Tale of two tapes

In recent Canadian political history we’ve had two stories of alleged bribes offered on tapes followed by partisan claims of doctoring of the evidence.

In one story, former Conservative MP Gurmant Grewal alleges that he was offered a senate seat or an ambassadorship for his MP wife Nina if he defected to the Liberals as that party was trying desperately to hang onto power. Grewal secretly taped then-Prime Minister Paul Martin’s chief of staff in conversation. The Liberals later alleged that Grewal had altered the tapes.

Currently, we have a story about a sitting Prime Minister embroiled in a taping controversy as Tom Zytaruk, biographer of Chuck Cadman, taped the then-opposition leader allegedly speaking about “financial considerations” for the Cadmans if Chuck were to run for the Conservatives after voting to bring down the government.

As an aside, it’s interesting that these stories occurred surrounding the same event. However, what some may consider tangential, let’s look at how these stories were and are being handled by those that tell the story to the rest of us.

In the case of Gurmant Grewal’s taping, when allegations of doctoring arose, the burden of proof shifted to Grewal, to the OLO’s communication staff and to the opposition leader (Harper) himself.

Yesterday, we saw a number of sworn affidavits detailing the context of the taping of Stephen Harper by Tom Zytaruk, which raise not only the question of splicing of the taping, but the context of the interview itself (whether Mr. Harper returned to the car or not – Harper and his staff (Novak, Olsen) and Dona Cadman confirm under oath that he did not). Further, two forensic audio specialists confirm that the tape was altered with Tom Olsen saying “This tape has been edited and doctored to misrepresent the event as it actually occured”. Sworn affidavits from Novak, Olsen and Cadman (including Chuck Cadman’s assertion that he was never offered anything inappropriate), sworn testimony from audio forensic experts saying the tape was altered and an RCMP conclusion that “no evidence” is available to support an investigation into allegations of bribery.

Why after all of this does it seem that the burden of proof has been shifted upon the Tories in both cases? Thus, it seems, they must bear the burden of politicking while Conservative.

Consider this CBC story from June 5th, 2005 concerning the alleged Grewal doctoring,

Experts say Grewal tapes were altered

Last Updated: Monday, June 6, 2005 | 9:12 PM ET

Two audio experts have independently concluded that the secret recordings made by MP Gurmant Grewal were edited.
John Dooher, a forensic audio engineer hired by CBC News, said Thursday there is a “crude” edit and something “amiss” about a section of tapes made by the B.C. member of Parliament.

while in yesterday’s story concerning the alleged doctoring of the Harper interview, CBC News published,

Tories ask court to stop Liberals from using Harper tape

Tape was doctored, Tory MP says

Last Updated: Wednesday, June 4, 2008 | 7:55 PM ET

According to Gough’s sworn statement, “the tape is not a continuous recording of one conversation.”

Moore did not say that Harper’s words had been changed.

When the CBC’s Don Newman read him one exchange between Zytaruk and Harper, Moore would not say whether or not it had been altered.

“Why would you even raise the tape?” Moore said, adding that experts — hired by the Conservatives — have proved that the tape has no credibility.

CBC News should hire its own set of forensic audio experts as they did with the Grewal tape so that they can confirm Moore’s assertion. They should also give the RCMP the benefit of the doubt when that agency says that there is “no evidence” to support an investigation. Perhaps everyone should also take Cadman’s own word when he stated that no inappropriate offer had been made to him by any party. What has happened is that they’ve refocused the story upon an insignificant question still somewhat unanswered (was that Harper speaking about some sort of financial overtures to Cadman? – yet we know from the sworn affidavits released yesterday that those financial considerations were limited to a suggestion of providing party support for a campaign).

In the case of Grewal, enough of a cloud had been cast upon the validity of his tape (and his character) that any tangential unanswered questions (such, as what did Tim Murphy mean by comfy fur?) became moot to the press for that story.

Two tapes, two alleged bribes, two sets of audio experts, two standards.

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