Wednesday, May 25, 2005

The Tape

Paul Wells asked the question, so I’ll do my best to answer it.

There are two articles out today on the Grewal tape. I’ll add Jason Cherniak’s post on it since he can always be counted on to tote the official Liberal talking points.

First of all, since I:
a) don’t have the full tapes
b) need to work on my Punjabi
I, like everyone else, am only going on the parts of the tapes that have been released. So, first, here are the three competing opinions on the tape:

Jeffrey rightfully finds it odd that Grewal walks around taping conversations but, since Tim Murphy stays vague, feels there’s nothing odd that four hours of conversations took place. He also feels that it’s a little odd the Tories only made 8 minutes of a four hour tape public (personally, I’m grateful. I can’t imagine how dull a four hour conversation with Ujjal Dosanj must be).

Coyne’s been on a bit of a Liberal jihad of late, so it’s not too surprising that he finds the Liberal excuse of “Grewal started it” a little lame. He feels that Tim Murphy should have hung up the phone if Grewal was digging for something. He also thinks it’s odd that Murphy hasn’t defended himself (presumably he’s too busy dancing with Belinda on night club speakers).

Jason concludes that Grewel is definitely in the wrong since he tried to obtain office and entrapment generally isn’t exactly a nice thing to do. Tim Murphy, however, by talking in more platitudes and vagaries than his boss, appears to have avoided any criminal wrongdoings on the parts of the tape made public.

Now, here’s the law:

119. (1) Every one who(a) being the holder of a judicial office, or being a
member of Parliament or of the legislature of a province, corruptly

(i) accepts or obtains,

(ii) agrees to accept, or

(iii) attempts to obtain,

any money, valuable consideration, office, place or employment for himself or
another person in respect of anything done or omitted or to be done or omitted
by him in his official capacity, or

(b) gives or offers, corruptly, to a person mentioned in paragraph (a) any
money, valuable consideration, office, place or employment in respect of
anything done or omitted or to be done or omitted by him in his official
capacity for himself or another person,

is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not
exceeding fourteen years.

As for my view…I find this whole affair odd. I mean, when Belinda crossed the floor, presumably both her and Paul Martin were office holders and presumably she accepted office. I mean, every time two politicians cut a deal, something is being offered and accepted in return for political favours. The only time it becomes criminal is when that little adverb “corruptly” is thrown in. And it seems to me the law is a little vague as to what constitutes “corruptly”.

For Grewal, if he did approach the Liberals and tried to obtain office with the purpose of framing them, then you could certainly make a case that he was corrupt. If the Liberals did in fact approach him, you can make the case that he did what he did in order to expose this and to me that’s fair enough. Since it’s hard to judge who approached whom, let’s just say that Grewal has likely watched a bit too much Alias and took advantage of an opening to make the Liberals look bad.

For Murphy, I do tend to agree with Coyne’s premise that he should have hung up the phone and not spend 4 hours talking to the guy. That said, I also agree with Cherniak that Murphy likely isn’t criminally responsible for any wrongdoing since he avoided making explicit offers of anything. And if Gurmant Grewal’s whole point was to prove that Tim Murphy and the Martin boys play dirty then I can’t wait for his under cover investigation to prove that Belinda Stronach doesn’t have a PHD and that Reg Alcock occasionally puts his foot in his mouth. Everybody knew that this PMO is made up of some of the dirtiest political operatives of their generation, they didn’t need Grewal to prove it.

Bottom line, I find it extremely difficult to believe either of these boys will be charged. Given Murphy’s position, I tend to think he’s more in the wrong, but it’s clear both of them were being naughty. It just seems to me that this stuff goes on all the time and I have yet to receive a very good explanation for how this is fundamentally different than offering Belinda a Cabinet position for crossing the floor…unless there’s more to the Volpe immigration angle than meets the eye. If that comes into play, then all bets are off. If Tim Murphy implied that an RCMP investigation would be ended in return for Grewal’s support, he should be fired on the spot. If Joe Volpe was willing to try and end an RCMP investigation, he should be fired on the spot. If Grewel tried to get the RCMP called off in return for his support, then they’ll soon enough have a second reason to investigate the guy.


  • CG, a good post. Two points, though:

    1. Surely a standard other than criminality can be met where we find it unacceptable for someone to continue as an MP or chief of staff to the prime minister. Laying charges and asking for resignations are two separate actions.
    2. Presumably Grewal is the only one who knew when he was pushing the record button. Also, he had to know that airing these sorts of accusations would attract a great deal of scrutiny. Why mention that more tape existed other than the eight minutes if he was implicated elsewhere? I think at very least we have to consider the fact we have only heard a snippet a 50-50 proposition between Grewal hiding something or translation problems and a desire to string the story out.

    By Blogger Rhetoric, at 10:57 p.m.  

  • Murphy, as the chief of staff to a PM in a minority government, would have to be crazy not to want to talk to an MP who wants to cross the floor.

    That said, Murphy was smart enough to realize that if said MP were to cross the floor on the eve of a crucial vote, he might be accused of dirty politics at the least, and criminal activity at the worst.

    So when Grewal comes and says: 'I don't want an election, I don't know if I belong in this party, can we work something out?' Murphy suggests he abstain from voting and leave the door open for a discussion at a more appropriate time.

    He doesn't cut a deal, but he doesn't slam the door either.

    I can't help but note that Murphy (who we have to realize, did not have the benefit of knowing that his call might be recorded to ensure his total satisfaction) didn't say 'we don't want to get caught in a lie' but rather, 'we want to be able to tell the truth'. That's quite a distinction.

    At the end of the day, Murphy is no more criminal than a used car salesman. It may be sleazy, but he's just doing his job.

    By Anonymous Declan McManus, at 11:35 p.m.  

  • My understanding was that Grewal taped Murphy in Grewal's office (I can't be bothered to dig it out now, so we'll just leave that as my understanding - and even at that, it may have been misreported...). If so, it explains how Grewal was able to make the tape - it's much easier if you can arrange for a hidden stationary tape recorder in advance. It also pretty-well shreds Ujjal's claim that they just couldn't shake Grewal - "He wouldn't take 'no' for an answer." I've never felt the need to go to someone's office to tell them "no" - I generally just decline the invitation.

    The other motive Grewal had was the chilly media (and naturally, Liberal) reception to Inky Mark's claim of an attempted bribe that had been made what, four days before? The primary Liberal talking point on that issue was "where's the proof?" - a refrain taken up by most of the media.

    I agree that Tim Murphy is almost compelled to talk to Grewal under the circumstances of a minority government facing a non-confidence motion. At least on an initial approach (if initiated by Grewal) he has no way of knowing if Grewal is sincerely having doubts about his party's conduct. Like Belinda for instance (yeah, that's the ticket, just like Belinda....).

    All in all, I think it is a tempest in a teapot, unless there is some really explicit stuff on the as-yet unreleased portion of the tape: Grewal is only half a step above a nobody, and Murphy was careful to at least avoid obvious criminal conduct. It seems that the Liberals will accept "not yet convicted" as an acceptable endorsement of their people and actions (and more to the point, it seems that Liberal voters will, as well) so this won't hurt them much. For people who are inclined to disbelieve anything that PMPM says, this is just further proof - but none-the-less, it doesn't change anything.

    Of course, this analysis will all change when we get the tape with Martin saying "we can give you the Senate seat and call off the RCMP, but CSL is out of bounds," or somesuch....


    By Blogger deaner, at 11:57 p.m.  

  • I am still baffled. Until this thing happened, I was not aware that just one party to a conversation had to be aware of the taping.

    In other words, if I walk around and tape my conversations with people, I am not breaking the law, because I know about it? The other party, the "recordee", does not matter at all?

    How's that supposed to guarantee a person's privacy?

    By Anonymous Calgary Observer, at 12:33 a.m.  

  • I think Declan has it right. As I point out in my new blog dedicated to the Grewal affair (, the first three-and-a-half hours of the discussion are surely about crossing-the-floor. Since no agreement could be reached--or, rather, since nothing sufficiently incriminating had been said for Grewal to have won his scalp--the question that remained was whether there would be further discussions. That is when Murphy suggested that the Grewals might want to abstain. (Since he believes that they really want to become Liberals, it is not particularly surprising that he thought they might abstain now in order to cross later.)

    By Blogger buckets, at 1:15 a.m.  

  • Rhetorics point is significant. 8 minutes out of a total of 240 minutes is not convincing. If there are four mour hours of tapes, they must be made public or the story will probably die.

    By Blogger Psychols, at 1:42 a.m.  

  • One would think that the most crucial 8 minutes of tape were selected for airing; on the other hand, one does wonder what remains on the rest of it. Context is important, for both sides.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:47 a.m.  

  • I'm not a lawyer and I can't tell you what the Law thinks corruptly means. But isn't the test really one of what was being exchanged.

    Agreeing to review some Liberal policy position or renegotiate tax rates in exchange for votes or crossing the floor seems like regular horse trading.

    Agreeing to discuss Senate seats or possibly even dropping RCMP investigations is about personal gain.

    Seeking personal gain seems corrupt to me, seeking gain for constituents or a broader group does not.

    By Blogger KevinG, at 10:58 a.m.  

  • In my mind, the real question here is what Murphy's actions, and the fact that Martin has not punished him for them, says about the Liberal party. Gomery has shown that corruption was pervasive among Liberals in Quebec. Martin claims that he has, or will, clean it up. Now, look at how the Liberals have have stayed in office: Belinda, the conversations recorded in these tapes, Darfur deals, cancelling oppostion days, and ignoring confidence questions. Would a leader truly opposed to corruption allow these tactics? And expect a culture of corruption to change? The Liberal motto seems to be "do what it takes to win, and try not to be convicted". To root out corruption from an organization, the message "play fair" must come down from the top. The time has come for intellectually honest Liberals like CG to answer the question: do I really expect the Liberals to change, or do I expect them to remain corrupt as long as they are in power? And, if you expect them to remain corrupt, will you accept the corruption (while perhaps wringing your hands about it), or transfer your allegiance (at least temporarily) to another party?

    By Anonymous Mark C, at 12:03 p.m.  

  • The issue nobody has mentioned is the fact that the Tories are in possession of what may be evidence of a criminal act - the tapes - yet continue to withhold them, until they have translated them and presumably vetted them.
    I say that, if anybody seriously believes that a crime was committed (ie. a violation of the Criminal Code) the RCMP should get a search warrant as soon as possible and take the tapes into their possession. That way, they can be certain that the tapes aren't altered and that portions are not erased.
    The Tories have a clear motive to ensure that the tapes do not have the effect of making the Grewals look like the bad guys in this sordid tale.
    If the Tories were acting in good faith, they would have turned over the tapes to the RCMP a week ago - at the first hint of discussions between Grewal and Murphy. Instead, they take an 8-minute portion out and release it to the media.
    It isn't up to the Tories to translate the tapes before turning them over. That is the job of the RCMP. Based upon their conduct, Tories are wide open to the accusation that they are trying to manipulate a situation that may ultimately result in criminal charges.
    That is perilously close to obstruction of justice.
    In ordedr for their to be a genuine, proper police invesigation, the police need to use proper investgative techniques. That starts with safeguarding the evidence.
    Get a search warrant. Now.

    By Blogger Brandon Grit, at 2:07 p.m.  

  • I find it hard to believe that the Liberals, already in the midst of a scandal, would try to bribe the Grewals to cross the floor/abstain from voting in exchange for appointments, cabinet posts or dropping the enquiries into his alleged wrongdoings. Surely, if Gurmant had been successful, Harper, Layton and Duceppe would have gone after the Liberals with renewed vigour, possibly sparking another enquiry/investigation.

    I believe that Gurmant was the one to initiate this whole affair, and, after getting no solid guarantees, decided to get back at them. He has a history of using taped conversations to advantage against his adversaries.

    This doesn't exonerate the Liberals. Coded dialogue may protect them from the law, but not from public opinion.

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