Tuesday, June 07, 2005

June 7, 2005: Edmonton Journal Reports Grewal On Stress Leave After Airport Security Incident With Mystery Packages

Tory in tape controversy takes stress leave: Step comes after allegation of breaching airport security with mystery package
Edmonton Journal
Tuesday, June 7, 2005
Page: A1 / FRONT
Section: News
Byline: Grant Robertson and Anne Dawson
Dateline: OTTAWA
Source: CanWest News Service

OTTAWA - Conservative MP Gurmant Grewal is stepping down from his parliamentary duties and going on stress leave in British Columbia as an ethics investigation into secret talks he conducted with the Liberals unfolds in Ottawa.

Tory Leader Stephen Harper said Grewal informed him in writing Monday that he was stepping down from his position as co-chair of a government committee and returning home amid the controversy that has engulfed Parliament Hill.

He is not stepping down as an MP, and in the case of a possible confidence vote he would be expected to vote with the party.

The Liberals and Tories have been locked in a bitter fight over conversations Grewal secretly recorded during talks with Health Minister Ujjal Dosanjh and the prime minister's top adviser, Tim Murphy.

Grewal alleges the Liberals came to him offering plum postings if he and his wife, Nina, also a Conservative MP, assisted the government in last month's crucial budget vote.

The government insists the Tory MP approached them to make such a deal.

"I have spoken with Gurmant. I have been aware that for some days now he has been feeling significant personal pressure," Harper said in a statement.

"As a result, he and I agreed that he should take a temporary stress leave from his parliamentary responsibilities."

The matter is now being investigated by federal ethics commissioner Bernard Shapiro, while the recorded conversations have been turned over to the RCMP amid allegations by the Liberals and several audio experts that the tapes may have been doctored.

Harper called on the Liberals to also ask Dosanjh and Murphy to step aside while the investigation is carried out, a request the Liberals swiftly refused.

"No, the prime minister will not be asking either man to step down on the basis of tampered tapes," said Scott Reid, spokesman for the prime minister.

The announcement came as Grewal suffered another blow Monday when Air Canada said it's investigating him for allegedly breaking airport security rules in Vancouver by approaching passengers with a request to deliver a package to Ottawa.

However, Grewal denied the allegations, saying Air Canada has its facts wrong. The airline says the MP approached passengers in an airport lounge asking them to transport the package. As well, he wasn't cleared to be in that section of the airport.

"Let me tell you that the allegations are false and wrong. I am denying them. And I will be fighting with them," Grewal told Global National less than four hours before Harper announced the MP was leaving on stress leave.

When asked if his party requested he step down from caucus, Grewal refused comment.

Meanwhile, support for Grewal appears to be eroding within the party as several of his colleagues refused to lend unqualified support to the MP Monday and criticized his recent conduct.

Conservative MP James Moore said the controversy that's erupted in Ottawa over the so-called "Grewal Tapes" is not healthy for Parliament.

Asked what he thought about Grewal's efforts to record the conversations, which the Tories have since made public in a bid to discredit the government, Moore referred to his colleague's actions as "amateur hour."

Tory finance critic Monte Solberg stopped short of supporting the embattled MP.

"I'm concerned about some of these questions and I'll just leave it at that," Solberg said when asked if Grewal should step down from caucus.

Grewal is leaving his role as co-chair for the standing joint committee for the scrutiny of regulations for an indefinite period, the Tories said.

In the Commons, Speaker Peter Milliken read a letter from Shapiro announcing his investigation into the tape matter and whether votes were being offered in exchange for government postings and a request that all MPs refrain from discussing the subject until he completes his investigation.

While the Conservatives completely refrained from even mentioning the tape matter in the Commons, Bloc Quebecois Leader Gilles Duceppe and NDP House leader Bill Blaikie barrelled ahead.

Blaikie called on the prime minister to ask everyone in his government associated with the tape scandal to step aside until the investigation is over. Martin kept to his stance in recent days -- throwing doubt on the validity of the tapes and stating he has no intention of asking anyone to step aside.

7 June, 2005: K.M. Grace, Countdown to Immolation

COUNTDOWN TO IMMOLATION by Kevin Michael Grace, 2.55 p.m., 7 June 2005 (originally published in 'The Ambler')

A few days ago I had a long conversation with well-known Western Canadian activist of unimpeachable integrity, a fellow I have known since 1992. Mostly I listened, and he ranted. Canada was no longer a democracy, he told me. The Liberals must be brought down. By any means necessary. If this means working with "the Devil," he said, so be it. Yes, we were talking about Gurmant Grewal.

One does get weary of being accused of trading in moral equivalency. My activist friend berated me hotly for harping on the Conservative mote while ignoring the Liberal beam. I responded, as politely as I could, that I didn't need (or appreciate) any lectures on Liberal perfidy. My record in this regard speaks for itself. Even so, said my friend, it's well past time all you fair-weather friends in the media got behind Stephen Harper and his party.

Bollocks to that. If the Conservatives or any other party want my services as a propagandist, they can make me an offer, and I might consider it. The enemy of my enemy is not my friend. I had hoped the Canadian "Right" had put aside Pecksniffery when it put paid to Preston Manning. No such luck. One gets especially weary of being told that "Everybody's doing it" is not a good excuse. It's a perfectly good excuse, if the "it" in question is blameless. There is nothing wrong with inducing MPs to cross the floor or step aside with the promise of future preferment. This is called "patronage," and, yes, everybody does it. People do not enter politics because they want to "make the world a better place" or whatever; they enter politics because they want to get ahead.

The Conservative Party is not a crusade. It is a party conceived in deceit and betrayal, midwifed by oligarchy, committed to binning every policy that once distinguished Reform from the Liberals and the Progressive Conservatives. Stephen Harper's "hidden agenda" is no agenda at all; it is a praxis: By any means necessary. You thought we stood for something, did you? Oh, grow up.

I strongly recommend that readers head over to a site called Buckets of Grewal. (Thanks to Blank Out Times for the heads up.) Therein you will find proof that Grewal's tapes have been edited repeatedly in order to exculpate Gurmant Grewal and incriminate Tim Murphy, Ujjal Dosanjh, Joe Volpe and Paul Martin. Such is the extent of the editing that the result can be described only as fraud.

And Stephen Harper and his minions are up to their necks in it. Check out this slideshow of some of the excisions. It is now glaringly obvious that the excuse given by the Conservative Party for the "glitches" in the tapes is not physically possible. Anyone who has ever made CDs knows that files are often truncated, but these truncations are caused by corrupt source materials—the computer attempts repeatedly to write the corrupted file to the disc, gives up, then moves on to the next file in the chain. What the computer does not do is repeatedly stop and restart the transfer, conveniently omitting embarrassing material. The Conservative press release was not merely a pons asinorum; it was another fraud. No wonder they buried it.

The Conservatives, presumably the Official Opposition Leader's Office, had possession of the Grewal tapes for two weeks before various versions of them began to be released. It is now indisputable that the Conservatives connived in the tampering of the tapes or engaged in a cover up of the tampering or both.

Gurmant Grewal was sent to Coventry yesterday, i.e., took "stress leave." (And did he present a note from a physician, I wonder.) Effectively—and this has been mentioned nowhere else that I know of—he accepted temporary suspension, with pay, from the Conservative caucus. Apparently Harper believes this—combined with the Ethics Commissioner's investigation—will silence discussion of his little local difficulty. Sorry, chaps, can't discuss it. Ongoing investigation, you know.

It's not going to work. Conservative MPs, including Peter MacKay, are putting as much daylight between themselves and Grewal as they can. Grewal, as Saturday's nervous collapse at Vancouver Airport testifies, has added desperation and madness to his previously existing character set of ignorance, arrogance, stupidity, vanity and venality. It is a near certainty he will shortly shop Harper just as he shopped Murphy and Dosanjh.

Shortly, too, the Press Gallery will wake from its slumber and ask Stephen Harper some pertinent questions:
  1. What was the provenance of the Grewal tapes for the fortnight after his May 18 press conference?
  2. Who tampered with the tapes?
  3. Who authorized the release of the tampered tapes?
  4. Who authorized the June 2 press release?
  5. And that old Watergate favourite: What did Stephen Harper know, and when did he know it?
I was wrong about the Grewal affair. It is not a "skit." It has become a conflagration that will consume Stephen Harper and doom any chance the Conservatives had of ousting Paul Martin. So my question for my Western Canadian activist friend (and all the other members of the Our Stephen Harper Fan Club) is this: How do you like your cloven-hoofed boy now?

June 7, 2004: Sangha confirms Kalia

Report by: Terry Milewski
Length: 6:08

TM = Terry Milewski
SK = Sudesh Kalia
AS = Amrik Sangha

(0:40)

SK: This is my office telephone. Mr. Grewal called me six, seven times within ten days before the May fifteenth, looking for me. I have one record on my call display, his number may the seventh, from his house to my office and he left the message: please call me, looking for me.

TM: Sudesh Kalia is the man in the middle of the wrangling over who called who first. He was a supporter of Grewal in the last two campaigns: raising money, knocking on doors, even though Kalia is a liberal. He says that is Grewal called him looking to join the liberals, and not for the first time.

(1:15)

SK: Actually two, three years back he also talked to me about this.

TM: Two or three years back?

SK: Yes.

TM: About what?

SK: Well he wanted to join the Liberals.

TM: Kalia says the Liberals had a majority then and weren't interested, but, that Grewal called him again as last month's confidence vote drew near, looking for a cabinet post and a United Nations job for his wife.

(1:40)

SK: I asked him so what should I tell them, what you want? He said uh, I want uh UN. So I said for you and he said no for Nina. So then I ask him anything else if UN not possible so anything else? He said UN or senate.

TM: For Nina?

SK: For Nina and cabinet for myself

TM: He said that right off the bat that he wanted to be a cabinet minister?

SK: Yes.

(2:08)

TM: Kalia's story, that it was Grewal that called first not the liberals, is supported by Amrik Sangha, a Surrey businessman who is a friend of Ujjal Dosanjh. Sangha says Kalia called him to get Dosanjh's number.

AS: He was uh, he said that he needed to get a hold of Mr. Dosanjh as soon as possible and he was asking me his cell number.

June 7, 2004: Sangha confirms that Kalia asked for Dosanjh's number (CBC interview)

Tough days for Gurmant Grewal
CBC News Online | June 8, 2005

From The National
June 7, 2005
Reporter: Terry Milewski

These must be tough days for Gurmant Grewal. The B.C. Conservative MP is taking some time off on stress leave.

The stress really started to crank up after he made an allegation about conversations that he secretly recorded with high-ranking Liberals. Since then, there has been a lot of finger pointing.

At the Grewal home in Surrey there is silence. There has been no comment from either Gurmant Grewal or his wife, Nina, both Conservative MPs.

But everyone else is talking about the man who arrived in national politics with a bang during the 1997 election when he won big as a reformer. This was an immigrant success story: Gurmant Grewal's rapid rise from carpet salesman to member of Parliament.

But now even his friends are turning against him.

Sudesh Kalia
Sudesh Kalia is the man in the middle of the wrangling over who made the first phone call.

“This is my office telephone,” Kalia says. “Mr. Grewal called me six, seven times within 10 days before May 15th looking for me, and I have on call display his number May 7th from his house to my office, and he left a message ‘please call me,’ he's looking for me.”

Kalia was a supporter of Grewal in the last two campaigns raising money, knocking on doors, even though Kalia’s a Liberal.

He says that's why Grewal called him looking to join the Liberals, and not for the first time.

“Actually, two, three years back, he also talked to me about this,” Kalia says. “He wanted to join the Liberals.”

Kalia says the Liberals had a majority then and weren't interested, but that as last month's confidence vote drew near Grewal called him again looking for a cabinet post and a United Nations job for his wife.

“I ask him, ‘What I should tell them, what you want?’

“He said, ‘I want UN.’

“I said ‘UN for you?’

“He said, ‘No, for Nina.’

“So then I ask him, ‘Anything else? If UN not possible, anything else?’

“He said UN or Senate,” Kalia said. “[He said the Senate] ‘for Nina and cabinet for myself.’”

Amrik Sangha
Kalia's story that it was Grewal who called first and not the Liberals is supported by Amrik Sangha, a Surrey businessman who is a friend of Health Minister Ujjal Dosanjh.

“He said he need to get hold of Mr. Dosanjh as soon as possible, and he was asking me his cell number,” Sangha said.

Sangha says the Grewals have lost any credibility in the Indo-Canadian community. He doesn’t think either Grewal can be re-elected.

“Those two people are history for our community and for Canada. I can tell you today. That's what I believe,” Sangha says.

Within the Indo-Canadian community in Surrey, it is now widely accepted that Grewal did approach the Liberals rather than the other way around.

But something else is emerging, some allegations that first came up during last year's election campaign about Grewal's citizenship in Canada.

Some of Grewal's former business partners have alleged that back in 1993 he engaged in a phoney business investment to qualify for Canadian citizenship. During the campaign, Grewal denied those charges, but now those former business partners are insisting that he pretended to invest $50,000 in a carpet company when really he did not.

Gurwinder Dhillon
Gurwinder Dhillon is a successful builder who sold his share of the carpet company to Grewal, at least on paper. This document shows the sale of the shares in April 1993 at a price of $50,000. But Dhillon says that was fiction. The shares were worthless, and he immediately gave the money back, although Grewal kept the shares. Was this transaction really a phoney transaction?

“Yeah, you could say that. It was basically, you know, he gave me the money to purchase a business and the next day he took the money back just to get the papers,” Dhillon says.

Dhillon says he agreed to this because he wanted to get out of a failing company, so he says he met Grewal in a parking lot and made a deal. Grewal would take over the shares that Dhillon didn't want and Dhillon would return the favour. There was a paper transaction. But no money changed hands really because Dhillon paid Grewal back the next day.

“If you say whether he invested into the company or into Canada for, you know, buying business in a paper fashion, yes, but on the very next day, he took the money back, yeah, and then he...”

“So the investment wasn't real?” the reporter asks.

“No, no,” Dhillon replies.

Dhillon's story is supported by another former partner in the carpet company, Nash Karim, who says Grewal got his citizenship but never really invested the $50,000.


Nash Karim
Karim says, “I did have a personal beef against him. He did reimburse me, but I know what type of character he is … He's a shady character.

“He had purchased one-third of the share through some sort of a phoney transaction where the money was never paid. Money was paid, but returned the very next day after transaction took place, and became a shareholder into Surrey Carpet Centre,” Karim says.

Still, for long-time supporters of Grewal like Sudesh Kalia, all of this history makes little difference. For Kalia, the issue is whether Grewal has a political future, and he thinks not.

“My understanding is he's finished because I talked to people in Surrey, and they're phoning me, even his close friends like me, they're upset now because of tapes. So, no, we don't like him anymore,” Kalia says. Grewal did not return calls seeking comment.