Minister Navdeep Bains strenuously denies suggestions of impropriety regarding Brampton land deal (updated)

Navdeep Bains

THE Pointer Brampton last week reported that Brampton City Council has sent the RCMP the findings of the firm Froese Forensic Partners that was hired early this year to investigate a real estate deal that cost the city an extra million dollars after it was found that Brampton Mayor Linda Jeffrey’s chief of staff Hasneet Singh Punia reportedly “leaked” confidential details about the planned property purchase to Brampton MPs Raj Grewal and Navdeep Bains, who is the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development.

The details that were “leaked” included the agreed price of about $3.3 million for the 20-acre parcel of land that is owned by the province of Ontario and that the city wanted to end congestion on Goreway Drive, south of Steeles Avenue.

Raj Grewal

The deal didn’t take place, but the land was bought by Goreway Heaven Inc. for close to the same amount, according to The Pointer Brampton. It was then sold back to the City of Brampton a few months later last January for $4.4 million.

Froese Forensic Partners presented their report to Brampton City Council on November 19 and on Tuesday the Council reportedly decided to hand the probe’s findings to the RCMP as the force was already investigating Grewal’s gambling activities.

The story was picked up by other media, including the National Post.

Bains has strenuously denied any impropriety in the affair, noting on his Facebook:

“A recent media report by The National Post improperly suggests I was involved in wrongdoing in relation to the Goreway Bridge Project, simply because the City of Brampton sent a report on that project to my office.

“Let me be clear: any insinuation or allegation of wrongdoing on my part is false and baseless.

“As an elected official concerned about my riding, I have indeed monitored this long-standing project because it is important to my constituents.

“As a federal Cabinet minister, I handle sensitive information on a daily basis. I always treat such information with the utmost care and in accordance with the highest ethical standards.

“I have and will continue to use all available recourse to defend myself against allegations that would question my integrity.”

Sources with an intimate knowledge of the facts told the Bramptonist the investigators found no connection between the land deal and the information Punia provided to Grewal and Bains.

The Bramptonist also noted: “In 2015 when Grewal launched his bid for MP he campaigned on the Goreway Bridge project, and it sits in his riding of Brampton East so the project was of interest to him and his constituents.”

Marcel Wieder of Aurora Strategy Group, which represents Punia, told the Bramptonist: “As per usual practice with governmental representatives, Mr. Punia discussed potential funding under the federal government infrastructure program and shared a generic report on a confidential basis with Mr. Grewal and Mr. Bains. There is a long-standing understanding between governments that information may be shared on a confidential basis in order to assess relevant issues of joint interest, such as a potential application for funding.”

Grewal in a video statement on his Facebook clarified: “As part of a routine update request, myself and other recipients received an email containing an unsolicited confidential report from the mayor of Brampton’s Chief of Staff on November 21, 2017. I did nothing further with this report and to suggest that I leaked confidential information is categorically false.”

Erin O’Hoski, Director, Strategic Communications at the City of Brampton told the Bramptonist: “Sharing information on real estate and infrastructure projects with other orders of government may be required depending upon the nature and needs of the project involved. Support, funding and partnership arrangements, for example, can dictate the level of collaboration, and information which is communicated.”

MPs Grewal and Bains, the mayor’s chief of staff Punia and Goreway directors named by the National Post in its follow-up story are all South Asians and that is bound to cause more controversy, thanks to the usual racism.

The National Post also reported: “Goreway Heaven director Baghwan “Gary” Grewal – no relation to the MP but a former Liberal riding association president in Mississauga-Streetsville – took part in Trudeau’s visit to India.”

On Sunday, Jaswinder S. Bhatti on behalf of Goreway Heaven Inc. and all its directors issued a strong denial on his Facebook that “the land was acquired based on information disclosed by any politician of any stripe or level of government.” They also categorically denied they “used any connections with the Liberal Parry to acquire the parcel of land in question.”

They added: “We hereby demand a full retraction of the stories published by the National Post and the Pointer and a full apology.”

Meanwhile, the Bramptonist reported: “The City of Brampton is aware of the leak in information shared from the in-camera session to The Pointer and says it is “considering next steps.””