Conservative MPs are criticizing the Liberals for not heeding advice from security officials to stay away from former Ontario cabinet minister Michael Chan. MP Michael Barrett pointed out in the House of Commons on Feb. 14 that Trade Minister Mary Ng had Chan chair her 2017 byelection campaign, even though he was reportedly on a CSIS watchlist for alleged connections to a Chinese Communist regime spy network. A Globe and Mail report says security officials told the PMO in 2019 to tell Ng to be “extra careful” around Chan.
Ng denied that anyone from the PMO told her to be cautious around Chan and said he didn’t co-chair her 2019 campaign because there were other capable volunteers. Her press secretary, Shanti Cosentino, said Chan was involved in the 2017 campaign in his capacity as an Ontario MPP representing the riding in which Ng was running and that they do not have ties.
Barrett also raised the issue in the House on Feb. 13 and asked why Ng has not resigned given the latest reporting, along with her recent ethics violation. Ng was found in breach in December for awarding a contract to her friend. Conservative MP Luc Berthold followed-up after Government House Leader Mark Holland’s response and asked why Ng has not resigned.
Other allegations in the Globe article include that CSIS has a file on Chan about his activities in the 2019 and 2021 federal election campaigns and that he had meetings with suspected Chinese intelligence operatives. CSIS has reportedly observed Chan meeting with Chinese diplomat Zhao Wei, which a source described to the Globe as a “suspected intelligence actor.” Chan has allegedly met with China’s former vice-consul-general Zhuang Yaodong, who CSIS believes was in charge of security files at the Toronto consulate.
Chan told the Globe that his meetings with Chinese diplomats were normal and that he also meets with officials from other Asian countries. He said the CSIS allegations serve to promote racism and that they have caused “irreparable damage to my reputation and the safety of my family.”
The Globe also reported, based on two sources, that CSIS Director David Vigneault noted Chan’s return to public office in 2022 in a briefing provided to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his National Security and Intelligence Advisor Jody Thomas last fall. Trudeau denied knowledge of that information in a scrum on Nov. 22, 2022, which prompted Conservative MP Arnold Viersen to file a question with the government the same day. The government responded on Jan. 30 that commenting on specifics of operational intelligence would put operations at risk and would jeopardize Canada’s access to valuable intelligence on national security threats.