Monday, June 06, 2005

June 6, 2005: CBC Reports: Tories Blame Tape-Altering On "Technical Glitch"

Tories blame tape-altering claims on technical glitch

The Conservative party is claiming that secret recordings made by member of Parliament Gurmant Grewal appear to have been altered because of a technical glitch....

In a press release, the party said that certain brief passages of the audio tapes were accidentally omitted in the transfer to a CD format.

When the missing audio is restored, the substance of the conversations remains the same, according to the press release.

Grewal secretly recorded hours of conversations with Health Minister Ujjal Dosanjh and Tim Murphy, the prime minister's chief of staff, about switching parties. On the tapes, Dosanjh and Murphy appear to hint that the B.C. MP and his wife Nina, who is also a Conservative MP, could be rewarded in the future in return for supporting the Liberal government in last month's non-confidence vote.

The Tories are defending the authenticity of the tapes in the wake of two audio experts who independently concluded that the secret recordings made by Grewal were edited.

John Dooher, a forensic audio engineer hired by CBC News, said Thursday there is a "crude" edit and something "amiss" about a section of recordings made by Grewal.

"Right here, we hear what sounds like an edit. We have a change in the frequency spectrum so something has changed there," said Dooher, demonstrating the difference while at a sound board.

Dooher said that more sophisticated testing could offer more certainty, but he believes his original conclusion.

"This sounds to me, not only that this is an edit, but an edit done with something very crude," he said.

His conclusions are supported by Stevan Pausak, one of Canada's leading forensic-sound analysts. Pausak was asked by the Canadian Press to carry out a similar examination. He said one of the recordings has an abnormal break, indicating a section may have been cut out.

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

"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."

Dosanjh hinted Thursday that Conservative Leader Stephen Harper's office was involved in tampering with the tapes.

"The leader of the Opposition had the tapes for 14 days," Dosanjh said of the contentious secret recordings. "What were they doing with them?"

bout 90 minutes of taped conversations were released early this week, though Grewal had said he recorded up to four hours of talks with Dosanjh and Murphy.

Grewal denied Thursday the tapes had been altered before refusing to answer any more questions on the grounds that the RCMP were looking into the matter.

The Conservatives want an inquiry conducted on their allegation that the Liberals tried to buy Grewal's vote, and the Bloc Québécois have asked the RCMP to investigate the matter.

Dosanjh and other top Liberals have said Grewal made the first approach, demanding a cabinet position for himself and an ambassadorship or Senate appointment for his wife, in return for not voting against the Liberals on a key May 19 confidence motion.

June 6, 2005 CBC Reports: Grewal To Take A "Stress Leave"

Stephen Harper announces that Grewal is going on stress leave because of the "significant personal pressure" he has been feeling. Grewal will not be present in the House or attend committee meetings, but he will still be a member of the Conservative caucus. CBC STORY: MP Grewal goes on stress leave

June 6, 2005: The Hill Times: But should Murphy have been involved?

But should Murphy have been involved? Some say the PM's chief of staff should never have been involved in the now infamous talks with Conservative MP Gurmant Grewal. Others say it's his job
Rana, F Abbas. The Hill Times. Jun 6, 2005., Iss. 790; pg. 1

Abstract (Document Summary)
"It would have been more appropriate if [Tim Murphy] had said, 'I'm here to listen.'If you're thinking about abstaining, if you and your wife are thinking about crossing over, I'm here to listen, I'm not here in a position to offer anything, at this point, but I'll certainly be happy to hear you out."

"Tim was very very correct, I want to emphasize that. He said, 'You're going to be welcome.'To say much more than that would have been foolish on his part and he didn't. I thought he was very disciplined and very correct."

"At this stage, there's no way they're going to ask Murphy to stand down until it's resolved because a resolution to this may never come. It's an issue that people argue about, but inducing people to cross the floor has been going on forever, one way, or, the other. They don't always cross for Cabinet posts, but they very seldom ever cross out of straightforward matters of principle without anything being done at the other end."


Full Text (2115 words)
Copyright Hill Times Publishing Jun 6, 2005
Some political players on both sides of the fence say even though Prime Minister Paul Martin is running a wobbly minority government and a defeat in the crucial May 19 budget vote in the House could have toppled it, the chief of staff to the Prime Minister of Canada should never have dropped obvious hints of a possible reward to Conservative MP Gurmant Grewal in private conversations in exchange for either abstaining from voting against the government or joining the Liberal caucus.

Some say Tim Murphy should never have been involved in the talks, period. Others say it's his job.

"It is a minority Parliament and things are a little bit different and certainly it was coming up to a what everybody characterized as, 'the most crucial vote in decades in the House of Commons,' but you have to, at the same time, step back and look at the big picture and see; where are you crossing the line and what is the ethical and proper thing to do,"said former NDP MP Dick Proctor a former chief of staff to Mr. Layton (Toronto- Danforth, Ont.) and a former chief of staff to former NDP leader Ed Broadbent (Ottawa Centre, Ont.) from 1979-80.

"It would have been more appropriate if Murphy had said, 'I'm here to listen.'If you're thinking about abstaining, if you and your wife are thinking about crossing over, I'm here to listen, I'm not here in a position to offer anything, at this point, but I'll certainly be happy to hear you out."

A day before the May 19 vote in the House, Mr. Grewal (Newton-North Delta, B.C.) caused an unprecedented political firestorm on the federal political scene when he said that senior Liberals approached him with the offer of a Cabinet, Senate or diplomatic job to him and his wife, Conservative MP Nina Grewal (Fleetwood-Port Kells, B.C.), if both would either abstain from voting against the government or break ranks with their party. Mr. Grewal dropped a bombshell when he said he had secretly recorded those conversations spanning over four hours between himself, Health Minister Ujjal Dosanjh (Vancouver South, B.C.) and Mr. Murphy.

The Liberals have steadfastly denied any offers were made to Mr. Grewal.

Initially, Mr. Grewal released only eight minutes of the taped conversation with Mr. Murphy.

Once the story surfaced, Bloc Leader Gilles Duceppe (Laurier-Sainte Marie, Que.) wrote a letter to the RCMP to investigate the issue and NDP Whip Yvon Godin (Acadie- Bathurst, N.B.) asked Ethics Commissioner Bernard Shapiro to conduct an investigation.

Last week, under pressure from the media and politicians from all the parties, Mr. Grewal released the transcripts and tapes of about 96 minutes of conversations which showed that although no explicit offer was made by the Liberals, there were obvious indications from Mr. Dosanjh and Mr. Murphy that after the vote, Mr. and Ms. Grewal might be rewarded if they abstained from voting or joined the governing party.

"Nobody will make you a totally blunt promise, because that is just not done in politics, usually. Going into Cabinet right away, that's a possibility," Mr. Dosanjh told Mr. Grewal in a May 17 conversation.

And Mr. Murphy at one occasion said: "Let me make one thing absolutely clear, that we are, we're, a welcoming party. We'll do everything we can to be welcoming. Obviously for us continuing to expand our base in B.C. and in prominent communities in this country is a political priority for us. It is a welcome mat that has a lot of nice comfy fur on it."

Since the release of the tapes, Mr. Dosanjh has said that they had been doctored, and were not properly translated from Punjabi, or even transcribed from English to English. He also said that Mr. Grewal did not make all the tapes public.

Subsequently, other major media outlets hired sound engineers to go over the tapes last week.They determined edits were made.

But Mr. Grewal denied that the tapes were edited. "No, no, no," the Tory MP told a group of reporters on the Hill when asked if he had tried to tamper with the tapes."I can't answer any other questions simply because the RCMP is investigating. Let them do their job."

The Tories issued a press release on Thursday night in which they conceded that there were indeed some technical problems with the tapes but that those glitches occurred when audio tapes were copied to a CD. They also stressed that the missing parts in the conversations caused "no significant change to the substance of the conversation."

Following the release of the tapes and transcripts, opposition parties demanded that Prime Minister Paul Martin (LaSalle- Emard, Que.) should ask Mr. Murphy and Mr. Dosanjh to step aside while the RCMP probes the issue. But Mr. Martin has ruled out any such possibility. Conservatives also accused senior PMO officials last week of interfering in the work of the RCMP.

But The Canadian Press reported on Friday that Conservative Deputy Leader Peter MacKay (Central Nova, N.S.) now refuses to defend the veracity of publicly-released copies of the tapes nor will he vouch for Mr. Grewal's credibility.

Liberal MP Roger Gallaway (Sarnia- Lambton, Ont.) told The Globe and Mail that Mr. Murphy and Mr. Dosanjh should be suspended from their positions until an investigation is completed. The newspaper also reported on June 3 that several other Liberal MPs also said in private conversations that both of the individuals should be asked by the Prime Minister to step aside until the conclusion of an investigation.

CanWest News reported on June 3 that two prominent members of the Indo-Canadian community in B.C. said it was the Liberals who initiated the conversations with Mr. Grewal. Liberals have said since the story came out that Mr. Grewal contacted them for negotiations and have put forward a statement from Sudesh Kalia, the friend and middleman between Mr. Dosanjh and Mr. Grewal who said that Mr. Grewal asked him to initiate the conversations.

Meanwhile, Mr. Proctor said that the three individuals involved in these conversations crossed the line when they discussed the possibility of a possible reward in return for crossing the floor or abstaining from the vote.

"It seems to me that everybody crossed the line on this one. Grewal, if he initiated the thing, Dosanjh, with what he promised, and Murphy, in terms of some of his comments, which are less specific, but nonetheless the intent is there. I think they all did," said Mr. Proctor.

Legal experts, however, are divided over whether the negotiations between Mr. Murphy, Mr. Dosanjh and Mr. Grewal constitute a criminal offence.

"I think it would be a real stretch to call this a criminal offence. I think you need some element of financial benefit, a direct financial benefit being involved, and I mean, let's face it, this is the kind of horse-trading that goes on all the time in politics," said Edward Ratushny, a law professor at the University of Ottawa in an interview with CBC's The National on June 2.

But David Mitchell, another law professor with the University of Ottawa law school told The National in the same story that the incident is troubling.

"This is an issue of, again, a significant erosion in confidence in the institutions of governance of our country.The mere fact that these conversations have occurred has got to be worrisome,"he said.

Meanwhile, C.E.S. Franks, professor emeritus in the department of political science at Queen's University, told The Hill Times that it's difficult to formulate a definitive opinion of who was at fault among the three individuals involved because it's unclear if all the tapes and transcripts have so far been made public and it's unclear who contacted whom in the first place.

Prof. Franks pointed out that governments in the past have awarded patronage appointments to Members of Parliaments for a variety of reasons.

"I'm not sure there is a line in this and if there is, it's been crossed many times before. It must be like a border between the United States and Canada, an open border with a few customs formalities, but, more or less free and there might well be a line, but I've not seen it over the years. Did Scott Brison cross that line? What happens when a government gets a person to resign from Parliament to free up a seat for someone else and gives that person an ambassadorial post, several people like that, David Berger, [Alfonso] Gagliano, Herb Gray I'm sure there are many more. They did not leave their posts without the promise of something to them. The government in this sense is free to offer positions to people,"said Prof. Franks.

Meanwhile, Prof. Franks said that the controversy underscores the significance of fixing the problem of the total control of awarding the patronage positions by the Prime Minister's Office.

"One of the things I find objectionable of the way our government is run, is the total monopoly over making appointments by the government of the day in particular the Prime Minister's Office. I think that's a problem that has to be dealt with because it becomes a form of obnoxious patronage,"said Prof. Franks.

Patrick Gossage, former press secretary to former primer minister Pierre Trudeau who now is the president of Media Profile Management, a public relations firm based in Toronto, told The Hill Times that it's not unusual for a chief of staff to a Prime Minister to engage in conversations with MPs who may be interested in crossing the floor of the House of Commons. He argued that Mr. Murphy did nothing wrong by engaging in these conversations because he did not make any concrete offer to Mr. Grewal. "To be shocked that these negotiations go on from time to time in situations like this is just totally naive on the part of both people and the media. These things go on and the fact is that Murphy got entrapped by the guy recording him; otherwise, who knows there may have been other conversations,"said Mr. Gossage.

"Tim was very very correct, I want to emphasize that. He said, 'You're going to be welcome.'To say much more than that would have been foolish on his part and he didn't. I thought he was very disciplined and very correct."

Goldy Hyder, former chief of staff to former PC leader Joe Clark, said that although there are some ethical issues involved in negotiations when senior political staffers to leaders of ruling parties conduct similar negotiations, he pointed out that it's not "earth shattering" that these kinds of talks go on.

"It's not an earth-shattering revelation that such things happen. I suspect, it's neither the first nor the last [time it will happen]. It's unfortunate, but, it seems to be part of the game. That doesn't make it right but to deny that these things take place would be rather naive."

But another former chief of staff to a former federal party leader, disagreed and said that aside from the ethical issues, the PMO should not have been involved because now Mr. Martin is in a tough situation and is bound to defend his chief of staff.

The former chief of staff, who did not want to identified, said that negotiations with Mr. Grewal should have been conducted by a friend or close adviser of Mr. Martin's, but not a PMO official, adding that once things firmed up then Mr. Murphy should have met with Mr. Grewal.

Another Liberal insider, however, said many political operatives on the Hill and in Ottawa are still trying to get over the fact that Mr. Grewal actually secretly taped these conversations and then publicly released them, which is believed to be a first in Canadian political history. The Liberal said most are more offended more by that than by Mr. Murphy's role in any talks.

In fact, the Liberal said if a deal were in the offing, the Liberals would have to send in a high-level official, "somebody with credibility and authority," in order to illustrate that the Liberals were serious.

"You don't send the private to negotiate the truce. You send your top gun and that's how this game is played.

"At this stage, there's no way they're going to ask Murphy to stand down until it's resolved because a resolution to this may never come. It's an issue that people argue about, but inducing people to cross the floor has been going on forever, one way, or, the other. They don't always cross for Cabinet posts, but they very seldom ever cross out of straightforward matters of principle without anything being done at the other end."

- With files from Kate Malloy

Arana@hilltimes.com The Hill Times

June 6, 2005: The Now: Ethics commissioner looks into Grewal's tapes

Ethics commissioner looks into Grewal's tapes

Ted Colley

Federal ethics commissioner Bernard Shapiro announced Friday his office has launched an official investigation into the Gurmant Grewal secret tape affair.

The investigation will try to determine if the Liberals tried to bribe Grewal or whether he approached the government looking for a payoff in return for crossing the floor.

Grewal denied suggestions by experts his secret recordings of discussions with high-ranking Liberals may have been edited.

Asked if the recordings had been edited in any way, Grewal said, "No."

Several experts engaged by various media outlets to analyze the recordings have concluded that audio irregularities on one of the tapes could be the result of editing.

"It sounds like an audio edit. I'm saying that based on the millions of audio edits I've done," Algonquin College professor and audio engineer Randy Dash said Thursday.

Dash was asked to examine the recordings by CanWest News Service.

Dash's findings were supported by forensic scientist Stevan Pausak who said a gap in a recorded phone conversation between Grewal and Health Minister Ujjal Dosanjh could be due to editing.

The recordings are part of several hours worth made secretly by Grewal, who claims he was approached by the Liberals and offered bribes in exchange for his help in heading off a non-confidence vote last month that could have toppled the minority government of Prime Minister Paul Martin.

According to Grewal, Health Minister Ujjal Dosanjh and Martin's chief of staff Tim Murphy made the offers.

For their part, the Liberals claim it was Grewal who went to them offering to cross the floor in exchange for plum appointments for he and his MP wife, Nina.

Murphy and Dosanjh are heard on the recordings discussing possible deals with Grewal, but who made the first approach is not revealed.

Grewal said he gave the recordings to the Conservative Party, who copied them to compact discs for translation and transcription.

"It appears that a technical problem occurred during this transfer to CD," the party stated Thursday.

"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 Conservative said the substance of the conversations have not been significantly altered because of the gaps.

The RCMP has the original recordings, but has yet to announce whether it will launch a criminal investigation, or not.