Gurmant Singh Grewal
(born December 21
) is a Canadian
politician and former Conservative Party of Canada Member of Parliament
. Gurmant and his wife, Nina Grewal
, were the first married couple to serve in the Canadian House of Commons
at the same time. First elected to the Canadian House of Commons on June 2, 1997 for the riding
of Surrey Central and re-elected there on November 27, 2000, he represented the riding of Newton—North Delta
from 2004 until 2005. His wife represents Fleetwood—Port Kells
In 2002, he was one of over 46,000 Canadians awarded the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal for service to Canada.
In 2005, Grewal emerged at the centre of numerous political controversies that eventually gained significant national and some international attention. On November 29 2005, Conservative Party leader Stephen Harper announced in an interview that Grewal would not be a candidate in the 2006 federal election.
Early life and career
Grewal was born in India, but emigrated to Liberia
as a young man, where he was a successful businessman.
In the 1996 British Columbia provincial election, Grewal was the Reform BC candidate in the riding of Delta North. He won 769 votes, or 4% of the popular vote.
In 1997, he was made the Reform Party of Canada nominee in the federal riding of Surrey Central, and was elected in the 1997 federal election with 17,438 votes, or 35% of the popular vote.
Immigration bond controversy
On April 6
, the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration
, Joe Volpe
, asked the parliamentary Ethics Commissioner and Royal Canadian Mounted Police
to investigate Grewal following his testimony to a parliamentary committee. In that testimony, Grewal had stated that he regularly asked those seeking his help in getting visitor visas for their relatives, if they would be willing to post bonds guaranteeing their return. Grewal contends that he was demonstrating that such immigration bonds could work as a way to prevent spurious refugee claims and illegal immigration. There is no evidence that any money was actually exchanged (or who would be paid should the bonds be called). On June 22, the ethics commissioner cleared him of these charges, although he criticized Grewal for poor judgement and instructed him to stop the practice.
The "Grewal tapes"
In mid-May, at the time the Liberal government risked losing a confidence vote on its 2005 budget
(which was later decided in the government's favour by the speaker, after a tie in the house), negotiations began between Grewal and the Liberals about the possibility of Grewal's changing political parties. After several BC Liberals acted as go-betweens, Grewal met with Ujjal Dosanjh
, Minister of Health, and Tim Murphy, the Chief of Staff in the Prime Minister's Office, on three occasions May 16-18. There were also numerous phone calls.
In these negotiations Grewal offered to change parties in exchange for a senate seat for his wife, a cabinet post for himself, and an apology from Joe Volpe. In response, Murphy and Dosanjh made vague promises of future reward. While these negotiations were going on, prominent Conservative MP Belinda Stronach defected to the Liberals and did receive a ministerial position in the government. In the end, Grewal did not change parties.
Unbeknownst to his interlocutors, Grewal was recording the conversations, a fact that he revealed to the public on the evening of May 18, where Grewal publicly accused the Liberals of trying to buy his vote with offers of a cabinet or a diplomatic post for himself and a senate seat for his wife. The next day he claimed that he had made four hours of recording, and released nine minutes of a recording of a conversation with Murphy, in which Murphy suggests that he abstain from the coming confidence vote. New Democratic Party MP Yvon Godin referred them to Bernard Shapiro, Parliamentary Ethics Commissioner and to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP).
Two weeks later, on May 31, Grewal handed over recordings to Shapiro and the RCMP. Simultaneously he released an hour and 15 minutes of recordings and transcripts to the public.
Several news outlets almost immediately began pointing to portions of the tape that seemed to be edited, something that Grewal and the Conservatives denied. Late on June 2, 2005, the Conservatives issued a news release (dubbed 'a suicide note' by the staffer who distributed it to reporters) admitting that two short sections had been accidentally omitted in the Punjabi portion of Grewal's conversation with Dosanjh on the morning of May 17. They simultaneously released a new recording that was 15 minutes longer than the one issued on May 31; on June 5 a new transcript was released.
As this was happening, audio experts began identifying clear edits in the May 31 tapes. Whether there are also edits in the June 2nd versions remains controversial.
Sometime in mid- to late June, Grewal handed more copies of the recordings over to the RCMP, though he subsequently explained that these were his own personal copies of already existing recordings.
In mid-August, the RCMP announced that there would be no further criminal investigation into the tapes and their contents.
In January 2006, a few days after the general election, Parliamentary Ethics Commissioner Bernard Shapiro released a report that was sharply critical of Grewal. Grewal, he found, had sought an inducement either for his personal gain or in order to entrap the Liberals.
Package incident and stress leave
On June 6
, Grewal announced that he was taking a "stress leave" from Parliament, after Air Canada
announced that he was under investigation for attempting to induce passengers on a flight from Vancouver to Ottawa, on which Grewal was not travelling, to carry a package on his behalf, which would have violated security regulations. On June 17
, this investigation cleared Grewal.
Some criticized the stress leave, either for the fact that Grewal would continue to receive pay, or for the example he was setting by taking a stress leave without, as far as the public knew, seeking professional attention for this stress.
Controversy over Grewal's immigration to Canada
Questions have also arisen as to the validity of his immigration application. In 1991, Canadian immigration laws required prospective entrepreneur immigrants to manage a business that would be set up within two years and provide employment opportunities to at least one Canadian. Grewal bought shares of a small carpet company in Vancouver
,000, only to sell them back the next day.
His former business parter Gurwinder Dhillon claimed in a Globe and Mail
article that Grewal purchased these shares as a means to fulfil his obligation as an investor immigrant when he moved to Canada from Liberia.
In light of the 2005 controversies, an interview given by Grewal to the Vancouver newspaper The Province
in 1995 resurfaced. At the time, Grewal was seeking a Liberal Party
nomination in the British Columbia provincial election. When reporter Don Hauka described Grewal as "politically inexperienced", Grewal phoned him to clarify his previous experience. Grewal himself claimed both verbally and in a résumé
that he faxed to Hauka that he had been an advisor to dictator Samuel Doe
's Green Revolution
. In 1995 Grewal also claimed to be "Honorary vice-consul of Liberia in Canada". Subsequently Grewal has denied all such connections to the former government of Liberia.
Grewal and his wife Nina moved from Liberia in 1991, and both their children were born there.
On July 11
, CBC News
revealed that several people who donated to Grewal's campaign in 2004 claimed never to have received tax receipts for their donations, and that at Grewal's request several of these donations had been made to Grewal himself and not to his riding association or the Conservative party. These actions, if true, may have been violations of the federal Elections Act. Grewal is currently under criminal investigation by the RCMP for these alleged violations.
Jim Holt, the president of the Conservative riding association for Newton-North Delta, claimed that the story was part of a "political assassination campaign" by the Liberals against Grewal.