Late Friday afternoon, the Prime Minister’s office announced it is not aware of a Peel Regional Police investigation into one of the governing party’s MPs, Raj Grewal.
The statement wasn’t in response to an inquiry. Neither the opposition or media was asking if the PMO knew Grewal was subject of a police investigation. It was something the PMO raised for some need not apparent to us.
So the questions must be asked — when did the PMO first become aware it was unaware of a police investigation into Grewal?
Raj Grewal is the Liberal MP who suddenly up and quit on Thursday.
And in explaining his departure, a tweet from the Prime Minister pointed only to “personal challenges” for which the Prime Minister hoped Grewal would receive “the support he needs.”
In a Facebook post, Grewal went a little further, saying the departure was for “personal and medical reasons”.
The two Thursday social media posts seem to have been co-ordinated in advance, the PMO tweet coming at 3:59pm and Grewal’s post at 4:08pm.
The language in the posts also appear to have been worked out in advance with a very conscious explaining of who didn’t know what and when.
“Yesterday” was the very first word in both the PM’s tweet and Grewal’s post. According to Grewal, he told the Chief Government Whip he was resigning as MP on Wednesday. Trudeau asserted he only knew about Grewal’s “personal challenges” on Wednesday.
Then, on Friday afternoon, more information came from the PMO.
A written statement from the PMO said Grewal had a gambling addiction “that led him to incur significant personal debts.” The Prime Minister accepted Grewal’s resignation “on these circumstances.”
But the PMO’s Friday statement also showed it had been less than transparent and forthcoming. Not just about what they knew, but also when they knew.
On Friday the PMO acknowledged they were aware Grewal was “subject of a complaint” to the Ethics Commissioner. The complaint, made by NDP MP Charlie Angus, alleged Grewal broke conflict of interest rules by inviting a business associate to official Canadian meetings in India during the Prime Minister’s visit.
In fact, Grewal was not just subject of a complaint. On May 17, the Ethics Commissioner confirmed Grewal was subject of an investigation.
But more significantly, the PMO statement added new information that revealed the “personal and medical” explanation was only a part of what was at issue with Grewal.
The PMO now revealed it was aware the RCMP had been making “inquires” about the “circumstances that were the subject” of the Ethics Commissioner’s investigation. The delicate wording gave no clarity on whether these “inquiries” add up to an RCMP investigation. They didn’t clarify the nature of these inquires. And they didn’t clarify when the PMO became aware of the inquiries.
And there was a very odd line: “we are not aware of an investigation by the Peel Regional Police.”
This is not meant sarcastically, but when did the PMO know they were not aware of a Peel police investigation? And what steps, reasonable or otherwise, did they take to continue their state of unawareness?
Perhaps the Liberals had chosen to not to know too much — adopting the Sgt. Schultz alibi.
It seems the PMO led reporters away from police investigations — or inquiries — with a cover story about “personal challenges”. Indeed, the PMO’s initial telling of the story was only forthcoming and transparent if we include possible multiple police probes in the category of “personal challenges” about which the Prime Minister only became aware “yesterday.” That’s not usually how we think about these things. Now we know there were other issues, knowledge of which may have preceded “yesterday.”
By their own admission, the PMO was aware of RCMP inquiries. But we don’t know when they became aware, or what they became aware of. And we don’t know when the PMO became aware that it didn’t know anything about any Peel Police investigation.
What’s missing is any timeline of what and when the Prime Minister or his office knew about possibly illegal acts by Grewal and police probes into him. “Yesterday” learning about “personal challenges” doesn’t cover them. The Prime Minister needs to be more clear about what he knew about Grewal and when he knew it.