National Newswatch

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — The chief government whip for the federal Liberals says MP Raj Grewal is out of the party caucus.

Ajax MP Mark Holland says in a tweet that he confirmed Saturday morning with the Speaker of the House of Commons that Grewal "is not a member of the Liberal caucus."

The MP for Brampton East took to Facebook on Friday to say he has repaid his sizable gambling debts and is now reconsidering his hasty decision to quit politics.

He announced last month that he was stepping down immediately to deal with "personal and medical reasons."

The Prime Minister's Office later said Grewal's sudden decision was prompted by a gambling problem that led him to incur significant personal debts.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Saturday he learned of Grewal's gambling problem just over a week ago, but his office had no information that an RCMP investigation was connected to the issue.

Trudeau told a news conference in Buenos Aires his office was aware the Mounties had been examining Raj Grewal's connection to the prime minister's trip to India this year.

Grewal had invited a construction executive — who was paying him for legal services — to official events with Trudeau during the trip.

The PMO was aware the RCMP was asking questions related to the India trip and that an ethics investigation was going on around Grewal, Trudeau said. 

"We had no information at that point there was any connection to a gambling problem we had no information on," he said.

"On Wednesday of last week, I was apprised of Mr. Grewal's gambling problem.... I understand my office became aware of that within a day or so of briefing me."

In his Facebook message Friday, Grewal said he began frequenting the Casino du Lac Leamy in Gatineau, Que., in early 2016, racking up personal debt in the millions of dollars playing high-stakes blackjack. He started to borrow money from family and friends to continue to gamble.

"On an average sitting, I would spend between 15 to 30 minutes at a table, and I either won a lot of money, which made me continue to chase wins, or I lost a significant amount of money, which threw me into complete despair," he said.

"I want to make it clear, that every single personal loan made to me was by cheque. Everybody has been paid back, and every loan and repayment is transparent and traceable."

The issue had nothing to do with "anything sinister" except addiction issues, he added, while apologizing to his family for having to bail him out and carry the burden with him.

Grewal said he would take a leave of absence from the Liberal caucus to focus on his mental health, and make a final decision about his political future before Parliament resumes in the new year.

A source with knowledge of events has told The Canadian Press that the RCMP began looking into Grewal's casino gambling based on reports of unusually large financial transactions.

—with files from Jim Bronskill

—Follow @kkirkup on Twitter

Kristy Kirkup, The Canadian Press

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