On June 1, 2005, Mr. Yvon Godin, the Member of Parliament for Acadie-Bathurst, requested that I conduct an inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the apparently surreptitious audio taping by Mr. Gurmant Grewal, the Member for Newton-North Delta, of his conversations with the Honourable Ujjal Dosanjh, the Minister of Health and Member for Vancouver South, and Mr. Tim Murphy, Chief of Staff to the Prime Minister.
The subject matter of the reported conversations dealt with the possibility that Mr. Grewal might leave the Opposition to join the Government and either support the Government, or not take part, in an upcoming confidence vote in the House of Commons.
Specifically, Mr. Godin requested that I examine the following allegations:
i) “that Mr. Grewal sought inducements from Minister Dosanjh and/or Mr. Tim Murphy; or Minister Dosanjh or Mr. Murphy offered inducements to Mr. Grewal to change his vote(s) on matters before the House of Commons of Canada;
ii) that Mr. Grewal surreptitiously audio taped conversations with Minister Dosanjh and/or others; and
Mr. Grewal attempted to entrap Minister Dosanjh into improper conduct.”
With respect to allegations (i) and (iii), the information gathered during this inquiry indicates that Mr. Dosanjh did not offer specific rewards to Mr. Grewal in that he (Mr. Grewal) change his vote in relation to the May 19, 2005 budget confidence vote.
While it is not clear whether Mr. Grewal genuinely sought an inducement to change his vote or whether he just acted the part in an attempt to entrap Mr. Dosanjh, his actions were, in either case, extremely inappropriate. If his intent was the former, he committed an extremely serious breach of sections 8 and/or 11 of the Conflict of Interest Code for Members of the House of Commons. If his intent was the latter, his actions were at odds with Principle 2(b) of the Members’ Code.
With respect to allegation (ii), while surreptitiously audio taping fellow Members is neither illegal nor a specific contravention of the Rules of Conduct spelled out in the Members’ Code, I do not, however, believe that such conduct by Mr. Grewal is consistent with the Code’s Principles, in particular, Principle 2(b).
The facts of this case have clearly not enhanced the public’s confidence and trust in the integrity of the House of Commons and its Members. Indeed, I believe the public’s trust and confidence has been weakened.
Under Section 27 of the Conflict of Interest Code for Members of the House of Commons (“Members’ Code”), which constitutes Appendix 1 of the Standing Orders of the House of Commons, a request for an inquiry can be made by a Member of the House of Commons who has reasonable grounds to believe that another Member has not complied with his or her obligations under the Members’ Code. Ordinarily, following the completion of an inquiry, the report is provided to the Speaker of the House of Commons who then tables it in the House. Once the report is tabled, it is released to the public. During the dissolution of Parliament, section 28 of the Members’ Code requires that the Ethics Commissioner make the report public following the provision of the report to the Speaker.
THE REQUEST FOR AN INQUIRY
This inquiry was initiated at the request of Mr. Yvon Godin, Member of Parliament (“MP”) for Acadie-Bathurst. In his letter dated June 1, 2005 (attached as Appendix 1), Mr. Godin requested that I conduct an inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the apparently surreptitious taping by Mr. Gurmant Grewal, MP for Newton-North Delta, of his conversations with the Honourable Ujjal Dosanjh, the Minister of Health and MP for Vancouver South, and Mr. Tim Murphy, Chief of Staff to the Prime Minister. The subject matter dealt with the possibility that Mr. Grewal might leave the Opposition and “cross the floor” to join the Government, or might otherwise not take part in the expected confidence votes in the House of Commons.
My reply to Mr. Godin (included in Appendix 1) conveyed my agreement to undertake an inquiry, but noted two limits to its scope. First, I indicated that Mr. Murphy, as Chief of Staff to the Prime Minister, could not be the subject of the inquiry.
This reflects the fact that Mr. Godin’s request was in relation to allegations that Members of the House of Commons had not complied with their obligations under the Members’ Code. Accordingly, my jurisdiction to conduct this inquiry flows from subsection 27(1) of the Members’ Code. Since Mr. Murphy is not a Member of the House of Commons, I cannot assess his conduct against obligations under the Members’ Code, which has no application in relation to him.
It has been suggested that, since Mr. Murphy is a public office holder as defined in subsection 72.06(d) of the Parliament of Canada Act, the Ethics Commissioner has the authority to investigate his conduct in relation to the application of the Conflict of Interest and Post-Employment Code for Public Office Holders (POH Code). This is not, in fact, the case. Subsection 72.08(1) of the Parliament of Canada Act, allows me to conduct inquiries under the POH Code only in relation to the conduct of Ministers of the Crown, Ministers of State and Parliamentary Secretaries. In addition, such inquiries can only be initiated at the request of a Member of the Senate or House of Commons. Beyond these provisions, there is no statutory authority for the Ethics Commissioner to conduct examinations in regards to any other category of public office holder. While Parliament may wish to amend, at some time, the Parliament of Canada Act to address this matter, I am not in a position to unilaterally exceed my legislated mandate.
The second limitation on the scope of my inquiry relates to the issues to be examined. I indicated that they would include only the alleged inducements sought or offered between Mr. Grewal and Mr. Dosanjh, the surreptitious taping of conversations and the alleged entrapment by Mr. Grewal.
Although my office commissioned a study of the issue of crossing the floor by Desmond Morton, Professor of History at McGill University (Appendix 4), I am not prepared to offer an opinion on the practice of crossing the floor in general. “Crossing the floor” is a term used in Westminster-style parliaments to describe a situation where a Member of Parliament changes his or her party affiliation, and there has been considerable debate as to whether it is proper, or even ethical, for a Member to join another political party without first facing a byelection in his or her riding. Indeed, there have been Private Member’s Bills in the House of Commons which have proposed that a Member’s seat be vacated should an individual cease to sit as a Member of the political party that endorsed his or her candidacy. However, there is no existing convention, legislation or parliamentary rule that deals with the question of crossing the floor, nor does this report wish to establish one. Rather, it is the specific circumstances under which Mr. Grewal would have crossed the floor that are of relevance to this inquiry.
Subsection 27(2) of the Members’ Code provides that a request for an inquiry from a Member of the House of Commons must be (i) in writing; (ii) identify the alleged noncompliance with the Code; and (iii) set out the reasonable grounds for the Member’s belief that the obligations have not been complied with.
In light of the foregoing, the three allegations that Mr. Godin noted in his request (Appendix 1) were:
i) that Mr. Grewal sought inducements from Minister Dosanjh or that Minister Dosanjh offered inducements to Mr. Grewal to change his vote on matters before the House of Commons of Canada;
ii) that Mr. Grewal surreptitiously audio taped conversations with Minister Dosanjh and/or others; and
iii) that Mr. Grewal attempted to entrap Minister Dosanjh into improper conduct.
While the Member has not precisely identified which provisions of the Code have been contravened, I am satisfied by the wording of the allegations that they all refer to the same sequence of events, which fall within the parameters of section 8 and/or 11 of the Members’ Code, which state:
“(8) When performing parliamentary duties and functions, a Member shall not act in any way to further his or her private interests or those of a member of the Member’s family, or to improperly further another person’s private interests.”
“(11) A Member shall not attempt to engage in any of the activities prohibited under sections 8 to 10.”
I am further satisfied that the three allegations contained in Mr. Godin’s request are in writing and set out the reasonable grounds for his belief.
The first step in the process was to meet informally with Mr. Grewal to ascertain what, in his opinion, had transpired. Following this, 21 formal interviews took place in Vancouver, New Westminster and Ottawa with persons associated with the events under inquiry.
A full list of the witnesses interviewed for this Inquiry appears in Appendix 3.
Finally, Mr. Grewal, Mr. Dosanjh and Mr. Murphy were provided Notices of Issues of Fact and given seven (7) calendar days within which they could, if they so wished, provide their comments in writing to the Ethics Commissioner. All comments provided were taken into consideration prior to the finalization of this report.
The completion of this Inquiry required the time and cooperation of many individuals. I must point out that these witnesses participated voluntarily, since subsection 27(8) of the Code requires that only Members of the House of Commons are asked to cooperate with the Ethics Commissioner.
There has been a great deal of media coverage in relation to the existence of the tape recordings that Mr. Grewal had made of his conversations with various parties. They are, of course, what sparked this present inquiry. However, from the outset of this inquiry, I wished to proceed on the basis of obtaining the direct testimony of all of the parties involved before deciding whether it would be necessary to rely on the tapes as primary evidence in support of my findings and conclusions. In this way, any questions associated with the provenance, quality, integrity, translation and transcription of the tapes could be addressed at a later time.
Even though we had all of the tapes audio enhanced for the purposes of translation and transcription, I was not satisfied that an accurate and reliable transcript could be prepared in relation to the conversations which took place in Punjabi. Indeed, throughout this inquiry there were strong objections by those parties represented by counsel regarding the use of the tapes in support of the inquiry. At the conclusion of this inquiry, I did not consider it necessary, in the face of the wealth of the primary corroborated evidence of all of the witnesses to rely on the contents of the tapes in reaching my conclusions.
Three points set some context for the events under inquiry.
First, the events in question unfolded during the week prior to an anticipated budget confidence vote in the House of Commons on May 19, 2005. At the time, it was accepted that the outcome of this vote would be too close to predict. The survival of the Government was in question and this clearly had a bearing on the events that transpired.
Second, several witnesses in this inquiry suggested that the events of May 15, 2005 to May 19, 2005 marked the culmination of a process that may have started much earlier. In some cases, we were told that Mr. Grewal had, for some time, been seeking opportunities for him and his spouse, Nina Grewal, who is also a Conservative Member of Parliament, to change parties. In other cases, we were told that Mr. Dosanjh had, as early as February or March 2005, expressed an interest in seeing Mr. and Mrs. Grewal join the Government. None of these earlier stories were corroborated and no one indicated that there were any direct contacts between Mr. Grewal and Mr. Dosanjh prior to Monday, May 16, 2005.
Third, it was apparent from the interviews we conducted that rumours were widely circulating in the Vancouver-area Indo-Canadian community that Mr. Grewal was being considered for an appointment to the Senate. Seven of the 21 individuals interviewed during this inquiry mentioned this. There is no indication as to who started this rumour, its substance or for what reason it was communicated.
Despite inconsistencies in the testimonies of the 21 individuals interviewed and the fact that several witnesses provided only limited information, there is a substantial degree of corroboration in regards to the key events between May 14 and 18, 2005.
May 14 and 15, 2005
Mr. Dosanjh indicated that on Saturday, May 14, 2005, he received a telephone call from Mr. Bob Cheema, a businessman in the Vancouver-Surrey area acquainted with both Mr. Dosanjh and Mr. Grewal. According to Mr. Dosanjh, Mr. Cheema visited his home later that evening and suggested to him that Mr. and Mrs. Grewal would be willing to join the Government in return for a United Nations position or Senate appointment for her and a Cabinet post for him. According to the testimony of Mr. Manjit Singh Saini, a business acquaintance of Mr. Cheema, he (Mr. Saini) had been called prior to this event (in April or early May) by Mr. Cheema. Mr. Cheema informed Mr. Saini that, if Mr. Grewal were to be given a Cabinet post and his wife a Senate or United Nations post, Mr. Grewal would join the Liberal Party. Mr. Dosanjh reported that he informed Mr. Cheema on May 14, 2005 that, if the Grewals wanted to cross the floor, it was up to the Prime Minister to decide what, if any, appointment he might eventually make.
In the course of our interviews, we were unable to clarify who, if anyone, encouraged Mr. Cheema to make this approach, and Mr. Cheema himself claimed no knowledge of any such meeting. However, based on the evidence gathered, I find Mr. Dosanjh the more credible witness in regards to this matter and I believe, therefore, that the meeting did in fact take place roughly as Mr. Dosanjh described it.
Mr. Dosanjh indicated that, subsequent to his meeting with Mr. Cheema, he had a telephone discussion with the Prime Minister, who instructed him to make no commitments or offers. During his interview, the Prime Minister confirmed that he had spoken with Mr. Dosanjh on Sunday, May 15, 2005 about the situation and that no offers or commitments were to be made. The Prime Minister also testified that he told Mr. Dosanjh to deal on this matter with Mr. Tim Murphy, his Chief of Staff, as he himself was occupied with preparations for the Royal visit. The Prime Minister says his instructions to Mr. Dosanjh were: “If he wants to cross the floor on his own, that is something that we’d be prepared to consider, but there is no quid pro quo of any kind whatsoever.”
Mr. Murphy testified that around noon that day (Sunday), after speaking to the Prime Minister, he spoke with Mr. Dosanjh and reiterated the view that the Prime Minister wanted it clearly understood that no commitments or offers could be made to Mr. Grewal.
May 15, 2005
Mr. Grewal and Mr. Sudesh Kalia, a politically-active insurance broker in Surrey, agreed that over a period of seven to ten days prior to the May 14-15 weekend, Mr. Grewal had attempted to contact Mr. Kalia. Both agreed that there was a call from Mr. Grewal to Mr. Kalia on the morning of May 15, 2005. During this conversation, Mr. Kalia testified that he (Mr. Kalia) mentioned the rumour that Mr. Grewal was to be appointed to the Senate. However, Mr. Kalia and Mr. Grewal provided different accounts of the rest of the conversation.
According to Mr. Grewal, Mr. Kalia broached with him the subject of him crossing the floor in exchange for a reward. Mr. Grewal then added that, after a short period of reflection, he decided, for whatever reason, to continue the discussions.
According to Mr. Kalia, Mr. Grewal indicated he had heard the rumour about a Senate appointment but that he (Mr. Grewal) had not been approached or spoken to anyone about it. Mr. Kalia testified that Mr. Grewal informed him that he would join the Liberals if Mr. Kalia would speak to someone on his behalf.
Several witnesses provided consistent testimony on Mr. Kalia’s actions after his conversation with Mr. Grewal. According to their accounts Mr. Kalia first contacted Mr. Kuldip Singh Jhand whom he believed could provide him with the phone number of Mr. Bill Cunningham, the former federal Liberal Party President for British Columbia. Mr. Kalia also decided to contact Mr. Dosanjh, which eventually resulted in a meeting that afternoon at the latter’s constituency office. During that meeting, Mr. Kalia informed Mr. Dosanjh that Mr. Grewal was interested in crossing the floor to become a Liberal, provided there was a Cabinet post for him and a United Nations position or Senate appointment for Mrs. Grewal. Mr. Dosanjh replied that he would discuss the proposal if Mr. Grewal understood that no commitments or offers could be made. Mr. Kalia testified that he passed this information to Mr. Grewal that evening.
A different story was offered by Mr. Hardev Bal and Mr. Khushpal Gill, who claimed that Mr. Kalia had approached Mr. Grewal at the request of Mr. Dosanjh. Specifically, Mr. Bal and Mr. Gill testified that around March 1 or 2, 2005, they accompanied Adrian Dix, the local MLA for Vancouver Kingsway, to the residence of Mr. Kalia in order to sell Mr. Kalia tickets to Mr. Dix’s provincial fundraising campaign. Mr. Bal testified that, during a conversation with Mr. Kalia (conducted in Punjabi), Mr. Kalia said that Mr. Dosanjh had asked him to bring Mr. Grewal over, that is, encourage him to cross the floor. Mr. Dix on the other hand, recalls the discussion in Punjabi and although not completely fluent in the language, is certain that no mention was made of Mr. Grewal crossing the floor.
In reviewing these counter claims, the significant amount of corroborated evidence in support of Mr. Kalia’s version of the events has led me to attach little weight to other views.
May 16, 2005
Mr. Dosanjh, Mr. Grewal and Mr. Kalia all agree that Mr. Kalia had discussions with each of them on Monday that led to an 8:00 p.m. meeting between Mr. Dosanjh and Mr. Grewal at the former’s apartment in Ottawa.
Mr. Grewal and Mrs. Grewal both testified that while on their way to Question Period on Monday, May 16, 2005, he informed her for the first time that he had been contacted by Mr. Kalia. Mrs. Grewal’s response was “you’re wasting your time since, you know, we’re not going to be joining the Liberals.”
Mr. Grewal testified that earlier that day, he decided to purchase a new digital tape recorder to record his conversations. He spoke of a previous incident in which another Conservative Member of Parliament stated that he had been approached to accept an appointment but that the story was denied by the Liberals. Mr. Grewal indicated he did not want to be caught in the same predicament. While he had the tape recorder with him during his evening meeting with Mr. Dosanjh, it did not function properly, despite his efforts to fix it. As a consequence, he did not record the meeting.
The testimonies of Mr. Dosanjh and Mr. Grewal are relatively consistent as to the nature of their discussions that evening. Mr. Dosanjh spoke of his own political career and noted that the Prime Minister had made no commitments or offers to him when he agreed to stand as a Liberal candidate in the 2004 election. They also discussed Mr. Grewal’s Parliamentary pension entitlements. However, their accounts differ in one important way. Mr. Grewal indicates that Mr. Dosanjh specifically offered him a Consul General position in Boston or in Seattle or an ambassadorship to a small country. Mr. Dosanjh, on the other hand, indicates that no offers were made. There is no further evidence to corroborate either of these claims.
May 17, 2005
The testimony of Mr. Dosanjh, Mr. Grewal and Mr. Murphy is relatively consistent as to what transpired during the meeting in Mr. Dosanjh’s office in the Confederation Building at 1:00 pm Tuesday, May 17, 2005.
Prior to the arrival of Mr. Murphy at this meeting, Mr. Dosanjh and Mr. Grewal both agree that there was further discussion in relation to Mr. Grewal’s retirement and pension entitlement. However, their stories differ in the following respect. On one hand Mr. Dosanjh testified that Mr. Grewal was extremely excited about the crossing of the floor of Belinda Stronach, that morning, and how it was now easy for him to be appointed to Cabinet. However, Mr. Grewal’s account was that Mr. Dosanjh suggested a Cabinet position or diplomatic post for him and a Senate seat for his wife.
With the arrival of Mr. Murphy, the testimony is relatively consistent between the three; the remainder of the conversation was primarily between Mr. Murphy and Mr. Grewal.
There was a discussion between Mr. Murphy and Mr. Grewal with respect to the situation in the House, particularly as it related to the closeness of the budget confidence vote.
All three testified that Mr. Grewal raised the “Volpe” issue. That is, Mr. Grewal wanted an apology from Minister Volpe in relation to comments the Minister had made regarding Mr. Grewal demanding bonds from his constituents in relation to the issuance of Temporary Visitor Visas.
As well, both Mr. Murphy and Mr. Grewal testified that, in order to respond to inquiries, as to why Mr. Grewal was talking to them (Liberals), it should be done on the basis of principle. Indeed, Mr. Grewal testified he was told he should say, “the Bloc Quebecois and Alliance (sic)or the collaboration, was not the right way to go”.
Both Mr. Murphy and Mr. Grewal agree that during the conversation, the term “deal” was used but that Mr. Murphy, a little later in the discussion, indicated this word should not be used. Mr. Murphy testified that the Prime Minister had indicated there were to be no offers.
All three parties agree that the meeting ended with no offers having been made and that there was no commitment by Mr. Grewal.
May 17 and 18, 2005
In their testimony, both Mr. Grewal and Mr. Geoff Norquay, who was Director of Communications in the office of the Honourable Stephen Harper, Leader of the Opposition, at the time, stated that on Tuesday evening, May 17, 2005, after a special caucus meeting, Mr. Grewal approached Mr. Harper and informed him he had something urgent to tell him.
However, as Mr. Harper was in a hurry to catch a plane for Regina, they did not have the opportunity to speak any further that evening.
Mr. Grewal and Mr. Norquay testified that Mr. Grewal spoke to Mr. Harper by telephone on the morning of Wednesday, May 18, 2005. During that call, Mr. Grewal explained that discussions were taking place between him and the Liberals about crossing the floor and that offers were being made to him. Mr. Grewal offered to record a possible conversation he believed he might have with the Prime Minister. Mr. Grewal indicated Mr. Harper informed him not to make any recordings of the Prime Minister.
Unfortunately, although we made numerous attempts between August and November, we were informed Mr. Harper’s schedule did not permit an interview. We wished to clarify with Mr. Harper that Mr. Grewal first approached him on this matter after their Tuesday evening (May 17, 2005) caucus meeting and that it was only on Wednesday, May 18, 2005, during a telephone conversation with Mr. Grewal that he (Mr. Harper) was informed by Mr. Grewal that he was tape recording conversations with the Liberals about crossing the floor and the offers that were being discussed. However, as indicated above, these facts were corroborated by Mr. Norquay.
Both Mr. Grewal and Mr. Murphy testified that they met in Mr. Grewal’s office at 10:00 a.m. on Wednesday.
Mr. Murphy confirmed that, in his conversation with Mr. Grewal, they discussed options for Mr. Grewal in relation to his vote, such as Mr. Grewal perhaps becoming an independent Member or abstaining from the vote. They both agree the discussion continued to address the implications of Mr. Grewal crossing the floor. The meeting ended with no commitment by either participant.
Mr. Dosanjh testified that subsequently, he was informed that two Conservative MPs were going to be holding a media event and making allegations that the Liberals were trying to buy their votes. As a consequence, Mr. Dosanjh contacted Mr. Grewal and was assured by him that it was neither he nor his wife making these allegations.
There were no further discussions between Mr. Grewal, Mr. Dosanjh or Mr. Murphy.
On Wednesday afternoon both Mr. Grewal and Mr. Norquay, the former Director of Communications in the office of the Honourable Stephen Harper, Leader of the Opposition, confirmed that Mr. Grewal briefed Mr. Norquay regarding the recorded conversations.
Shortly thereafter, the Conservative Party decided to hold a press conference that evening making public, not the whole set of recordings, but only extracts from them.
THE SPECIAL COSTS
During the course of an inquiry, there are typically additional costs incurred by the Office. For example, expenses, primarily for travel and professional services, including transcription and translation services, were required to conduct this inquiry. All of these costs have been or will be absorbed within the budget of the Office of the Ethics Commissioner. Consistent, however, with this Office’s past practice of providing the public with the special costs associated with its inquiries, these special expenses are listed in Appendix 2.
The first and third allegations are closely related, as both concern the intent of the various parties involved in the discussions of Mr. Grewal’s possibly crossing the floor. They will therefore be dealt with together.
(i) Mr. Grewal sought inducements from Minister Dosanjh or that Minister Dosanjh offered inducements to Mr. Grewal to change his vote on matters before the House of Commons of Canada.
(iii) Mr. Grewal attempted to entrap Minister Dosanjh into improper conduct
As I indicated at the outset of this report, the sequence of events outlined above occurred in the context of a looming confidence vote in the House of Commons, expected on May 19, 2005. The outcome of the vote was far from certain and, it seemed, would depend on one or two votes. The vote of every Member counted. Within this context, if Mr. Grewal sought rewards from Mr. Dosanjh or Mr. Dosanjh offered rewards to Mr. Grewal to act in a way that would alter Mr. Grewal’s decision on whether and how to vote in this instance, this would clearly fall within the parameters of either section 8 of the Conflict of Interest Code for Members of the House of Commons, which stipulates that:
“When performing parliamentary duties and functions, a Member shall not act in any way to further his or her private interests or those of a member of the Member’s family, or to improperly further another person’s private interests.”
or section 11:
“A Member shall not attempt to engage in any of the activities prohibited under sections 8 to 10.”
Voting in Parliament and negotiating with fellow Members before voting constitute part of a Member’s parliamentary duties and functions. If Mr. Grewal had sought a reward or inducement to cross the floor at this time, he would have been acting and/or attempting to act in such a way as to further his private interests. Likewise, if Mr. Dosanjh had offered a reward or inducement to Mr. Grewal for crossing the floor at this time, he would have been acting and/or attempting to act in such a way as to improperly further Mr. Grewal’s private interests. Either of these would amount to an extremely serious breach of the Members’ Code.
As for the issue of entrapment, I note that this term has a very specific legal connotation which relates to situations where a person is induced or persuaded to commit an offence that he or she had no previous intent to commit. Entrapment is not covered under any specific Rule of Conduct in the Members’ Code. Nonetheless, I believe that if a Member attempts to entrap another Member into improper conduct, this conduct should be clearly prohibited under the Members’ Code, although currently it is not. However, such conduct is clearly inconsistent with the Principles of the Members’ Code, particularly Principle 2 (b), which provides:
“Given that service in Parliament is a public trust, the House of Commons recognizes and declares that Members are expected to fulfill their public duties with honesty and uphold the highest standards so as to avoid real or apparent conflicts of interests, and maintain and enhance public confidence and trust in the integrity of each Member and in the House of Commons”
While I believe that caution must be exercised in invoking the Principles of the Members’ Code, given their potentially limitless application, I note that, if Mr. Grewal had sought to entrap Mr. Dosanjh into offering him a reward or inducement for changing his vote, he would have induced Mr. Dosanjh into committing an extremely serious breach of sections 8 and/or 11 of the Members’ Code. This clearly would have been a reprehensible conduct.
In regards to Mr. Dosanjh, it is clear that both he and Mr. Murphy had a considerable interest in Mr. Grewal crossing the floor – the confidence vote was, after all, imminent. This is clearly reflected in the fact that they continued their discussions with Mr. Grewal. Indeed, as Mr. Dosanjh himself testified:
“… I believed it was my duty as a member of the government, as a member of parliament, to ensure that the government survived using any legitimate process, and that Canadians didn't want an election and if somebody was prepared to cross the floor, I was prepared to talk to them under appropriate circumstances.”
With respect to allegation (i);
I do not find, based on the corroborated testimony of the witnesses, that Mr. Dosanjh induced, or otherwise offered any specific reward to Mr. Grewal to change his vote in relation to the May 19, 2005 budget confidence vote.
I do, however, find that, it would have been preferable had Mr. Dosanjh and Mr. Murphy not continued to meet with Mr. Grewal when it was quite clear Mr. Grewal was being noncommittal. After all, the instructions from the Prime Minister were no commitments, no offers.
In regards to Mr. Grewal, he admitted that on Monday, May 16, 2005, he decided to tape the conversations he was having with Mr. Kalia, Mr. Dosanjh and Mr. Murphy in order to ensure he had proof of the nature of the discussions that were occurring. It is clear from Mr. Grewal’s own testimony that he was attempting to elicit from the Liberals a firm offer of some specific reward or inducement. The question that remains, however, is what his motivation was in doing so.
The evidence in this case permits me to conclude that Mr. Grewal intended either: (i) to actually seek such a reward or inducement to change his vote, in which case he taped the conversations to expose the Liberals in the event either an offer was made but not ultimately honoured or if no such offer was made in the first place; or (ii) to entrap Mr. Dosanjh and Mr. Murphy into offering a reward or inducement to a Member of the opposition in exchange for changing his vote. While the evidence gathered in this case does not permit me to conclude which of these two, or both, was Mr. Grewal’s true motivation, his actions in either case were clearly not within the standard of conduct which should be expected from a Member of Parliament.
Whatever Mr. Grewal’s motivation, he intended to record the conversations he was having with Mr. Dosanjh and Mr. Murphy. If Mr. Grewal’s motivation was to actually seek a reward for crossing the floor and voting with the government in favour of the budget confidence motion (or abstaining from the vote), this would, as indicated above, clearly constitute an extremely serious breach of sections 8 and/or 11 of the Conflict of Interest Code for Members of the House of Commons. If, on the other hand, this was not his motivation, then his intent was clearly to entrap Mr. Dosanjh, an action that would have been entirely at odds with the Principles of the Members’ Code.
Therefore, in relation to allegation (i) and (iii) as they specifically relate to Mr. Grewal, either the first or third allegation is true. Regardless of which is, in fact, the case, Mr. Grewal’s actions were in my view entirely inappropriate and deserving at the very least, of reproach.
(ii) Mr. Grewal surreptitiously audio taped conversations with Minister Dosanjh and/or others Mr. Grewal freely stated that he taped or tried to tape some of his conversations. This is neither an illegal act nor a contravention of a specific Rule of Conduct in the Conflict of Interest Code for Members of the House of Commons. However, as with entrapment, I believe such conduct is inconsistent with the Principles of the Code, although for a different reason.
One of the fundamental privileges a Member of the House of Commons enjoys is freedom of speech, particularly within Parliament. I find the prospect of a Member of Parliament routinely – or even sporadically – surreptitiously recording the conversations of others could have a chilling effect upon the effectiveness of our national institutions. The ability of parliamentarians to engage in frank discussions must be preserved, otherwise the system will suffer from cautiousness guided by self-preservation as all will fear that any misplaced words could be used in a context other than that in which they were intended.
Moreover, I find that repetition of this practice would, in the final analysis, only further erode the confidence of the Canadian public in our democratic political system.
It is hardly surprising that, in the particular context of an imminent and likely to be very close vote on the government’s proposed budget, there was a more than usual interest in the possibility of “crossing the floor” – presumably in either direction.
The facts of this case have, however, provided the public with an unusual glimpse of politics in its least attractive form. It is not that the parties were engaged in illegal activities. “Crossing the floor” has a long and fascinating history in Canada. Nonetheless, this case presents all parties to the events in an especially unattractive light, one in which they at least appeared to have very little interest in principle and so much interest in power and perquisites. Genuine political principles and competency, for example, do not seem to have been an important feature of the conversations.
Instead, over a period of three days, the parties engaged in a conversational dance in which each was trying to ascertain what, if anything, the other was offering.
It may be naïve to assume that politics is other than a “blood sport”. If, however, Canadians are to sustain their belief in the value of democratic government and their confidence in their political institutions, more edifying examples of government and politics at their best will have to be provided.
LIST OF WITNESSES INTERVIEWED
The institution of political parties, with their unifying discipline, makes possible Canada's version of parliamentary government. It is the logical, even inevitable, result of our nineteenth century belief in "responsible government". It fulfils our constitutional goal of "Peace", and "Order", though its critics may deny that it also guarantees "Good Government". Still, most Canadians regularly demonstrate a commitment to stability in government, while achieving, as Professor David Docherty has observed, a notable instability in parliamentary representation.1
Canadian Party Discipline
Canadian party discipline is, of course, a contrast to the comparable party function in the U.S. Congress. In both regimes, governing parties exercise discipline through access to a "spoils" system.2
Like most divergences from the American model, rigid party discipline raises Canadian doubts, particularly among citizens and regions who feel alienated by many government decisions. This has inspired a recurrent demand from Western Canada and occasionally from Quebec for M.P.s who will act as delegates from their constituencies. That has led, from the era of the Progressives, to the corresponding obligation of reforming parties to make their members adhere to party doctrine. It is no coincidence that the Progressives, Social Credit, the CCF and Reform-Canadian Alliance have had more switchers over the period studied (1921-2005) than the two traditional Canadian parties.
Does it take more "discipline" to be undisciplined? In the atmosphere of the post-1993 election, the decision by the Chrétien Liberals to ignore their promise to repeal the Goods and Services Tax, justified York South-Weston M.P. John Nunziata to vote against his party in the full knowledge that he would be suspended from his party's caucus. He was joined, afterwards, by Dennis Mills who quietly resigned the Liberal whip to share in the protest, though he returned to his party caucus soon after.3
Sheila Copps adopted a different, braver and much more costly strategy by resigning her seat and winning re-election in her riding of Hamilton East. By-elections are expensive for the federal treasury and for competing candidates, and very few Canadian M.Ps. have followed Copps' example.
Different Views of Party Discipline
Constituency control over a Member of Parliament or legislative assembly remains a recurrent theme in Canadian political discontents.4 The Progressives offered a dramatic introduction of the principle by winning 65 primarily rural and Western seats in the 1921 election and forcing the victorious Liberals into a minority government by denying them constituencies they might otherwise have won. Though the Progressives had the second largest caucus, they refused the conventions of party discipline and refused to form the Official Opposition. This was a major political bonus for the Conservatives and left the Progressives largely impotent. In W.L. Mackenzie King's notable phrase, they became "Liberals in a Hurry". Two members switched immediately to the Liberals to play at least some role in King's government; others followed, as "Liberal Progressives". Still others, mostly members of an informal parliamentary "Ginger Group of radical Labour and Progressive M.Ps.”, broke away to take up a United Farmers' of Alberta label and, eventually, to identify with the Depression-born Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (Farmer-Labour-Socialist) or CCF.
Under its leader, J.S. Woodsworth, and influenced by the heir to his Winnipeg North-Centre constituency, the Rev. Stanley Knowles, the CCF was social-democratic in ideology but quite conservative in parliamentary affairs. Its M.Ps. normally struggled to master House of Commons procedure and to play by the rules, even if they were sometimes interpreted with some ingenuity to expand back-bencher influence. This made the CCF a contrast with other western-born political parties and sympathetic historians have claimed that the CCF became the agenda-setter for governments in the late-war and early postwar years.
Like other western-born parties, the CCF could benefit from Western resentment of a central-Canada-dominated political system. Ottawa was a long way from the West and, despite the ebullient optimism of the early decades of settlement; federal policies were almost invariably shaped with the larger populations of Ontario and Quebec in mind. Whatever the party in power, Westerners seldom felt adequately empowered, except perhaps during the Diefenbaker years in government. Quebec, too, frequently felt aggrieved, notably in the war years, when British and patriotic voices were raised for the conscription of reluctant Quebeckers, and later, when Quebec demands for a "special status" within Confederation were treated with scant respect by most anglophone Canadians. The lists of "switchers"
5 include a disproportionate number of Quebec and Western M.P.s expressing their discontent with party labels they seldom controlled or which, in the case of the Progressives and, later, Reform, virtually legitimised an independent spirit.6
Identifying Party Switchers
Who switches their party label during their parliamentary career? Is it a matter of finding oneself in the wrong party? Or does one's party abandon its M.P.s? Changing one's mind in any setting is positive evidence of the wisdom of responding to evidence. However, such an interpretation is, sadly, exceptional. Consistency may be a hobgoblin of tiny minds, but the mental energy many citizens give to understanding politics tends to be sadly small. Mind-changing is generally deplored, save for those whose adjustment conforms with one's own prejudices. One small consequence is that using the biographical data in the centennial edition of The Canadian Directory of Parliament (my original intended reference frame) turns out to be quite inadequate.7 Most of the information was supplied directly or indirectly by members themselves, and no less than ten ignored any past aberrations in their party loyalty.8
I have accepted a more elaborate though imperfect set of categorizations extracted fundamentally from the Journals of the Canadian House of Commons, published on the web by the Journals Branch/Direction des Journaux. This series is very much more complete than depending on selfidentification, though cross-checking with the Canadian Directory for the pre-1967 period soon reveals its imperfections. Repeat switchers are often ignored, although repetition is fairly common, particularly when temporary schisms are resolved in the ranks of Social Credit, Progressive Conservatives and Canadian Alliance, and even more so when M.Ps. profess themselves "Independent" Liberals or Conservatives. Facing an election with the burden of an unpopular government or leader or with the prospect of being cut off from party funds may represent a sobering alternative.
By a quite extensive definition of switchers, such as politicians who take a break from politics, usually with help from the voters, and then attempt a return with a different party, Canada's federal parliament has known about 166 "switchers" since 1921. They include such distinguished Parliamentarians as Joe Clark, James Shaver Woodsworth, founder of the CCF, Alberta's ultra-Conservative rancher, Jack Horner and, most recently, Belinda Stronach, a high-profile parliamentary celebrity.
Did switchers find themselves at odds with their party. Indeed so. In some cases, such as the Liberals' Jag Bhaduria, whose resumé seemed to have a few unsubstantiated claims or Carolyn Parrish, an outspoken critic of President George W. Bush, or the Alliance's Jack Ramsay, whose value as a tough-minded Justice critic was undermined by an RCMP investigation of his conduct while a member of the Force, their own parties acted to sever the connection. After his Royal Commission on Price Spreads had pinned a number of prominent Canadian business leaders as Depression-era profiteers, Harry Stevens had become an unacceptable colleague for R.B. Bennett's Conservative government. By forming his own Reconstruction Party, Stevens made his own break with his life-long party, although the votes he drew for his candidates in the general election of 1935 might actually have saved Bennett's majority. Although Stevens was the sole Reconstruction candidate elected, he rejoined his old party in 1938 after Bennett had retired to a British peerage, though he did not run in 1940.
Abandoning a Fading Party
Many of the 166 "switchers" have been refugees from vanished or fading political parties. When the Progressives won 65 seats in 1921, they presaged a multi-party system in Canada's Parliament that has sometimes faded but never died. The Progressives did not survive the 1930 election. Even leaders like Thomas Crerar and Robert Forke had had to choose between seeking influence with the government as "Liberal or "Liberal-Progressives" or righteous marginality by re-labelling themselves United Farmers of Alberta.
Similarly, the slow decay of Réal Caouette's substantial Quebec following after the 1962 federal election soon led to a separate Ralliement des créditistes, followed by a partial and short-lived reunion. The death throes of the historic Conservative Party or its revival thanks to a take-over by the Canadian Alliance led to many label-changes which may well have been intensely ideological but equally in vain.
Apart from the first five years of the current decade and the notably passive 1950s, party-switching has been relatively consistent on a decade-by-decade basis of approximately twenty per decade.9
As mentioned above, party-switching can be habit-forming. Most M.P.s who leave their party become Independents for a few days or months until they find their way to another political party and sometimes even to their former home.10 A cynic may be tempted to believe that prospects of victory under another label is a motive, but the electoral success rate of switchers has not been impressive. Perry Ryan of Toronto-Spadina left one of the safest Liberal seats in Canada after twenty years of incumbency to become a Conservative, a sacrificial way to become an ex-M.P. The Legitimacy of Switching
In 1974, the Election Act was amended to allow the candidate's party affiliation to appear with his or her name on a federal ballot. A pre-condition was certification by a party's leader. The specific source of this provision was a conflict in 1972 when Moncton's Mayor, Leonard Jones, had secured the Progressive Conservative nomination after making his anti-French language views nationally known. Since his candidacy would be an embarrassment for the Progressive Conservatives in Quebec and in other parts of Canada where the party was making a concerted bid for support, the leader, the Hon. Robert Stanfield, tried to disown Jones but had no official means to do so. After 1974, all party leaders were given a powerful lever to control the presentation of a party's candidates. While the NDP, Bloc and Reform-Canadian Alliance have avoided use of the power, the Liberals have used the power to appoint candidates in a systematic attempt to attract stronger gender and ethnic balance in winnable ridings and in the resulting caucus.
Since voters can now vote for a party as well as a candidate, are their interests affected when a successful candidate refused to represent the party for which he or she was elected? Is a candidate bound by the policies of the party he or she represents? Do voters have a claim to "Truth in Advertising"? Prior to 1974, a candidate was officially an "independent", and a significant part of any election campaign was to fix the memory of party affiliation in the electorate's mind. The 1974 amendment has relieved campaigns of that burden; can it be assumed to go farther in binding a candidate's right to switch to a different party allegiance?
When Liberal M.P. Perry Ryan switched to the Conservatives while continuing to sit for Toronto-Spadina, one of the strongest Liberal seats in Ontario at the time, much partisan and editorial opinion insisted that his duty was not to switch but to resign, testing his new allegiance in a byelection.
Toronto's more Conservative press recognized the issue but worried that the cost of a byelection was a sufficient deterrent. Mr. Ryan's fate was, of course, deferred until the ensuing general election. The issue recurs since partisans deplore defection as much as other partisans welcome a positive conversion.
Georgeville, August 8, 2005
1 - See Docherty, David C., Mr. Smith Goes to Ottawa: Life in the House of Commons (Vancouver: UBC Press, 1997,) 36-59.
2 - From the statement attributed to President Andrew Jackson that "To the victors belong the spoils", literally patronage for appointments and contracts. Cynics have seen "Responsible government" as a means of removing such "spoils" from the Governor and his supporters and placing them under control of a government "responsible to the Legislature and therefore fully entitled to reward its dependable supporters. Routine assumptions about patronage and the spoils system have been challenged by political reformers, though one of the most ardent of them, Sir Robert Borden, needed the accident of a "Unionist" coalition government to make serious headway with civil service reform. One reason for the ensuing collapse of Unionism was the disturbing absence of gratitude among Canadian voters for a government which had banned liquor, given women the vote and tried to professionalize the public service of Canada. Hardened politicians were not surprised.
3 - Docherty, Ibid. 141, 254.
4 - For an extended and sometimes critical examination of the issue, see Docherty, David C., Legislatures (Vancouver, UBC Press, Canadian Democratic Audit Project, 2005). Professor Docherty makes little direct reference to the "party switcher" aspect of M.P. behaviour
5 - See Appendix "A".
6 - See Appendix "E" on regional representation of party switchers. Moves of discontented Créditistes and wartime Liberals give Quebec the largest number of switchers while Ontario and the Maritimes have the fewest.
7 - Johnson, J.K., The Canadian Directory of Parliament, 1867-1967 (Ottawa: Public Archives of Canada, 1968).
8 - Note Appendix "A".
9 - See Appendix "D".
10 - In categorizing 166 MPs as "switchers" I have tried not to double-count those who keep moving after their original choice, though each shift is counted and indicated separately in Appendices "A" and "C".
The document entitled “Members of the House of Commons who Crossed the Floor of the House of Commons or who Changed Parties (1867 to Date)” is available through the Library of Parliament.
Party of Origin for Switchers by Decade
Party Switches per Year
1 January, 1919 to 1 August, 2005
(Repeat identity switchers included with the year of each switch.)
Party Switchers by Decade
Party Switchers by Region and Decade