Former Conservative MP Gurmant Grewal plans to run for the leadership of the BC Liberal Party, insisting that past controversies in his political career won't stop him from staging a comeback.
Mr. Grewal said in an interview Wednesday that he will join the race to succeed Christy Clark, who stepped down this past summer after her party was defeated in the legislature.
The BC Liberals have no official links to the federal Liberals.
Rather, the party is seen as an informal coalition of federal Liberals and Tories.
"I believe there is a need for my services. I took some time. I studied. I learned when I was in politics, but also when I was not in politics," said Mr. Grewal, an MP from 1997 until 2006, who has, more recently, been involved in various business ventures.
Mr. Grewal found himself in the midst of controversy in 2005, when he alleged then-prime minister Paul Martin's chief of staff Tim Murphy and cabinet minister Ujjal Dosanjh tried to woo him to join the Liberals by offering benefits.
Mr. Grewal taped the encounters, but questions were raised about whether they had been edited.
After looking into the matter, the RCMP said there was no basis for criminal charges.
The federal Ethics Commissioner also cleared Mr. Murphy and Mr. Dosanjh.
The Mounties also looked into allegations that Mr. Grewal deposited political campaign donations into his personal account, but the B.C. Criminal Justice Branch ruled out charges in the matter.
When Mr. Grewal sought to stage a political comeback for the 2015 election by running in Cloverdale-Langley City, the national candidate-selection committee for the Conservative Party of Canada disallowed his candidacy without elaborating.
"When you work hard in politics, there are things that come up," Mr. Grewal said. "As far as some allegations are concerned, when you are a whistle-blower and you have the courage to blow the whistle against corruption in the government, against the prime minister of the country, then naturally there is a political vendetta."
Mr. Grewal said he is now intent on moving forward. "I have more to contribute rather than worrying about any controversy. Controversies do happen in politics. Sometimes they are good. I have not done anything wrong."
Mr. Grewal was an MP as a member of the Reform, Canadian Alliance and Conservative parties. His career in federal politics included serving as deputy opposition House leader and a senior critic for foreign affairs.
Mr. Grewal noted several times that, as opposition leader, Stephen Harper referred to him as the "Ironman of our caucus" in a signed photo heralding Mr. Grewal's hard work. When Mr. Grewal's wife, Nina, was elected, they became the first married couple to serve, at the same time, in the House of Commons.
Now, Mr. Grewal said, he is focused on the BC Liberals, whom he claimed have lost touch with the grassroots and fallen short in offering bold new policy.
"That's why they lost the election," said Mr. Grewal, who was a member of the party he now aspires to lead before entering federal politics, let his membership lapse while he was an MP, then signed up again afterward. "We need to go go back to people's hearts, listen to them carefully, understand what the issues are and move on with them."
He said he is hoping to talk about trade, economic development by encouraging business activity in rural B.C., as well as cutting regulations and reducing taxes. "I have to work hard. I have to deliver, to come up with a vision and new ideas. I am sure I am going to be a vibrant contributor to the debate and make a difference in the race, and win."
The Liberals were reduced to a minority in the spring election. Subsequently, the party lost a no-confidence vote to the combined forces of the NDP and Greens, allowing the NDP to form a government with Green support. The Liberals have 41 seats in the 87-seat legislature.
There are at least six official candidates in the leadership race: former provincial cabinet minister Mike de Jong, Andrew Wilkinson and Todd Stone, as well as MLAs Sam Sullivan and Michael Lee, and former Surrey mayor Dianne Watts. Terrace businesswoman Lucy Sager has said she is running but was unavailable Wednesday to confirm she is still in the race.
Mr. Grewal said he plans to enter the race next week, and participate in the next party debate. The deadline for candidates to enter is Dec. 29. Party members are to choose a new leader in early February.