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MP has tape of talks with PMO 

[PoliticsWatch Updated 11:15 p.m. May 18, 2005]

OTTAWA  — Things got more bizarre on Parliament Hill Wednesday evening when a Conservative MP released a secretly taped conversation to the media of a negotiation he had in his office earlier in the day with the prime minister's chief of staff. 

Tory MP Germant Grewal told reporters that he was approached by Health Minister Ujjal Dosanjh earlier in the week and asked to abstain on the budget vote on Thursday. 

"In exchange, I was given an understanding that I would be rewarded in some fashion," Grewal said. 

Grewal said those rewards included a diplomatic appointment or a future Senate seat for his wife, Nina Grewal, who also sits in the Conservative caucus. 

He said he made audiotapes of discussions with both Dosanjh and Tim Murphy, chief of staff to Prime Minister Paul Martin. 

He said he made the tape because, "Last time when I was made the offer, I didn't have any evidence."

After the PMO was provided a copy of the tape, Murphy released a statement stating "no offer" was made. 

"(Grewal) indicated he would cross the floor to support the government," Murphy said. "I told him that it would be better to abstain on tomorrow's vote."

Dosanjh also denied Grewal's version of events, saying that it was Grewal who approach the Liberals first, and suggesting that Grewal was persistent in his attempts to have talks with the Liberals. 

Earlier the Conservatives played to reporters an eight-minute segment of a recording of the conversation between Murphy and Grewal Wednesday morning. 

At no time during the tape does Murphy make an explicit offer to Grewal, and he carefully chooses his words and speaks about hypothetical situations. 

The tape suggests that Murphy is more interested in Grewal abstaining than having the MP crossover to the Liberal side. 

Murphy also says that it is a "bad idea" to "have any kind of commitment that involves an explicit trade."

However, Murphy tells Grewal that there are "other members of your current caucus who are facing the same dilemna that you face," suggesting the Liberals have been talking to other Tories who may be considering crossing the floor or abstaining.

"I don't think it's good if anybody lies, or if anybody is asked the question, 'Well is there a deal?' and you say, 'No.' Well you want that to be the truth," says Murphy.

"And that's what I want. I want the truth to be told."

On the tape, Murphy proposes the concept of Grewal abstaining from the vote and using the following excuse, which sounds eerily familiar. 

"That can be done on the basis, those members can do it on the basis, 'Well look, my riding doesn't want an election, doesn't want one now. Thinks it's the wrong time to do it.'"

Murphy explains to Grewal that abstaining is a better option than crossing the floor and could allow for future talks. 

"If someone abstains in that environment who has exercised a decision based on principle, (it) still gives him the freedom to have some negotiating room on both sides.

"Then the freedom to have discussions is increased."

Murphy described the next step for an MP who has abstained against the wishes of his party leader. 

"A person can say, 'Look, I obviously abstained and created some issues' and then they can say, 'I'm thinking hard about what the right thing for my riding and the contribution I would like to make.'" 

Murphy goes on to say, "In advance of that explicit discussions about Senate, not Senate I don't think are very helpful and I don't think can be had in advance of an abstention tomorrow."

He says discussions could be held later. 

"You can easily say, if you don't like, you can stay home or stay back where you are or if you do like we can make an arrangement that allows you to move."

On the tape a reference is also made to Human Resources Minister Belinda Stronach, a former Conservative MP who crossed the floor to the Liberals on Tuesday. 

Two weeks ago, Stronach told the Globe and Mail she was concerned about voting against the budget because of the impact it could have on her riding.

"I do have a concern that voting against the entire budget will impact negatively in my riding," Stronach said. "However, I think it's important to say that if this government is serious about doing some good and doing what's right in the public interest, they could pull out certain elements of the budget that all parties could move forward on and agree to."

Stronach later received flack from Conservative Leader Stephen Harper and the Ontario caucus for her comments. Stories leaked to the media on Tuesday suggests this confrontation with Harper was behind her unhappiness and decision to leave.

Later a third party in the form of former Ontario Premier David Peterson had a chance encounter with Stronach at an event in Toronto and put her touch with Murphy. 

Stronach's name arises on the tape in the context to how Grewal was approached.

Although the Liberals are now saying that it was Grewal who approached them, on the tape Murphy suggests that should be clarified at a later date. 

"It's much like Belinda where there is a third party who is independent of both sides," Murphy says. "So you didn't approach. We didn't approach."

The Tories plan to release tapes of discussions between Dosanjh and Grewal tomorrow.

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