Saturday, June 11, 2005

Jun 11, 2005 G&M Backgrounder on Nina Grewal

SURREY, B.C.; OTTAWA -- She learned everything she needed to know about politics from watching the parliamentary channel CPAC, her husband Gurmant Grewal says, but Nina Grewal's continued silence has a growing number of critics wondering if she was watching on mute.

She won her first election in a seat Mr. Grewal didn't want.

Both put their names forward in two adjacent ridings and he, as the senior politician in the household, decided which constituency he wanted, leaving her with his second choice.

When she gave a CBC radio interview after they both won for the Tories in the 2004 election, making history as the first husband-and-wife team elected at the same time, he whispered the answers to her.

As her husband stumbled from taped conversations to negotiated stress leave, Ms. Grewal, the Conservative MP for the Surrey riding of Fleetwood-Port Kells, has remained resolutely silent.

Both in Ottawa and in her own political backyard, she has a reputation as more a quiet supplicant than an active participant in public life.

In the hours of conversation Mr. Grewal had with the Liberals, she is referred to simply as his "wife" as the talk centres on a possible Senate seat for her -- part of a deal that would have seen the couple leave the Conservative party or sit out the budget vote.

Mr. Grewal boasts in the recordings that he will win easily in the next election while she may not.

His own personal story is "very brilliant," he says. Hers is virtually unknown.

There is growing uneasiness about her silence, her inexperience and the mounting damage that has been done to the Conservatives.

Manjit Dhillon, a Conservative organizer with the Fraser Valley's Indo-Canadian community and an executive in Conservative MP Randy White's Abbotsford riding, said her silence, combined with her husband's actions, has hurt the credibility of politicians in general and the politically active ethnic community in particular.

"It will take 10 years for the Indo-Canadian community to regain any trust, whether what happened on the tape is true or false and keeping quiet on her part doesn't help," he said. "We see that Stephen Harper is standing behind Gurmant Grewal, but his wife is not saying anything. Even Hillary stood behind Bill Clinton when things turned."

Ms. Grewal has no intention of talking now. She turned down interviews, and in a brief talk outside the family's home in upscale Panorama Ridge, Jay Grewal said his mother is supporting her husband. "She won't talk to you. No one in her office will talk about this now. We're just supporting each other through this," he said. "She wants to continue her work."

Her life before she got started in politics remains something of a mystery.

Born in Osaka, Japan, where her father had business interests, Ms. Grewal, 46, and her family moved to Liberia in West Africa when she was 4½ years old. From there, she was sent to Shimla, India, to study in a convent, finishing her college degree in history and English literature before getting married in 1982.

"My father placed a matrimonial advertisement in The Tribune newspaper and Gurmant's parents responded," she said in a rare interview in November, 2004, for an Indian website.

After their marriage, the young couple moved to Liberia where their sons Japjot (Jay) and Livjot, now 19 and 21, were born.

Mr. Grewal, 47, once told a Vancouver reporter he was an adviser to Liberian dictator Sam Doe, although he has since denied it. He says he worked as a professor of agriculture, and started a number of ventures, including a cellphone company and pest control business. Ms. Grewal's website says only that she worked in the family business while in Liberia.

Civil war led the family to leave, and they made their way to Canada after stays in Britain and the United States. Despite the fact that, on tape, Mr. Grewal says he came here with little money, he was able to acquire a carpet business shortly after arriving.

Mr. Grewal first ran for political office as a B.C. Liberal in 1995, but was unsuccessful. He won federally two years later as a Reformer. Ms. Grewal would often attend functions and give speeches on his behalf when his schedule got too busy. "This was good political training," she told IndiaNest.com.

While Ms. Grewal's first brush with political life had been as a stand-in, her husband's controversies often propelled him to the front lines. He once claimed he taped an offer of a deputy cabinet position from the B.C. Liberals, and later hired Rachel Marsden in his riding office, a right-wing pundit who had pleaded guilty to stalking a radio personality.

In 2004, Mr. and Ms. Grewal announced their intentions to run in two different ridings and signed up substantial number of new Conservative members within the Indo-Canadian community. In the riding Ms. Grewal subsequently ran in, she fended off a high-profile contender, Mary Polak, the former Surrey school board chair, who withdrew her bid for the nomination, arguing her opponent had an unfair advantage because of her husband's access to membership lists.

Community activist Manpreet Grewal, no relation to the family, said she has often asked people if they had heard of Ms. Grewal before she entered the race.

"Not one person that I know has ever remembered her doing anything in the community. It's a big mystery about where she came from, what she did," she said. "People here resent the fact that someone who was only known as the wife of a politician suddenly becomes a politician herself with nothing to show with any community involvement."

But Chris Mathisen, an organizer for the Conservatives in Surrey and White Rock, said he has sat with Ms. Grewal at policy conventions and in election preparation meetings.

"I've chatted with her and we've discussed issues. She has her opinions," he said. "She's also a nice lady."

The new riding of Fleetwood-Port Kells, created in a 2004 redistribution, is 20-per-cent Indo-Canadian, with a growing affluent population. It was considered a safe Tory seat when the election was called.

When questions arose during the campaign about her qualifications, her husband said she watched CPAC, the parliamentary TV channel "all the time for the last seven years. We don't watch movies at home. We only watch CPAC."

In their household, Ms. Grewal has said they "eat, breathe and talk all the time [about] politics."

She won her seat with 36 per cent of the vote, compared with 30 per cent for her Liberal opponent, former B.C. cabinet minister Gulzar Cheema.

Dr. Cheema had three campaign managers, including Ron Churchill, a former organizer with the Reform and then the Alliance party.

"It really hurt losing to someone like her. We tried everything we knew, the three of us, with all of our experiences, to convey the message voters should elect a person, not the party," Mr. Churchill said. "She was the invisible candidate. She wasn't even the peekaboo candidate. She was fully hidden. I didn't see the boo."

Mr. Churchill said that at an all-candidates meeting at Kwantlen College during campaign, Ms. Grewal's staff directly intervened with signs to help her answer questions.

The rumour around Parliament Hill, and in Surrey, is that Mr. Grewal controls everything in his wife's office from hiring or vetting staff, to checking her correspondences and dealing with constituent matters in Fleetwood-Port Kells.

B.C. communications consultant Colin Metcalfe, who worked on the Tory campaign in the last election, and knows Ms. Grewal professionally, says she is simply a "very private woman."

Mr. Metcalfe said Ms. Grewal is not "a shrinking violet," but does have trouble with English, which is not her first language.

Mr. Grewal has returned to the family's home in Surrey, one of four properties the couple own either together or separately in the Lower Mainland. Though Mr. Grewal returned home earlier this week accompanied by RCMP, Ms. Grewal was expected back only this weekend.

For now, the family lives in a 7,600-square-foot home in Panorama Ridge, with six-bedrooms, four bathrooms and a Canadian flag flying. Although no sign is up, real estate listings show the house is currently for sale and listed for $978,888.

Neighbours in their enclave say they do not know the couple well.

"These homes are half-acre lots. We have a long and heavy retaining wall between each other and the person who is your next door neighbour is actually a half a block away," said one neighbour, who said she rarely sees the family, and declined to be named.

In Ottawa, the couple rarely socialize with other caucus members. By most accounts, Ms. Grewal stays close to her husband during and after office hours, and has no close friends in caucus.

But she does appear to be well-liked and does not shy away from the microphone during closed-door caucus sessions.

Her seatmate in the House of Commons Alberta Tory Lee Richardson says Ms. Grewal is capable of joining in the rowdiness and has shown her agitation with some of the catcalls from the other side. Mr. Richardson dismisses the notion that Ms. Grewal's ethnic heritage has kept her in the shadows.

"Women in that community are pretty strong, just in a very subtle way. And obviously it works because people have a different impression than how it really is, I think. I think she stands up pretty well."

Carol Skelton, another fellow MP, said Ms. Grewal just quietly goes about doing her job and shines when she's in front of the cameras.

"That's the whole Ottawa mentality. You look at someone that's quiet, that's not in the media a lot and you say, 'Oh you know, they're under somebody's shadow,' and that's not true," she said. "As women parliamentarians, we go around doing our jobs and try to stay out of the media."

Ms. Grewal is interested in immigration and women's issues, with a focus on raising the age of consent.

But some Tory MPs are not exactly clear on what drives her.

"Honestly, there is nothing that jumps into my mind what Nina's passion is," says a Tory colleague who asked not to be named.

She is the vice-chair of the status of women committee. The chairwoman, Manitoba Liberal MP Anita Neville, says that some of the issues the committee is dealing with, such as gender-based analysis and pay equity, are quite "new" to Ms. Grewal.

"I'm sort of reluctant to talk about her," said Ms. Neville. "I don't really know her. She attends most meetings.. . .She's quiet but diligent."

One Tory MP notes that in the last election, the party had to send in MPs to replace her in several all-candidates debates because it felt she couldn't handle the issues.

Rob Terris, the head of the Tynehead Community Association and the Ratepayers Association in her riding, said yesterday that whenever he approached Ms. Grewal for assistance in projects such as building a pool in the riding or erecting a monument, she referred him to Mr. Grewal.

"On every issue I have raised with her, she told me to go to her husband instead," said Mr. Terris. "She has never responded with her own thoughts or her own ideas, just deflected it to him or she would ask me what she should do."

Jaspreet Dhanju, a dentist who lives in the riding, said she questions whether Ms. Grewal should be representing the community.

"She shouldn't be pushed down because of her husband. But as a regular person just listening and trying to understand what's going on, I wonder if she will ever stand up at all," Dr. Dhanju said.

June 11, 2005: the Grewals' strange odyssey

The Toronto Star
June 11, 2005 Saturday
SECTION: NEWS; Pg. A06

HEADLINE: Nina and Gurmant's strange odyssey

BYLINE: Daniel Girard, Toronto Star

SURREY, B.C. On the morning after the election last June 28, Gurmant and Nina Grewal were the toast of the country, reporters lining up to tell their story.

Having just become the first husband-and-wife team elected to the House of Commons, they invited journalists to their home in this city east of Vancouver and politely answered questions and posed for photographers like movie stars promoting a new film.

The Grewals were no less in demand this week when they returned from Ottawa. But rather than make themselves available, the couple stayed for more than an hour out of sight of the cameras awaiting them at the Vancouver airport, eventually getting an RCMP escort out a back door and being swiftly driven to their car in the parking lot.

One year on, the two Conservative MPs have gone from electoral novelties to the centre of a political storm that has rolled over Ottawa and much of Canada, with its sordid tales of secretly taped conversation, dubious job offers and allegations of immigration fraud.

The mess prompted Gurmant, 47, a three-term MP, to take stress leave this week. Meanwhile Nina, 46, a parliamentary rookie, has been dogged by questions about what she may have known about her husband's negotiations last month with senior Liberals, allegedly involving political rewards for the Grewals if they helped the minority government survive a non-confidence vote.

"The whole Indo-Canadian community was proud that we were the first people who elected a husband-and-wife team to Parliament," said Harjinder Thind, a talk-show host with Sher-e Punjab Radio, where the Grewal affair has dominated the daily call-ins.

"They have really disappointed people," said Thind, noting the overwhelming majority of callers are angry with the Grewals as well as Health Minister Ujjal Dosanjh, who appears on one of the tape-recorded conversations to be offering a deal for them to switch parties.

"Our Indo-Canadian people like to see honest politicians because they come from a country where politicians are very dishonest and do unethical things," Thind said.

The Grewals, natives of India's Punjab, had an arranged marriage in 1982. Shortly after marrying, the well-educated Sikhs moved to the West African nation of Liberia, where Nina's parents had once lived. He taught at the University of Liberia and they began a successful import/export business and raised two now-adult sons.

The Grewal family was holidaying in India in 1990 when the civil war in Liberia led to a revolt that resulted in the overthrow and assassination of Gen. Samuel Doe, who had ruled the country for a decade after taking power in a bloody coup.

The Grewals never went back to Liberia, but lived in several different countries before settling in Surrey.

A proud Canadian, Gurmant Grewal likes to boast that he has the record for the fastest ascent from landed immigrant to MP, accomplishing the feat in less than six years.

"This tells more about Canada than about us," he told the Toronto Star after he was re-elected last June in the new riding of Newton-North Delta and his wife won neighbouring Fleetwood-Port Kells. "It shows that the multicultural fabric of Canada is being strengthened.

"I lived in Africa for almost nine years and was not even able to participate in parliament. Canada is a wonderful country that has given me the opportunity to represent Canadians."

But Grewal, who along with his wife did not respond to requests for interviews for this story, is certainly no stranger to controversy during his decade on the B.C. political scene.

Grewal has faced questions about whether he actually advised Liberia's Doe and has been accused of dirty tricks in the nomination process, both of which he has denied. He was also taken to task last year for hiring - then firing after the media found out - a woman to work in his office when she was facing criminal charges for stalking. She pleaded guilty.

And, in the mid-1990s, he was involved in a controversy similar to the one now engulfing him. It involves tape recordings and alleged job offers in exchange for political favours.

"I have no sympathy," said Sandy Powar, president of the Surrey-Newton riding association for the British Columbia Liberal Party. "He deserves what he's getting now."

Powar was charged with verbally abusing and threatening Grewal in 1996 and was forced to resign as party secretary in a bizarre incident that capped Grewal's political debut.

In 1995, Grewal was hoping to run for the Liberals in an election expected the next year. He planned to contest a nomination against the party president but withdrew from the race following a meeting with Liberal brass, saying he didn't want to hurt party morale.

But Grewal later told the media he was set up. He alleged Powar tried to bribe him with a deputy minister post in a Gordon Campbell government if he stepped aside. He soon quit the Liberals, ran for the B.C. Reform Party and was badly defeated in the 1996 election.

Grewal said he received a threatening call from Powar on election night. On another line he dialled 911 so that the conversation would be recorded. The charges were dropped soon after.

Powar, who has always maintained that was not his voice on the tape and that he wasn't in a position to offer a top job to Grewal, remains bitter nearly a decade after the incident.

"I was his first victim, that's how I feel," Powar said in an interview this week.

But there are certainly those who see Gurmant Grewal as the victim.

"I stand by my Member of Parliament and I am not alone," said Jim Holt, president of his riding association, who said he's fielded many calls of support from constituents. He takes exception with the "assassination" in the media of his MP when the actions of Dosanjh, Prime Minister Paul Martin's chief of staff, Tim Murphy, and other Liberals involved in the tape controversy are not being nearly as closely scrutinized.

Former B.C. Liberal MLA Tony Bhullar, whose riding was in Grewal's, said the MP has an "excellent work ethic." But, he said, many in the Indo-Canadian community questioned his motives when he helped secure the Conservative nomination for Nina. With Gurmant's former riding being divided into two for last year's election, both Grewals filed nomination papers to run in each of the two ridings. After seeing how they fared in signing up party members, they each chose the constituency they would seek.

Opponents said they made a mockery of the process and some dropped out of the race.

GRAPHIC: Gurmant Grewal, a three-term MP, is on stress leave, while his wife Nina, a parliamentary rookie, is dogged by questions about what she knew about her husband's conversations with senior Liberals.Gurmant Grewal, a three-term MP, is on stress leave, while his wife Nina, a parliamentary rookie, is dogged by questions about what she knew about her husband's conversations with senior Liberals.

June 11, 2005 Halifax Herald "Who Cut The Tapes?"

Snip, snip, who cut the tape?

By STEPHEN MAHER / Letter From Ottawa

Someone in the Conservative party edited the Grewal tapes to make the Liberals look bad and the Tories look good.

The Tories won't say who did it, but they say the complete tapes they eventually released are the same as the tapes Gurmant Grewal first gave them. If that's true, then whoever cut the tapes was working for Conservative Leader Stephen Harper.

It is surprising that someone in Mr. Harper's office would be at once so stupid and so unethical.

None of this clears the Liberals of wrongdoing. There is plenty of sleaze to go around in this affair.

As the Tories keep pointing out, Health Minister Ujjal Dosanjh and Tim Murphy, the prime minister's chief of staff, went over the line in trying to convince Mr. Grewal to give them the votes they needed to survive a budget vote in the House. The future of the government depended on a few votes, and Mr. Grewal offered two - his and his wife's - in exchange for a cabinet post for him and a job for her.

It is against the law to offer a job in exchange for a vote.

In a series of meetings that Mr. Grewal taped, Mr. Murphy and Mr. Dosanjh try to talk Mr. Grewal into abstaining. They don't quite offer him what he is asking for, but they repeatedly make vague promises of future rewards.

I don't doubt that if they had crossed the floor, the Liberals would have made Mr. Grewal the Parliamentary Secretary for Keeping Your Mouth Shut and Ms. Grewal would have become a Special Adviser to the Prime Minister on South Asian British Columbians.

But they didn't cross. Instead, Mr. Grewal went public with his story, saying he was offered a job - a bribe - in essence, for his vote.

The Tories released a snippet of tape, and lots of journalists - including this one - quoted a chunk of dialogue that seemed to bear out Mr. Grewal's story. Mr. Murphy seems to - wink-wink, nudge-nudge - offer and not offer a reward to Ms. Grewal.

"All of which is to say, that in advance of that, explicit discussions about Senate, not Senate, I don't think are very helpful, and I don't think, frankly, can be had, in advance of an abstention," he says.

"And then we'll have much more detailed and finely hued discussions after that with some freedom. And I think that what allows is negotiating room for you, in either direction."

This, and a number of other passages, makes the Liberals look pretty bad.

Two weeks later, under pressure, the Conservatives released what they said was the whole tape. It turns out that somebody - some Tory - was lying.

What they released was a heavily edited tape. In one conversation alone there are 20 cuts. About 15 minutes of tape was left out of the package they released.

After experts concluded the tape was obviously doctored, the Tories released what they now say is the complete version. An obsessive Internet blogger, at bucketsofgrewal.blogspot.com, has compiled a word-by-word comparison of the two tapes.

It shows that someone cut out things that made the Liberals look good or the Tories look bad.

Some small cuts have a big impact in changing the nature of the conversation.

There's a long passage where Mr. Murphy gives Mr. Grewal the soft soap, making vague promises that he and his wife will be taken care of if they cross the floor. One widely quoted line: "You know obviously for us continuing to expand our base in B.C. and in prominent communities in this country is a political priority for us so it's a welcome mat that has a lot of nice comfy fur on it."

But Mr. Murphy goes on to say they can't make specific promises.

"I don't even know if Ujjal knows this, there are others in your caucus who have asked. I will do this if you will do this or that or the other thing and we have said no, period. Right? In truth, I don't think that actually serves us or that individual well, right. Because, it has been a kind you know, they have asked for a reward outside of politics and I just don't think that's, the prime minister does not think that's the right thing to do. I want you to know, you might say there is an element of trust in what's been happening here, but there's a reason for that because frankly it's better for us to be honest with you. Frankly it's better for someone like you to work on that basis."

The Tories cut out the sections in italic. So, Paul Martin told Mr. Murphy not to offer MPs like the Grewals jobs outside politics - like diplomatic posts - in exchange for their votes. Mr. Murphy is trying to tell Mr. Grewal that the Liberals will take care of the Grewals, but Mr. Martin has forbidden him to offer anything specific.

The Tories cut that, because it showed Mr. Martin had set ethical ground rules for the talks.

Later in the conversations, there are big chunks edited out where Mr. Grewal makes a hard pitch for a Senate seat for his wife.

"I will not talk to the big boss (Mr. Martin) like that, but Tim I can. Ujjal, I'm contradicting your advice a little bit, OK? The understanding that if possible my wife would be the preference for the adjustment, possibly in the Senate. So that's the understanding, but Ujjal told me not to mention it like this."

There are loads of sections cut where Mr. Grewal says things that make him look terrible. He pleads for a firm offer from Mr. Murphy, and Mr. Murphy fails to give it to him.

The Tories - or, maybe, Mr. Grewal, acting on his own - cut the tape to give Canadians the wrong idea about what happened in the talks. Then, when they were caught, they released the whole tape, and issued a news release saying the missing sections were a few seconds long, and were created through a technical glitch in file transfer in Mr. Harper's office.

That's a lie.

The Tories won't say who cut the tape. They won't deny that they were edited, although on Thursday they issued a release pointing to a review of the tapes by an expert they hired. He found no evidence that the complete tapes have been edited. That says nothing about the fact that they earlier released doctored tapes.

This raises disturbing questions about the people around Mr. Harper, although I do not believe that he personally would have approved this. On the other hand, I was surprised to learn that he didn't tell Mr. Grewal to stop secretly taping these meetings when he first learned of them.

Somebody in the Conservative party used the black arts of the war room in a vain attempt to deceive Canadians with these tapes.

The Conservatives constantly emphasize the Liberal record of corruption, and claim to offer a clean, ethical alternative.

That would be more convincing if they would tell us who cut the tape.

Hat Tip: Bourque

June 11, 2005: Globe and Mail: Nina Grewal's degree in political silence

Nina Grewal's degree in political silence: With her husband firmly at centre stage in Ottawa, the MP for Fleetwood-Port Kells in Surrey, B.C., has a reputation as a quiet supplicant rather than an active participant in public life.

SURREY, B.C.; OTTAWA -- She learned everything she needed to know about politics from watching the parliamentary channel CPAC, her husband Gurmant Grewal says, but Nina Grewal's continued silence has a growing number of critics wondering if she was watching on mute.

She won her first election in a seat Mr. Grewal didn't want.

Both put their names forward in two adjacent ridings and he, as the senior politician in the household, decided which constituency he wanted, leaving her with his second choice.

When she gave a CBC radio interview after they both won for the Tories in the 2004 election, making history as the first husband-and-wife team elected at the same time, he whispered the answers to her.

As her husband stumbled from taped conversations to negotiated stress leave, Ms. Grewal, the Conservative MP for the Surrey riding of Fleetwood-Port Kells, has remained resolutely silent.

Both in Ottawa and in her own political backyard, she has a reputation as more a quiet supplicant than an active participant in public life.

In the hours of conversation Mr. Grewal had with the Liberals, she is referred to simply as his "wife" as the talk centres on a possible Senate seat for her -- part of a deal that would have seen the couple leave the Conservative party or sit out the budget vote.

Mr. Grewal boasts in the recordings that he will win easily in the next election while she may not.

His own personal story is "very brilliant," he says. Hers is virtually unknown.

There is growing uneasiness about her silence, her inexperience and the mounting damage that has been done to the Conservatives.

Manjit Dhillon, a Conservative organizer with the Fraser Valley's Indo-Canadian community and an executive in Conservative MP Randy White's Abbotsford riding, said her silence, combined with her husband's actions, has hurt the credibility of politicians in general and the politically active ethnic community in particular.

"It will take 10 years for the Indo-Canadian community to regain any trust, whether what happened on the tape is true or false and keeping quiet on her part doesn't help," he said. "We see that Stephen Harper is standing behind Gurmant Grewal, but his wife is not saying anything. Even Hillary stood behind Bill Clinton when things turned."

Ms. Grewal has no intention of talking now. She turned down interviews, and in a brief talk outside the family's home in upscale Panorama Ridge, Jay Grewal said his mother is supporting her husband. "She won't talk to you. No one in her office will talk about this now. We're just supporting each other through this," he said. "She wants to continue her work."

Her life before she got started in politics remains something of a mystery.

Born in Osaka, Japan, where her father had business interests, Ms. Grewal, 46, and her family moved to Liberia in West Africa when she was 41/2 years old. From there, she was sent to Shimla, India, to study in a convent, finishing her college degree in history and English literature before getting married in 1982.

"My father placed a matrimonial advertisement in The Tribune newspaper and Gurmant's parents responded," she said in a rare interview in November, 2004, for an Indian website.

After their marriage, the young couple moved to Liberia where their sons Japjot (Jay) and Livjot, now 19 and 21, were born.

Mr. Grewal, 47, once told a Vancouver reporter he was an adviser to Liberian dictator Sam Doe, although he has since denied it. He says he worked as a professor of agriculture, and started a number of ventures, including a cellphone company and pest control business. Ms. Grewal's website says only that she worked in the family business while in Liberia.

Civil war led the family to leave, and they made their way to Canada after stays in Britain and the United States. Despite the fact that, on tape, Mr. Grewal says he came here with little money, he was able to acquire a carpet business shortly after arriving.

Mr. Grewal first ran for political office as a B.C. Liberal in 1995, but was unsuccessful. He won federally two years later as a Reformer. Ms. Grewal would often attend functions and give speeches on his behalf when his schedule got too busy. "This was good political training," she told IndiaNest.com.

While Ms. Grewal's first brush with political life had been as a stand-in, her husband's controversies often propelled him to the front lines. He once claimed he taped an offer of a deputy cabinet position from the B.C. Liberals, and later hired Rachel Marsden in his riding office, a right-wing pundit who had pleaded guilty to stalking a radio personality.

In 2004, Mr. and Ms. Grewal announced their intentions to run in two different ridings and signed up substantial number of new Conservative members within the Indo-Canadian community. In the riding Ms. Grewal subsequently ran in, she fended off a high-profile contender, Mary Polak, the former Surrey school board chair, who withdrew her bid for the nomination, arguing her opponent had an unfair advantage because of her husband's access to membership lists.

Community activist Manpreet Grewal, no relation to the family, said she has often asked people if they had heard of Ms. Grewal before she entered the race.

"Not one person that I know has ever remembered her doing anything in the community. It's a big mystery about where she came from, what she did," she said. "People here resent the fact that someone who was only known as the wife of a politician suddenly becomes a politician herself with nothing to show with any community involvement."

But Chris Mathisen, an organizer for the Conservatives in Surrey and White Rock, said he has sat with Ms. Grewal at policy conventions and in election preparation meetings.

"I've chatted with her and we've discussed issues. She has her opinions," he said. "She's also a nice lady."

The new riding of Fleetwood-Port Kells, created in a 2004 redistribution, is 20-per-cent Indo-Canadian, with a growing affluent population. It was considered a safe Tory seat when the election was called.

When questions arose during the campaign about her qualifications, her husband said she watched CPAC, the parliamentary TV channel "all the time for the last seven years. We don't watch movies at home. We only watch CPAC."

In their household, Ms. Grewal has said they "eat, breathe and talk all the time [about] politics."

She won her seat with 36 per cent of the vote, compared with 30 per cent for her Liberal opponent, former B.C. cabinet minister Gulzar Cheema.

Dr. Cheema had three campaign managers, including Ron Churchill, a former organizer with the Reform and then the Alliance party.

"It really hurt losing to someone like her. We tried everything we knew, the three of us, with all of our experiences, to convey the message voters should elect a person, not the party," Mr. Churchill said. "She was the invisible candidate. She wasn't even the peekaboo candidate. She was fully hidden. I didn't see the boo."

Mr. Churchill said that at an all-candidates meeting at Kwantlen College during campaign, Ms. Grewal's staff directly intervened with signs to help her answer questions.

The rumour around Parliament Hill, and in Surrey, is that Mr. Grewal controls everything in his wife's office from hiring or vetting staff, to checking her correspondences and dealing with constituent matters in Fleetwood-Port Kells.

B.C. communications consultant Colin Metcalfe, who worked on the Tory campaign in the last election, and knows Ms. Grewal professionally, says she is simply a "very private woman."

Mr. Metcalfe said Ms. Grewal is not "a shrinking violet," but does have trouble with English, which is not her first language.

Mr. Grewal has returned to the family's home in Surrey, one of four properties the couple own either together or separately in the Lower Mainland. Though Mr. Grewal returned home earlier this week accompanied by RCMP, Ms. Grewal was expected back only this weekend.

For now, the family lives in a 7,600-square-foot home in Panorama Ridge, with six-bedrooms, four bathrooms and a Canadian flag flying. Although no sign is up, real estate listings show the house is currently for sale and listed for $978,888.

Neighbours in their enclave say they do not know the couple well.

"These homes are half-acre lots. We have a long and heavy retaining wall between each other and the person who is your next door neighbour is actually a half a block away," said one neighbour, who said she rarely sees the family, and declined to be named.

In Ottawa, the couple rarely socialize with other caucus members. By most accounts, Ms. Grewal stays close to her husband during and after office hours, and has no close friends in caucus.

But she does appear to be well-liked and does not shy away from the microphone during closed-door caucus sessions.

Her seatmate in the House of Commons Alberta Tory Lee Richardson says Ms. Grewal is capable of joining in the rowdiness and has shown her agitation with some of the catcalls from the other side. Mr. Richardson dismisses the notion that Ms. Grewal's ethnic heritage has kept her in the shadows.

"Women in that community are pretty strong, just in a very subtle way. And obviously it works because people have a different impression than how it really is, I think. I think she stands up pretty well."

Carol Skelton, another fellow MP, said Ms. Grewal just quietly goes about doing her job and shines when she's in front of the cameras.

"That's the whole Ottawa mentality. You look at someone that's quiet, that's not in the media a lot and you say, 'Oh you know, they're under somebody's shadow,' and that's not true," she said. "As women parliamentarians, we go around doing our jobs and try to stay out of the media."

Ms. Grewal is interested in immigration and women's issues, with a focus on raising the age of consent.

But some Tory MPs are not exactly clear on what drives her.

"Honestly, there is nothing that jumps into my mind what Nina's passion is," says a Tory colleague who asked not to be named.

She is the vice-chair of the status of women committee. The chairwoman, Manitoba Liberal MP Anita Neville, says that some of the issues the committee is dealing with, such as gender-based analysis and pay equity, are quite "new" to Ms. Grewal.

"I'm sort of reluctant to talk about her," said Ms. Neville. "I don't really know her. She attends most meetings.. . . She's quiet but diligent."

One Tory MP notes that in the last election, the party had to send in MPs to replace her in several all-candidates debates because it felt she couldn't handle the issues.

Rob Terris, the head of the Tynehead Community Association and the Ratepayers Association in her riding, said yesterday that whenever he approached Ms. Grewal for assistance in projects such as building a pool in the riding or erecting a monument, she referred him to Mr. Grewal.

"On every issue I have raised with her, she told me to go to her husband instead," said Mr. Terris. "She has never responded with her own thoughts or her own ideas, just deflected it to him or she would ask me what she should do."

Jaspreet Dhanju, a dentist who lives in the riding, said she questions whether Ms. Grewal should be representing the community.

"She shouldn't be pushed down because of her husband. But as a regular person just listening and trying to understand what's going on, I wonder if she will ever stand up at all," Dr. Dhanju said.

June 11, 2005: Indian columnist blast the Grewals

http://www.voiceonline.com/voice/050611/headline2.php

GREWAL CONTROVERSY

Gurmant and Nina Grewal should JUST GO AWAY!

By RATTAN MALL
What's wrong with this picture?

A man who craved publicity so desperately all the time was actually RUNNING AWAY from TV cameras and reporters at Vancouver International Airport on Wednesday night!

This was the same man who claimed he was always being offered cabinet and other top posts, but principles were always holding him back from accepting those bribes.

Now a very different picture seems to be emerging and Gurmant Grewal seems pretty reluctant to get out there and face the music.

Oh no, the poor baby is all stressed out - he's actually taken stress leave - and his MP wife Nina, who kept her mouth so tightly shut all this time, now claims she knew NOTHING about what her beloved husband was doing - the same man who manipulated the Fleetwood-Port Kells riding nomination for her!

Really?

It's quite clear from the tapes that her husband himself released that he was consulting her - unless, of course, he was lying.

Well, it's time both Gurmant and Nina RAN AWAY from all of us - into retirement from politics.

Please DO NOT DISGRACE the Indo-Canadian community any further - just leave.

You evidently were only concerned with your own big fat ego. Stretching the truth and twisting facts didn't matter to you as long as you got what you wanted.

You tried to pressure reporters in the ethnic media who dared to criticize you through influential people in the community and accused those who wouldn't publish each and every press release and photo you sent them of being biased against you or of being in the pay of another political party.

You bit off more than you could chew and now that your bubble has burst, you just can't take the pressure.

But look at the fallout of your naked ambitions. Not only has the Indo-Canadian community been humiliated, indeed, THE WHOLE COUNTRY is under a cloud.

Canada's ranking on Transparency International's global corruption index is going to go down further after the sponsorship scandal, according to the chairman of the watchdog's Canadian chapter. We fell to 12th place last year from fifth a few years ago and now we are poised to sink lower - THANKS TO YOU!

After the Air India bombing tragedy, you should have been the last person to break the cardinal security rule of not allowing unaccompanied luggage or package aboard an aircraft. Yet, according to reliable media reports, you shamelessly broke those rules by getting someone to carry an envelope reportedly containing the missing tapes to Ottawa. Now Air Canada is investigating the incident and all you can say is that the allegation is false. Yet you won't face the media to answer all the questions. What are you afraid of?

A national daily brought up your past contradictory statements about your days in Liberia before emigrating to Canada.

Now Gurwinder Dhillon says that you were a carpet salesman at his company when you bought $50,000 in shares on April 15, 1993, but that you sold them back the next day and that it was all a fake deal to meet citizenship requirements at the time. (Of course, Dhillon should realize that if his allegation is true, he too was part of that illegal act.) A Conservative spokesperson claimed it was an old unfounded allegation and you are threatening to take legal action. But with all that has happened, can anyone really believe you?

An expert especially hired by a national newspaper has claimed that your tapes were ALTERED and it was UNLIKELY that the changes in the tapes were caused by digital copying, as claimed by your party members.

God alone knows what else will surface by the time this piece appears on Saturday - BUT THANKS TO YOU, your party, the Conservatives, are down to 23 per cent support across Canada in a June 2-5 Decima survey as compared to the Liberals' 37 per cent support and the NDP's 21 per cent.

Isn't it high time you and your wife, Nina, stepped down for the sake of the community and Canada?

June 11, 2005: Herb Dhaliwal comments on the Grewal controversy

http://www.voiceonline.com/voice/050611/headline1.php

GREWAL-DOSANJH CONTROVERSY

Former federal minister Herb Dhaliwal speaks out on the Grewal-Dosanjh controversy
By RATTAN MALL
Herb Dhaliwal, the first Indo-Canadian in Canada's history to become a federal minister, made the community proud with his personality, his obvious political acumen, his sophistication and his blunt honesty and courage to stand up for what he believed to be right, especially after 9/11.

He was also known for his fierce loyalty to then prime minister Jean Chretien and was instrumental in getting a consulate general in Chandigarh.

There could be no better person that Dhaliwal to comment on the sad state of political affairs in Canada, terribly vitiated by the Gurmant Grewal-Ujjal Dosanjh tapes controversy.



Here's my interview with Dhaliwal:



VOICE: What's your take on this Grewal-Dosanjh controversy?

Dhaliwal: First of all my view is that it's totally unethical to surreptitiously record a meeting with someone at any level, never mind sort of at the highest political level where people expect us to have the highest ethical standard and conduct. So I think it's totally unethical that (Grewal) recorded these conversations.

The other thing is that I think the Liberals looked way too desperate in trying to deal with the NDP first of all and having Belinda (Stronach) come over (from the Conservative party) and then trying to bring other people over. They were out fishing or trolling to get people in. I think they were just looking too desperate and it's going to hurt them in the long term, because they're looking so weak and desperate.

So I think nobody looks very good and I think Parliament and parliamentarians get discredited with all this. Although it's only one or two people, but everybody gets discredited by this. So I think the sooner they put this behind them, the better for everyone.

But what was surprising is that Stephen Harper didn't condemn this type of action of taping these conversations. He said he condoned it. So really the question will be to Stephen Harper does he say that this is acceptable behaviour to go out and surreptitiously record conversations. I think people will have to start asking him some questions. This is the guy who wants to become prime minister. So if he thinks it's okay to go around recording private conversations and then (releasing) them to the public, I just wonder what kind of ethics he has.

I can tell you from my own experience when I was political minister, we had a request from one of the Opposition members saying that he'd like to cross over but he'd like to get into Cabinet. And I remember taking to Chretien and he said: 'No. No promises are going to be made…If you want to come over and cross the floor, that's fine. But there will be no commitments made or any promises to them and they'll have to work like every other member in the Liberal caucus.'

So that was the position we took and I took at the time and we were not going to make the type of promises that are happening now for people. I think it just makes the Liberals look weak and you know Canadians want members of Parliament to have the highest ethical standards and I think that they haven't upheld the type of standards that Canadians would want them to and, unfortunately, it hurts all Parliamentarians.



VOICE: Was this Opposition MP from BC?

Dhaliwal: It was an MP from BC. (Laughs) I don't want to name anyone, but it was an MP from BC and I said just said 'no way.' And there were some MPs we just said that we were not interested in even talking to them. But these names were in confidence, so I can't give out names of anybody. It wouldn't be appropriate.



VOICE: What do you think will be the fallout from all of this?

Dhaliwal: I think first of all there's a lot of pressure on Harper (from the Conservative caucus) to have Grewal removed from caucus and the stress leave was a compromise. And I think that he will have trouble getting the nomination or getting the ticket or support from the party in the next election which is only six to eight months away. I think they will not allow him to get the nomination. So he'll have a tough fight to come back in politics. He's going to have a hell of a problem and I think the Conservatives will make it difficult for him to get the nomination.



VOICE: What implications will this have on Dosanjh's career?

Dhaliwal: I think it's probably too early to say. Obviously, he's hurt himself by being involved in this and I guess it will depend on what the Ethics Commissioner comes up with because it's now before him. He'll review all the facts and it depends on what his view and what his position is.



VOICE: Do you think there should be a comprehensive RCMP inquiry into all of Gurmant Grewal's affairs because so many things are popping up now from his past?

Dhaliwal: I think what happens in a situation like this is that the media focuses on all sorts of things, everything. Then they focus on the negative. So I don't think we should have a blanket review of everything in his past, but I think obviously if there are things that are brought to their attention, they have a responsibility to look at it. But I don't think all of a sudden they should be doing a wholesale investigation. I think that there are legitimate things they will obviously look at but I don't think they should be going out on a fishing trip.

(END)

June 11, 2005 Grewal Makes International News

Indian-origin lawmaker in the midst of controversy in Canada

Press Trust of India

Toronto, June 11, 2005

An Indian-origin Conservative lawmaker in Canada is at the centre of a controversy over his citizenship with an allegation surfacing that he faked as a businessman to gain entry into the country.

Gurmant Grewal, who came to Canada in 1991 from Liberia, obtained his citizenship by pretending that he was a business entrepreneur, alleged Gurwinder Dhillon, a former business partner of the MP, who claimed to have participated in the scheme.

Grewal, who is already facing charges of attempting to cross over to the Liberal side in exchange for a cabinet post, bought shares of a small carpet company from Dhillon in the city of Vancouver for USD 40,000, only to sell them back the next day.

Dhillon alleged that the lawmaker bought the shares just to fulfil his obligation as an investor immigrant, when he moved to Canada from Liberia, 'The Globe and Mail' reported.

Canadian Citizenship and Immigration rules in 1991 required prospective entrepreneurial immigrants to manage a business that would be set up within two years, provide employment opportunities to at least one Canadian.

The allegation could spell trouble for Grewal as the country's Citizenship and Immigration department has made it clear that it takes such charges very seriously.

"In general terms, where there are allegations that somebody has obtained their citizenship, or in fact their permanent residence on the basis of misinterpretation or fraud, that's something we take very seriously," department spokesman Greg Scott was quoted as saying in the report.

However, a conservative spokeswoman rubbished the allegation, saying it was old and unfounded.