why I think Gurmant's good intentions were clear, because he approached Mr. Harper when he had an open door to see the Prime Minister, when these inducements had been laid before he (sic) and his wife, he went to Mr. Harper and said 'this is what's up, do you want me to pursue this conversation, I guess to find out what he's going to tell me'. Stephen said, uh, 'no', uh, 'please don't' and Gurmant then released the tapes and then voted non-confidence in the government.

Tremonti: But, that again suggests that this was an entrapment. So he wasn't …

Kenney: Well, heh heh,

Tremonti: That they didn't say please stay with us, we need your vote. Why do you want to go to the Liberals if there was no effort on the other side. That it was, 'Oh, whatever. Go see them. '

Kenney: Well, I, I, I, I don't think we've … that Mr. Harper felt at any point that Mr. Grewal was going to join the Liberals. But I'll tell you, Gurmant was willing to string them out and, uh, uh, they did precisely that. And they made it very clear that they were prepared to offer him--he and his wife--inducements, contrary to the spirit of the criminal code if not the letter, in order to change their votes. And that's what this issue is about. And the Prime Minister denied all of this. He said he wasn't prepared to meet Mr. Grewal, and he was. He said Mr. Grewal approached them, now it's clear that he didn't. He said that he was given no for an answer, he was never given no. He was offered all of these inducements. And, and so, you know, it's … it's the Liberals who are going to have to answer why

Tremonti: In fact, in fact the Liberal Health Minister will be, um, be coming on this programme, in our next half hour, but I want to ask you as well. Political pundits have been weighing in on how your party has handled this affair. Yesterday we asked Macleans magazine columnist Paul Wells for his thoughts and this is what Paul Welles had to say.

Paul Welles: Once Mr. Grewal went out and said… From the moment he went out and said he was in possession of tapes, it is hard to imagine how the Conservatives could have handled it worse. It took 13 days to come up with a translation, they still, if I understand it correctly--and it's kind of telling that this isn't clear--they still haven't released all of the tapes that Mr. Grewal claimed to possess. The fact remains that we can at least hear those tapes they have at least released and at least those parts that are in English, it really is some stuff that makes the Prime Minister's chief of staff look about as bad as they possibly could. That being said, the management of this set of tapes speaks to the Conservative party's ability to manage any complex fast-breaking file. And it doesn't speak very well.

Tremonti: That's Paul Welles, columnist for Macleans. Jason Kenney, he makes the point that what was released was very damning, but what about the rest of the tapes?

Kenney: My understanding is that everything has been released, and, uh, you know, uh…

Tremonti: Wait a minute, there were four hours of tapes.

Kenney: My understanding, according to Mr. Grewal, is that all the tapes have been released. [Buckets: This is June 2. Later that night, a new version of the Grewal-Murphy-Dosanjh tape was released that was 20 minutes longer; a few days later, another version of the Grewal-Murphy tape was released that was 15 minutes longer] It takes … I guess … you don't turn around Punjabi translation in Ottawa overnight.

Tremonti: But you can certainly do it in less than 13 days.

Kenney: Yah, but, look, listen. You know, what you're talking about now is, is, really just political tactics. How are the Conservatives managing this complex file--is not really important. What's important is whether we have a government that respects basic principles of integrity and the criminal code itself. And the bottom line here is you take away all the cute political who's up and who's down questions, who does this hurt most, what you have here is a documentary picture of a government, that's prepared to go to any lengths to stay in power with the knowledge of the Prime Minister. And that's why two-thirds of Canadians would say that the Prime Minister would lie, do or say anything to stay in power. This just confirms that.

Tremonti: Now, is it your understanding that the RCMP is investigating this? And should it? You've just made the point that it verges on criminal.

Kenney: Absolutely the RCMP should investigate. There are conflicting reports at this point as to whether or not they are. Mr. Grewal

Tremonti: Now, they would be investigating your own member as well. (21'00)

Kenney: Mr. Grewal has invited that and, I believe, has submitted the tapes to the RCMP. And Mr. Harper's made it clear that we look forward to cooperating with the criminal investigation.

Tremonti: OK, Jason Kenney, thank-you for talking to us today.

Kenney: My pleasure.

Tremonti: Jason Kenney is the Conservative MP for Calgary South-East, and he spoke to us from Ottawa.

June 2, 2005. The Current broadcasts Harper explains what he knew and when he knew it about Grewal tapes

This is a transcript of a statement of Harper. It can be heard on the June 2 broadcast of the CBC Radio program, the Current. You can hear the statement for yourself at here. Harper begins at 5'29
Harper: Gurmant approached me at our caucus meeting on Monday, May the 16th, and told me—it was just the end of the meeting--he had something important to tell me about his discussions with the Liberals. I didn’t have time to talk to him then because I was on the way to the airport. I said I’d call him the next morning. And at that point he told me that, uh, he had the option of meeting that evening with—he and Nina--of meeting that evening with the Prime Minister to discuss Liberal offers. Mr. Grewal, Gurmant, said to me in his conversation, when he told me that he taped these, uh, conversations, he said to me that, uh, he had the option of meeting that evening with the Prime Minister. And, I think, the tapes make clear that that offer was on the table, even though the Prime Minister said that’s not the case. I think it’s up now to the Prime Minister to come clean on that or explain why he hasn’t been telling the truth on that. But I believe that and I’ll just mention one other thing, Gurmant did ask me if I wanted him to meet with the Prime Minister and I said no. Thanks.

Reuters: Harper defends Grewal's actions

Harper defends Grewal's actions

Jim Young/Reuters

Conservative Leader Stephen Harper is defending MP Gurmant Grewal's secret tape-recording of discussions with senior Liberals despite widespread uneasiness about the sting operation among fellow Tories. Harper said that when he was first informed last month of Grewal's actions, he didn't encourage or discourage the Tory MP from British Columbia.

But yesterday he said Grewal had a right to surreptitiously record the talks with members of Prime Minister Paul Martin's government about possibly defecting to the Liberals. "In this business, you assume you are on the record at all times," Harper said.

The Conservatives continued to insist the tapes proved Liberals at the highest levels of the government were offering plum posts to steal away Tory MPs and that Martin's chief of staff, Tim Murphy, should step down pending an investigation. Bloc Québécois Leader Gilles Duceppe also revealed yesterday that he asked the RCMP to probe whether the negotiations between Grewal and the Liberals crossed a legal line.

Despite Harper's defence of Grewal, other Conservatives have expressed doubts about the ethics of Grewal's behaviour. "I don't think that one-sided taping of conversations is something that we should brag about or be doing on an ongoing basis," said John Williams (Edmonton-St. Albert). "I wouldn't do it."

Conservative James Moore (Port Moody-Westwood-Port Coquitlam) admitted he, too, was uneasy at Grewal secretly recording his negotiations with the Liberals. "I don't think it helps the atmosphere of a minority Parliament ... to be secretly taping conversations," he said.

And reports from the closed-door Tory caucus meeting said some MPs sharply criticized Grewal for putting all politicians' reputations at risk by the questionable sting tactic. For the second straight day, Grewal did not attend the daily question period in the Commons.

Harper said Grewal informed him on May 16 that he was talking with Martin's government about switching sides in the Commons. That was two days before Grewal revealed the existence of the tapes. Harper had no doubt Grewal was faking his offer to jump to the Liberals, who were desperate for a few votes to hang on to power in a looming confidence vote, the Tory leader remarked.

But Harper said he didn't signal his approval or disapproval of Grewal's bid to catch Liberals offering him a deal. "That was not the subject of our conversation," Harper said as he answered questions for the first time yesterday about the newly released transcripts.

Harper was careful, however, to point out that, when he had been asked by Grewal if the Conservative MP should try to lure Martin into a similar conversation, "I said no."

Harper said the Liberals had made a similar offer to Tory MP Inky Mark to cross the floor in exchange for a posting but Mark had no proof when the government denied it had happened. "Recently with Inky Mark, they denied in the past the attempt to buy off members of Parliament. They've lied about that," Harper said. The recordings, partly in Punjabi and partly in English, cover Grewal's discussions over three days with Murphy and Health Minister Ujjal Dosanjh.

Yesterday, Dosanjh said the tapes released by Grewal were not an accurate record.

"Let me first tell you: Mr. Grewal and the Tories have had 14 days in secret to fiddle with these tapes and we've had one day to look at them," he said. "And I can tell you that the translation is inaccurate in places from my knowledge of my own mother tongue, Punjabi, and from my recollection of the conversation in English and in Punjabi. Any reasonable person could come to a conclusion, a strong conclusion, that these tapes may have been altered."

Dosanjh put out an analysis of Grewal's transcript noting alleged errors. For instance, Dosanjh said the transcript doesn't record Grewal's expressed desire for a Senate seat.

But the Tories scoffed at Dosanjh's assertions. NDP Leader Jack Layton said someone at arm's length from Parliament needs to sift through the "very damaging and disturbing" conversations. The NDP yesterday formally asked federal ethics commissioner Bernard Shapiro to probe the behaviour of Grewal, Dosanjh and Murphy, whose conduct goes beyond the usual "rough and tumble of politics," said Layton. "What we're seeing here begins to talk about positions and votes," he said. "I think everyone in this process has plenty to answer for."

Meanwhile, House Leader Tony Valeri said for the first time that the government may keep MPs sitting beyond June 23 — the scheduled start of Parliament's summer break — to try to pass two budget implementation bills.

June 2, 2005. Conservative spokesman says 2 hours of tapes 'failed'

This is a scan of columns 4 and 5 of the article "Dosanjh accuses Tories of tampering", Globe and Mail, June 4, 2005, p. A4.

G&M NorquayPizzaTape001
A spokesman for Conservative Leader Stephen Harper, Geoff Norquay, said Mr. Grewal had tried to record the May 16 meeting, but was unsuccessful.
“It was not released because there was no recording of it,” Mr. Norquay said.
“He attempted to make a recording of it and the recroding failed.”
Mr. Harper said thae Tories have now released all the recordings.

(Hat tip to Maritime Liberal.)