Members of Parliament on the Commons procedure and House affairs committee decided on Feb. 21 to broaden their study of foreign election interference after classified CSIS documents on Beijing’s involvement were leaked in the press. Conservative MP Michael Cooper, who presented the motion to expand the study, declared that “if these reports are true … this campaign of interference is not trivial, it is not a case of one or two bad actors—not that one or two bad actors is something to turn a blind eye to—but if established, what this amounts to, is an all out assault on Canadian democracy by the Chinese communist regime.” Despite this information being available to the government, no individual was charged and no Chinese diplomat was expelled.
The articles published in the Globe & Mail that Cooper referred to are based on leaked documents from the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) and anonymous sources from the security apparatus. The Globe says the information indicates Beijing’s preferred outcome for the 2021 elections was to have the Liberals in power but in a minority government. An unnamed Chinese diplomat is paraphrased as saying that he was unhappy that the Liberals had recently become critical of China but they were still the best option. He added that Beijing “likes it when the parties in Parliament are fighting with each other, whereas if there is a majority, the party in power can easily implement policies that do not favour the PRC.” The classified reports viewed by the Globe also reportedly captured a former diplomat at the Chinese consulate in Vancouver boasting about helping defeat two Conservative MPs in 2021.
Cooper’s motion requires that the committee on House affairs hold as many meetings as necessary to investigate the issue and will re-invite ministers and officials who already testified on the matter of foreign interference recently. However, Liberal MP Greg Fergus passed an amendment with NDP support to have them stricken off the list of prospective witnesses. Fergus also attempted to water down Cooper’s request for an extensive production of documents, but after closed doors deliberations between parties he removed that portion of his amendment to the initial motion. Cooper had previously tabled a motion on Feb. 9 to have Telford testify on election interference by Beijing and it was also amended by Liberal and NDP MPs to scratch her name. The committee meeting on Feb. 21 was focused on Globe and Mail reporting, whereas the one on Feb. 9 was seized with recent reporting by Global News.
Global had reported that Telford requested in 2017 that a briefing be produced on interference by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). The memo said that CCP agents were “assisting Canadian candidates running for political offices.” Liberal MP Jennifer O’Connell during the committee said the Conservatives are trying to exploit the situation for political purposes and act like “they’re just waking up to the issue of foreign interference.” She said they’re only concerned because they lost in the last two elections, meanwhile Conservatives say the Liberals turn a blind eye because they benefit from the interference. O’Connell called the questioning of election integrity “Trump-type tactics.” She added, “I think that’s dangerous for Canadians to go down this road, because like I said, we’ve seen our neighbours to the south and what happens when you start demonizing democratic institutions, and when you start undermining their legitimacy.”
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