Wednesday, June 08, 2005

June 8, 2005: Edmonton Journal NDP May Go After Martin To Get At Murphy

NDP may go after Martin to get his aide in tape scandal: Chief of staff not subject to ethics commissioner
Edmonton Journal
Wednesday, June 8, 2005
Page: A7
Section: News
Byline: Allan Woods and Grant Robertson
Dateline: OTTAWA
Source: CanWest News Service; Calgary Herald

OTTAWA - The NDP is threatening to call on the ethics commissioner today to investigate Prime Minister Paul Martin over the role his chief of staff, Tim Murphy, played in the secret-taping scandal.

After discussions Tuesday night, the consensus among senior party members was that calling for a probe of Martin's actions is the only way to hold Murphy accountable for his involvement -- along with Health Minister Ujjal Dosanjh -- in talks with Conservative MP Gurmant Grewal about defecting to the Liberals last month ahead of a critical May 19 confidence vote.

Ethics Commissioner Bernard Shapiro ruled last week that investigating Murphy was beyond the reach of his mandate, though he agreed to assess the conduct of the two MPs.

"To me it seems virtually impossible to conduct his investigation without examining the actions of the chief of staff," New Democratic Party Leader Jack Layton said Tuesday.

NDP MP Ed Broadbent said the prospect of the prime minister going under the ethics microscope " is a serious matter. But the more serious would be to find out that he is guilty," he said.

Shapiro has been roundly criticized for taking a "narrow view" in his decision to bypass Murphy's conduct in the investigation. New Democrats said they were "forced" to consider calling for a review of the prime minister, and even the Conservatives -- who already have one of their own under examination -- have looked at the possibility.

Scott Reid, a PMO spokesman, declined to comment on the possible move today by the NDP, saying it is a question for the ethics commissioner to decide. He did reiterate Murphy is accountable to the prime minister and follows a code of conduct for public office holders.

Reid defended Murphy, saying he is vindicated each time new information damaging to the Conservatives emerges from the secret recordings.

While the latest twist places additional pressure on the government, the taping scandal is also causing angst and division in the Conservative party.

Tory Leader Stephen Harper continued to defend Grewal's allegations, and his integrity, and said the onus should rest solely on the Liberals.

"Somebody should ask Mr. Dosanjh or Mr. Murphy if they're actually denying saying anything on the tape, because they sure as hell did," Harper said Tuesday outside the House of Commons.

Some have questioned Harper's handling of the affair, including B.C. Tory Randy White, who called the decision to send Grewal on indefinite, paid stress leave Monday "perplexing."

"I've been a CEO and manager all my life and I've never seen anything like this," White said. "I just don't agree with stress leave for politicians. Come on. We're in the business of stress."

Word also emerged Tuesday that two Tory strategists -- Jim Armour and Mike Storeshaw -- have quit the party for other work, while other Conservatives admit to growing increasingly frustrated by the fallout of a scandal that has left the Tories looking as bad as the Liberals.

Also on Tuesday, Transport Canada confirmed it is looking into a June 4 incident involving a possible security breach at a Vancouver airport.

Grewal reportedly asked airport staff, and later passengers, to transport audio tapes for him on a flight to Ottawa. He did so successfully in what may be a violation of federal aviation laws. Party spokesman Geoff Norquay said Tuesday the tapes were of original telephone conversations relating to what the Tories contend was a sting operation exposing the Liberal attempts to buy Grewal's vote.

The fate of another possible investigation, by the RCMP, won't be decided for at least two weeks, the Mounties said Tuesday. Currently the authenticity and content of the recordings, some of which are in Punjabi, are being examined by police experts, said Insp. Tim Cogan.

Opposition parties have charged that Martin may have been involved directly or indirectly in the negotiations to sway Grewal through his top aide and a senior cabinet minister. The Liberals counter that Grewal was trying to sell his vote for a plum government appointment.

June 8, 2005 Times Colonist Reports: More On Airport Follies, And Mystery Package of Tapes

New tale of tape dogs stressed Grewal
Times Colonist (Victoria)
Wednesday, June 8, 2005
Page: A2
Section: News
Byline: Ian Bailey
Dateline: VANCOUVER
Document URL: http://proquest.umi.com.catalogue.library.brocku.ca/pqdlink?did=463053402&sld=1&Fnt=2&clientId=23615&PQT=308&VName=POD

Source: CanWest News Service

VANCOUVER -- Conservative MP Gurmant Grewal was trying to get Vancouver airport passengers to take a package of tapes to Ottawa during an incident that is now the subject of at least two investigations, according to a union official.

Efforts by the Newton-North Delta MP to pass the package on to other passengers last Saturday have prompted probes this week by both Air Canada and Transport Canada, just as Grewal announced he was taking a stress leave from his parliamentary responsibilities.

Grewal had already been under scrutiny for recording meetings with senior federal Liberals about him switching parties. Grewal has denied he ever intended to go through with the defection, suggesting he had engineered a sting on the Liberals.

Christine Hayvice, communications co-ordinator for the Canadian Auto Workers union representing airline workers, said Tuesday one of their members observed Grewal's conversation with another staffer. "She saw inside the package that he had tapes," said Hayvice, declining to name the witness.

Hayvice said she was not sure how many tapes there were. "I don't think the content (of the package) is the issue. The issue is nothing should go on a flight without the passenger travelling as well. No personal baggage or anything."

Grewal was spotted in a waiting area at the Vancouver airport last Saturday, asking passengers to take a package to Ottawa on his behalf. Security regulations say passengers must be on the plane carrying their luggage.

Grewal eventually booked himself on a flight so he could enter a waiting area and make the request to other passengers. One of them eventually took his package.

The MP has denied he did anything wrong. He could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

B.C.'s federal Liberals suggested Tuesday Grewal's troubles could boost their chances of winning his riding in an election expected within a year.

Grewal only won the riding by 520 votes in last year's election over Liberal Sukh Dhaliwal, who has been nominated to run again.

June 8, 2005 CBC Reports: Nina Speaks

Gurmant Grewal's wife, Nina Grewal, also a Conservative member of Parliament, tells the Toronto Star she had nothing to do with secretly taped talks between her husband and high-ranking Liberals. CBC STORY: Nothing to do with talks, Nina Grewal says

June 8, 2004: The Now reports on Grewal's airport problem

Grewal checks out

Ted Colley

Conservative MP Gurmant Grewal is taking a break.

"I met with Mr. Harper today and I told him I'm under a lot of pressure. I told him I'm going on stress leave," Grewal said Monday afternoon.

"You can call it indefinite because I haven't put a time on it, but it will be short."

Grewal's announcement came hard on the heels of reports he is under investigation for an incident Saturday in a waiting area at Vancouver International Airport. He was observed asking passengers to carry a package to Ottawa for him, a violation of security regulations that say a passenger must be on a plane that is carrying his luggage.

Christine Hayvice, the communications co-ordinator for the Canadian Auto Workers - the union that represents airline workers - and a long-time Air Canada employee, said airport staff reported Grewal was told several times that getting someone else to carry his package onto the flight was against security regulations.

"He was told all along, from the check-in counter on, that he couldn't do that. An Air Canada agent reminded him of the Air India incident," Hayvice said.

"He spoke to numerous people. It's what happens when people want to do something against the regulations. We see it all the time."

Grewal said Hayvice's version of events is wrong. Grewal said he was booked on a flight to Ottawa on Sunday, but needed to get an envelope there by 7 p.m. Saturday.

He would not say what was in the envelope.

"It was a small envelope. It was something important and time sensitive. It was related to parliamentary business," was all Grewal would say.

According to Grewal, courier companies couldn't guarantee delivery that evening, so he decided to go to the airport and see if he could find another MP to take the envelope to Ottawa for him on the Saturday morning flight. Failing that, he said, he was prepared to fly to the capital a day earlier than planned to make sure the envelope arrived on time.

"Before I checked in, I asked (airline staff) if they found any of my colleagues. They said no," Grewal said.

Hayvice said Grewal did ask several staffers if any other MPs were on the passenger list, but was told the information was confidential and could not be given to him.

Grewal said he told several airline employees what he wanted to do and claims none of them objected. Hayvice said several staffers told him he was breaking security rules.

Grewal said he spotted a man he recognized in the waiting lounge and approached him.

"I introduced myself and asked if he would take the envelope. He was not an MP, but I had travelled with him before. He agreed and inspected the contents of the envelope. It was open and he sealed it," Grewal said.

He would not identify the man who took the envelope onto the flight.

Transport Canada's Rod Nelson would not say if Grewal had broken any security rules or what, if any, penalties might apply.

June 8, 2005: Nina says she had nothing to do with the talks

The Toronto Star
June 8, 2005 Wednesday
SECTION: NEWS; Pg. A06

HEADLINE: Not part of talks, Nina Grewal says

BYLINE: Sean Gordon Ottawa Bureau, Toronto Star

After more than two weeks of silence, Tory MP Nina Grewal says she had nothing to do with secret talks between her husband and senior Liberals concerning patronage plums in return for helping the government win a crucial vote.

Though Grewal has been conspicuously tight-lipped since allegations first surfaced of a possible Senate seat as a reward for her support in last month's budget vote, the Star caught up with the rookie MP in a Parliament Hill hallway.

Controversy has dogged her husband Gurmant Grewal since news first broke that he secretly taped conversations last month with the Liberals. Since then, allegations have surfaced that tapes of those discussions have been altered and that Grewal asked passengers on a flight from Vancouver to Ottawa this weekend to take a package for him. The Star yesterday confirmed the package contained another secret tape of his conversations with the Liberals.

While her husband clearly talked about an appointment to the Senate for her, Nina Grewal told the Star yesterday "nobody approached me, I wasn't part of any negotiations."

But even if she wasn't party to the actual discussions, there are indications she knew they were taking place.

According to the tapes made by Gurmant Grewal, he claimed to have consulted his wife about switching parties, adding "but we are not decided, we have not made up our minds yet." The Grewals, the first husband-and-wife team of MPs in Canadian history, both represent British Columbia ridings.When asked about the fact that her husband appeared to be bartering her job on her behalf - transcripts of the tapes also show it is understood that both MPs were to be part of any eventual deal - Grewal said: "I have no comment."

But the mere fact Nina Grewal wasn't privy to the discussions concerning her future has raised concerns with the Commons' other female Sikh MP.

Liberal Ruby Dhalla (Brampton-Springdale) said: "Being a progressive Sikh and a progressive woman, I think she should speak for herself."

She also said that the entire episode risks cementing negative stereotypes that Indo-Canadian women are subservient to the wishes of their husbands.

"I've spoken to many other community leaders, both male and female, and all of them thought it's really unfortunate that he was speaking on her behalf. I mean, they're two separate people. It's not a buy one, get one free situation," she said, pointing out that Nina Grewal is vice-chair of an all-party parliamentary sub-committee on the status of women.Gurmant Grewal returned Monday night to Vancouver on a "temporary stress leave."

Despite his withdrawal from the political scene, which came about after a tense meeting with Conservative Leader Stephen Harper, Nina Grewal said her husband is feeling just fine.

"He's in high spirits," Nina Grewal said. "We're both still fighting for the right cause."

Grewal stepped forward on the eve of the May 19 budget vote with allegations he and his wife had been offered plum appointments in exchange for abstaining on a motion that could have toppled the minority government.

This weekend, he ran into trouble at Vancouver airport trying to rush audio tapes to Ottawa after angry Conservative officials discovered he hadn't given them all the recordings of his secretly taped negotiations with Health Minister Ujjal Dosanjh and Tim Murphy, the Prime Minister's chief of staff.

Late last week, Harper's aides learned from media reports that Grewal had not turned over the full record of his talks with the Liberals to the Tory leader's office.

Responding to demands that he send the missing tapes to Harper immediately, Grewal allegedly entered a restricted area at the airport on June 4 to hunt for a passenger to deliver an envelope containing the recordings to Ottawa.

As news of that incident erupted on Monday, Harper was still reluctant to sanction Grewal. But that all changed when Grewal, in a meeting with Harper, claimed he had not given the tapes to anyone to have them carried to Ottawa for him.

By then, Harper's office already knew that Air Canada had sent Grewal a formal letter about the incident.

Air Canada and federal authorities are investigating to see whether Grewal's actions violated airport security regulations and the MP has been barred from using the Maple Leaf business-class lounge, sources said. Grewal denies any wrongdoing.

Harper had defended Grewal for conducting what the Tory leader characterized as a justified sting operation designed to show Prime Minister Paul Martin's government was trying to lure away opposition MPs.

Even on Monday, when the Conservatives were faced with mounting evidence the tapes had been doctored, Harper was reluctant to oust Grewal from the Tory caucus.

Harper didn't want to be seen to be throwing an MP to the wolves and he was sensitive to charges that he lacks the finesse to keep his Conservative colleagues in line. That accusation surfaced after Belinda Stronach quit the party to join the Liberals.

Yesterday, the Liberals were not mollified by the decision to put Grewal on stress leave.

"You don't need an inquiry to realize that this Member of Parliament shows that he has no judgment. You don't go around the VIP lounge to ask people to carry a letter for you to Ottawa," said Transport Minister Jean Lapierre.

Transport Canada confirmed yesterday that it has launched an investigation into what happened at the airport. If rules were broken, fines could be levied, a spokesperson said.Sources say officials are also investigating whether Grewal obtained his boarding card "under false pretences" to gain access to a secure area of the airport so he could hand over an envelope.