Friday, June 03, 2005

June 3, 2005 : CBC Reports: Tories Blame "Edits Were Technical Glitch"

The Conservative party issues a press release saying the Grewal tapes appear to be altered because of a technical glitch that deleted some parts of the audio in the transfer to digital format. The party says the complete audio files are now on Grewal's website. CBC STORY: Tories blame tape-altering claims on technical glitch

June 3, 2005:Edmonton Journal Reports: Tapes May Have Been Edited

Grewal recordings may have been edited, expert says
Edmonton Journal
Friday, June 3, 2005
Page: A3
Section: News
Byline: Grant Robertson, Anne Dawson and Allan Woods, with files from Jack Aubry, Ottawa Citizen
Dateline: OTTAWA
Source: CanWest News Service; with files from Ottawa Citizen

OTTAWA - Recordings of secret conversations in which senior Liberals discuss plum government postings with a Tory MP in exchange for his support in a crucial budget vote appear to contain irregularities, according to an analysis by an independent audio expert.

In reviewing some two hours of discussions between B.C. Conservative Gurmant Grewal and top Liberal officials, Randy Dash, a professor and sound engineer at Ottawa's Algonquin College, said: "It appears that on one of the recordings, an edit could have been done."

Dash's findings, provided exclusively to CanWest News Service, come after federal Health Minister Ujjal Dosanjh and Prime Minister Paul Martin attacked the credibility of the recordings, which are now in the hands of Ethics Commissioner Bernard Shapiro and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

"It sounds like an audio edit," said Dash. "I'm saying that based on the millions of audio edits I've done."

But the government also faces a new challenge to its credibility after two prominent British Columbia Sikhs told CanWest News Service it was Dosanjh and the Liberals -- later joined by the prime minister's chief of staff Tim Murphy -- who initiated conversations with Grewal, the MP for Newton-North Delta.

Hardev Bal and Kushpal Gill said they visited the home of Sudesh Kalia, the man who brokered talks between the two sides, on April 30 and were told the Liberals were looking to lure a Tory MP.

They said Kalia raised the topic during a conversation about growing rumours in the tight-knit Indo-Canadian community that Grewal was up for a Senate posting.

"(Kalia) said, 'Ujjal asked me to get somebody across the floor, Gurmant is the guy, so I will talk to him,' " Bal said in an interview.

"I remember his words were in Punjabi," Gill said in a separate interview. "The literal translation is: 'Ujjal asked, Bring him to me once.' "

Kalia, who has issued a signed statement supporting Dosanjh's version of events, disputed the allegations, while the Grits questioned why it has taken weeks for someone to question the story. The Liberals contend it was Grewal who approached them looking for a diplomatic posting and a Senate seat for he and his wife, Nina, also a Tory MP.

"The minister gives this no credence whatsoever," Ken Polk, a spokesman for Dosanjh, said of the allegations by the two B.C. men. "It took the Tories two weeks to produce tapes that appear to have been doctored. And it has taken longer to produce people who will dispute the minister and Mr. Kalia."

Facing increased scrutiny over what role his top officials played in the affair, the prime minister flat-out refused Thursday to fire or demand the resignation of Dosanjh and Murphy, who are at the heart of the taped discussions.

"It is not their credibility that is at stake. It's the credibility of Mr. Grewal," Martin said Thursday after a cabinet meeting.

The ethics commissioner also told reporters Thursday he doesn't appreciate his office being "bandied about" during any inter-party negotiations.

Shapiro said Murphy, the prime minister's chief of staff, has been placed "under a cloud" by making a taped suggestion to Grewal that he could influence a report by the ethics commissioner.

When asked if he felt Murphy had put into question the integrity of his office by making the suggestion to Grewal, Shapiro responded: "Well, I think the cloud is (over) the person who makes the suggestion, not the office."

He has said no request was ever made by Murphy and it would have been unacceptable if he had received such a request because of the office's independence.

Angry Tories also said the Grits were merely throwing up a "smokescreen" to deflect the blame from the highest ranks of the government.

Deputy Conservative leader Peter MacKay accused the prime minister's inner circle of interfering in the work of the Mounties. He noted RCMP officials told a television network Wednesday a criminal investigation into the matter had already been launched.

The officials later changed their story after the network, prompted by the PMO, was put in contact with a senior police spokesperson that night.

"I'm suggesting it smacks of political interference," MacKay said. "Someone from the PMO contacts the network and says, 'There is no investigation and here's a phone number of someone from the RCMP who will confirm there is no investigation.' "

Conservative Leader Stephen Harper was not in the House of Commons on Thursday, but MacKay said the tapes submitted to the RCMP were "the original, only copy."

In his analysis, Dash ran digital files of the conversations made public on Grewal's website through sophisticated software applications used for audio recording and editing.

His probe discovered two irregularities -- a remark that appears to have been edited, and a preamble by someone with an "East Indian accent" that describes the ensuing conversation.

While he said the preamble could have been recorded before or after the discussions were taped, the edit may suggest a portion of the conversation was removed.

He was referring to a phrase in a conversation "cabinet is quick" in which Dosanjh appears to tell Grewal he could expect a quick cabinet appointment. Dash says the phrase "cuts off" in the middle and "then it jumps back as if it were cut and pasted. That could definitely be an edit."

Though his findings call into question MacKay's claim the recordings are "pristine," they also contradict Liberal allegations Wednesday that gross manipulations have taken place. Martin said the prospect the tapes were doctored is "very, very disturbing" and he urged the Tories to explain the discrepancies.

Asked point-blank if the tapes had been spliced, Harper spokesman Geoff Norquay said: "Of course not."

He added the Conservatives can account for the whereabouts of the recordings for the two weeks they were in Tory custody being translated and transcribed by party staffers and an outside agency in preparation for public distribution.

June 3, 2005: two say it was the Liberals who approached Grewal

Buried within the June 3rd story about the opinion of forensic audio specialist, Randy Dash, quoted in full here, are statements of two men who say that it was the Liberals who approached Grewal, not the other way around.

But the government on Thursday faced another challenge to its credibility after two prominent British Columbia Sikhs told CanWest News Service it was Dosanjh and the Liberals _ later joined by the prime minister's chief of staff Tim Murphy _ who initiated conversations with Grewal.

Hardev Bal and Kushpal Gill said they visited the home of Sudesh Kalia, the man who brokered talks between the two sides, on April 30 and were told the Liberals were looking to lure a Tory MP.

They said Kalia raised the topic during a conversation about growing rumours in the tight-knit Indo-Canadian community that Grewal was up for a Senate posting.

"(Kalia) said 'Ujjal asked me to get somebody across the floor, Gurmant is the guy, so I will talk to him,'" Bal said in an interview.

"I remember his words were in Punjabi," Gill said in a separate interview. "The literal translation is: `Ujjal asked, Bring him to me once.'"

Kalia, who has issued a signed statement supporting Dosanjh's version of events, disputed the allegations, while the Grits questioned why it has taken weeks for someone to question the story. The Liberals contend it was Grewal who approached them looking for a diplomatic posting and a Senate seat for he and his wife, Nina, also a Tory MP.

"The minister gives this no credence whatsoever," Ken Polk, a spokesman for Dosanjh, said of the allegations by the two B.C. men. "It took the Tories two weeks to produce tapes that appear to have been doctored. And it has taken longer to produce people who will dispute the minister and Mr. Kalia."

June 3, 2005: Dash: 'It sounds like an audio edit'

Grewal tapes may have been edited, expert says; [1]
Grant Robertson, Anne Dawson and Allan Woods. CanWest News. Don Mills, Ont.: Jun 3, 2005. pg. 1

OTTAWA - Recordings of secret conversations in which senior Liberals discuss plum government postings with a Tory MP in exchange for his support in a crucial budget vote appear to contain irregularities, according to an analysis by an independent audio expert.

In reviewing some two hours of discussions between B.C. Conservative Gurmant Grewal and top Liberal officials, Randy Dash, a professor and sound engineer at Ottawa's Algonquin College, said: "it appears that on one of the recordings, an edit could have been done."

Dash's findings, provided exclusively to CanWest News Service, come after federal Health Minister Ujjal Dosanjh and Prime Minister Paul Martin attacked the credibility of the recordings, which are now in the hands of Ethics Commissioner Bernard Shapiro and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

"It sounds like an audio edit," said Dash. "I'm saying that based on the millions of audio edits I've done."

Late Thursday night, however, the Conservatives issued a statement to counter the expert's claims.

The party says Grewal provided the Conservatives with all of the tapes he had, which were eventually transferred onto a series of CDs that were used in the translation and transcription process.

"It appears that a technical problem occurred during this transfer to CD. In two locations on the CD, brief passages of a few seconds each are missing. Mr. Grewal has now posted the complete audio file on his website," the party states.

In the problematic passages, the Tories say there is no significant change to the substance of the conversation.

But the government on Thursday faced another challenge to its credibility after two prominent British Columbia Sikhs told CanWest News Service it was Dosanjh and the Liberals _ later joined by the prime minister's chief of staff Tim Murphy _ who initiated conversations with Grewal.

Hardev Bal and Kushpal Gill said they visited the home of Sudesh Kalia, the man who brokered talks between the two sides, on April 30 and were told the Liberals were looking to lure a Tory MP.

They said Kalia raised the topic during a conversation about growing rumours in the tight-knit Indo-Canadian community that Grewal was up for a Senate posting.

"(Kalia) said 'Ujjal asked me to get somebody across the floor, Gurmant is the guy, so I will talk to him,'" Bal said in an interview.

"I remember his words were in Punjabi," Gill said in a separate interview. "The literal translation is: `Ujjal asked, Bring him to me once.'"

Kalia, who has issued a signed statement supporting Dosanjh's version of events, disputed the allegations, while the Grits questioned why it has taken weeks for someone to question the story. The Liberals contend it was Grewal who approached them looking for a diplomatic posting and a Senate seat for he and his wife, Nina, also a Tory MP.

"The minister gives this no credence whatsoever," Ken Polk, a spokesman for Dosanjh, said of the allegations by the two B.C. men. "It took the Tories two weeks to produce tapes that appear to have been doctored. And it has taken longer to produce people who will dispute the minister and Mr. Kalia."

Facing increased scrutiny over what role his top officials played in the affair, the prime minister flat-out refused on Thursday to fire or demand the resignation of Dosanjh and Murphy, who are at the heart of the taped discussions.

"It is not their credibility that is at stake. It's the credibility of Mr. Grewal," Martin said Thursday after a cabinet meeting.

The ethics commissioner also told reporters Thursday he doesn't appreciate his office being "bandied about" during any inter-party negotiations.

Shapiro said Murphy, the prime minister's chief of staff, has been placed "under a cloud" by making a taped suggestion to Grewal that he could influence a report by the ethics commissioner.

When asked if he felt Murphy had put into question the integrity of his office by making the suggestion to Grewal, Shapiro responded: "Well, I think the cloud is (over) the person who makes the suggestion, not the office.

He has said no request was ever made by Murphy and it would have been unacceptable if he had received such a request because of the office's independence.

Angry Tories also said the Grits were merely throwing up a "smokescreen" to deflect the blame from the highest ranks of the government.

Deputy Conservative Leader Peter MacKay accused the prime minister's inner circle of interfering in the work of the Mounties. He noted RCMP officials told a television network Wednesday a criminal investigation into the matter had already been launched.

The officials later changed their story after the network, prompted by the PMO, was put in contact with a senior police spokesperson that night.

"I'm suggesting it smacks of political interference," MacKay said. "Someone from the PMO contacts the network and says 'There is no investigation and here's a phone number of someone from the RCMP who will confirm there is no investigation."'

Conservative Leader Stephen Harper was not in the House of Commons on Thursday, but MacKay said the tapes submitted to the RCMP were "the original, only copy."

In his analysis, Dash ran digital files of the conversations made public on Grewal's website through sophisticated software applications used for audio recording and editing.

His probe discovered two irregularities _ a remark that appears to have been edited, and a preamble by someone with an "East Indian accent" that describes the ensuing conversation.

While he said the preamble could have been recorded before or after the discussions were taped, the edit may suggest a portion of the conversation was removed.

He was referring to a phrase in a conversation "cabinet is quick" in which Dosanjh appears to tell Grewal he could expect a quick cabinet appointment. Dash says the phrase "cuts off" in the middle and "then it jumps back as if it were cut and pasted. That could definitely be an edit."

Though his findings call into question MacKay's claim the recordings are "pristine", they also contradict Liberal allegations Wednesday that gross manipulations have taken place. Martin said the prospect the tapes were doctored is "very, very disturbing" and he urged the Tories to explain the discrepancies.

Asked point-blank if the tapes had been spliced, Harper spokesman Geoff Norquay said: "Of course not."

He added the Conservatives can account for the whereabouts of the recordings for the two weeks they were in Tory custody being translated and transcribed by party staffers and an outside agency in preparation for public distribution.

Calgary Herald/CanWest News Service/with a file from Jack Aubry (Ottawa Citizen)

Credit: CanWest News Service; Ottawa Citizen

June 3, 2005: Stronach denies defection anything like Grewal's power play

Stronach denies defection anything like Grewal's power play
Anne Dawson. CanWest News. Don Mills, Ont.: Jun 3, 2005. pg. 1

OTTAWA - New Human Resources Minister Belinda Stronach said her defection to the government was nothing like the murky negotiations between Tory MP Gurmant Grewal and the Liberals _ she did not record her talks and her decision was based on "fate and circumstance."

Stronach, in her first interview since the furor over the Grewal tapes, said she did not do any negotiations with Prime Minister Paul Martin or his chief of staff Tim Murphy.

Rather, it was former Ontario premier David Peterson, an old friend, who talked to Murphy, suggesting possibilities that might interest her. She admitted she phoned Peterson the day after running into him at a dinner a few days before she defected to tell her how unhappy she was in the Conservative party and what a "gut-wrenching decision" she faced in last month's budget vote.

She said she did not even speak with Murphy until just hours before she met Martin at 24 Sussex Dr., although Peterson had told her through his discussions with Murphy that the Liberals were interested in having her play a significant role in democratic renewal and human resources development.

"David then went and spoke (to) Tim, yes. You'll have to ask him about the details though. I didn't tape the conversation," said Stronach, perched in her newly decorated office in the Justice Building near Parliament Hill. "He came back and said yes ... there's a positive interest in you serving in this capacity and then it flowed."

Stronach's surprise defection stunned political players and observers two weeks ago. She has been labelled a hero by some, a traitor by others, and a whore and a prostitute by some of her former Tory colleagues. The move was considered a huge coup for the Liberals, who were destined to be toppled without her on side, and is now being looked at as the template for how the Liberals may have approached Grewal to seek his support as well.

Stronach said her jump to the Liberals was based on "principle" and has no similarities whatsoever to Grewal's negotiations. Like Stronach, Grewal also had a third party broker in his dealings with the Liberals, but Stronach said she really knows nothing about what went down with him because she has been too busy concentrating on learning about employment insurance.

"They are absolutely not connected in any way. Mine is a question of fate and circumstance and based on principle. I had to make a very difficult decision in the lead up to the vote. I did not feel comfortable bringing down the government lining up with the Bloc when the only winner at the end of the day would have been the Bloc."

Stronach _ who was CEO at her family's giant autoparts company Magna International Inc., led a global restructuring of the human resources department _ told Peterson about her desire to bring about democratic renewal because her brief experience in politics taught her the "system doesn't work."

"(Peterson) said: `Look, would you serve in another capacity?' and I said yes I would and my interest lies in democratic renewal. The system doesn't work," said Stronach.

Peterson spoke to Murphy and that is when he returned to tell her the Liberals were interested in having her play the two roles.

Stronach said it was only at dinner that Martin brought up the idea that she could assist the government in implementing the Gomery recommendations.

The Gomery role "falls under democratic renewal," she said.

"When I went and saw (Martin) Monday night, he said: `Look, are you serious about democratic renewal?' and he said: `Look, yes, I'm serious about doing this and you would have the authority to make sure that the Gomery recommendations get implemented."'

"So there was no negotiating with the prime minister. It was not that at all," insisted Stronach.

Stronach, 39, conceded it has been a tough few weeks given the pressure she faced in the lead up to the vote, the negotiations with the Liberals and a sick daughter who was rushed to hospital to have her appendix removed, following Stronach's defection.

Stronach became uncomfortable Thursday at the mere mention of her former boyfriend, Tory deputy leader Peter MacKay.

"We have an OK relationship," she insisted. But quickly added: "I'm not going to comment on the personal side. I'm not going to go there."

Stronach said she consulted one other very important person before making her decision to jump ship, although she corrected a reporter who labeled the move as such saying she prefers to call her move "joining the Liberals." She spoke to her father, Frank Stronach, founder of Magna, one of the richest men in Canada, and a former failed candidate for the federal Liberals.

"I talked to him Sunday, yes. He said, `Look, do what you think is right.' He might give me his best advice and at the end of the day, he knows I'll make my own decisions and he'll support that."

CanWest News Service