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June 6, 2005
Gurmant's Envelope Brings A Sudden Vacation

The controversy surrounding taped conversations between Tory MP Gurmant Grewal and Liberal Party leaders just got stranger tonight. Grewal has suddenly left for a leave of absence following an altercation at the airport that saw the MP attempting to get an envelope past security by asking other passengers to carry it for him:

The Tory MP at the centre of a surreptitiously taped effort to make a deal with the Liberals is taking a stress leave from his parliamentary duties after Air Canada launched an investigation of incident at Vancouver airport.

Gurmant Grewal was spotted in a waiting area Saturday asking passengers to carry a package to Ottawa for him, said an airline source. ...

A union official said Mr. Grewal had earlier gone to an Air Canada ticket agent to ask if he could arrange for someone to carry a package to Ottawa aboard flight 166 on Saturday. He was told that was impossible because of security practices.

The agent told him he couldn't do that. If he had a package to go on the flight he would need to go on the flight.

The official said Mr. Grewal then re-booked himself on the Ottawa flight and passed through security to a waiting area, where he asked other agents if they could give him a list of politicians travelling on the Ottawa flight. He said he wanted one of them to carry a package for him.

He was reportedly again told that this was a violation of security.

He was then overheard asking a number of passengers to carry the package, the official said.

The MP apparently was successful in finding someone to take his envelope to Ottawa and went back to tell the agents in the lounge, the official said. He himself flew to Ottawa the next day.

Airport officials would not release the contents of the envelope, but given the nature of the events during the past couple of weeks, the suspicion is that Grewal had another tape he wanted to get back to Ottawa without having it found on him. Stephen Harper announced that Grewal had taken a leave of absence earlier that day because of "significant personal pressure," and that he had authorized a stress leave for the MP.

Needless to say, this bizarre incident at the airport -- the airport only confirms that they are investigating Grewal, but won't say for what -- does not build confidence in the allegations he made regarding influence peddling at the PMO. With the tapes, or at least the copies posted at his website, coming under attack as edited, Grewal may have wanted to slip out of town quietly. However, asking people to carry any item for them on an airplane has long been a security breach, even before 9/11. The idea that a sitting MP would not know this, and would not simply take advantage of a courier service or even FedEx, boggles the mind and calls Grewal's judgment and capability into sharp question.

Just for that reason alone, Harper needs to suspend Grewal until the airport incident gets unraveled. If the tapes turn out to be something less than Grewal has indicated, Harper may need to take more permanent action against the Newton-North Delta MP. And if the envelope contains one of the original tapes he claims to have made, the RCMP may make the question of suspensions and stress leaves moot.

UPDATE: I got the direction wrong initially -- Grewal was heading back to Ottawa, not out of Ottawa. I made the correction above.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at June 6, 2005 9:16 PM

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