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Harper wants PM's role probed

[PoliticsWatch Updated 2:00 p.m. June 8, 2005]

OTTAWA  — Conservative Leader Stephen Harper said Wednesday he believes Ethics Commissioner Bernard Shapiro should expand his investigation into the Grewal tapes to include Prime Minister Paul Martin.  

On Friday, Shapiro's office informed the party leaders that he was investigating the actions of Health Minister Ujjal Dosanjh and Tory MP Gurmant Grewal in what Grewal says was an attempt to offer him and his wife, Tory MP Nina Grewal, patronage positions in exchange for abstaining on last month's crucial budget vote. 

The PMO and Dosanjh both say no offer was made to Grewal and that Grewal approached them first. 

But Grewal released nearly two hours of secret recordings he made of talks with Dosanjh and Martin's chief of staff Tim Murphy. 

However, Murphy was not included in Shapiro's investigation. 

"The ethics commissioner's decision to decline to investigate Mr. Murphy I think really rests only on the fact that he is not a member of Parliament," said Harper after the Conservative caucus meeting on Parliament Hill. "And the logical conclusion of that is Mr. Martin should be investigated."

Harper said it is clear from the tapes that Martin was "fully aware of all of this and was in fact directing Mr. Murphy's own actions."

CanWest News reported Wednesday that the NDP was also considering asking Shapiro to expand his investigation to include the prime minister as a way of holding Murphy accountable for his role. 

Harper also continued to stand behind Grewal, who this week took a paid leave of absence from the Tory caucus for stress-related reasons, even though questions continue about whether recordings the Conservatives made available to the public had been altered and the MP became the subject of investigation by Air Canada for a bizarre incident at the Vancouver airport on the weekend. 

Less than two days after they were released to the public, audio experts found what they said were edits in the dubbed copies of the tapes that were made available on Grewal's Web site. 

After saying there were no problems with the recordings, the Conservatives later admitted that segments were left out of recordings due to a  technical glitch when transferring the recordings from a digital master. 

But a U.S. expert hired by the Globe and Mail said it was unlikely that the problems with the recordings were due to a dropout that can occur during a digital transfer. 

Harper said his party has hired experts who are looking at the tapes and is waiting for a final report.

And he said the problems with the recordings doesn't change the larger picture. 

"Everything on those tapes and everything I've seen Mr. Grewal do since is consistent with his story. On the other hand, as I point out, everything the Liberals have done since has been a series of evasions, of fabrications of changing of stories and outright lying."

However, Harper would not comment on an Air Canada investigation of Grewal. The airline said it receive complaints complaints he tried to have passengers at the Vancouver airport transport a package of tapes on a flight to Ottawa that he was not traveling on. 

"The matter of Air Canada it's a matter between Air Canada and Mr. Grewal," Harper said.

Grewal has denied the allegations saying the airline has "wrong information in their hands."

With so much attention on Grewal, it appears the Liberals now have the good fortune of all the original allegations of vote buying becoming lost in the shuffle. 

After the Liberal caucus meeting, Dosanjh walked out of the Centre Block room and past a corridor filled with Press Gallery reporters without one approaching him with questions about his role in the talks with Grewal.  

: Related Links

> The Hill is Alive with the Sound of Grewal

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