Tories, NDP say a public inquiry is the only option to investigate foreign meddling
The Canadian PressNews foreign interference
Opposition parties are adamant the government’s only path forward on foreign interference is to call a public inquiry.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has thus far resisted such calls.
The continued push for an independent investigation comes as the RCMP said Monday it is now investigating possible violations of the Security of Information Act concerning recent media reports about alleged foreign interference in the last two federal elections.
Deputy minister of public safety Shawn Tupper said last week that the RCMP was not investigating the alleged interference itself, but a statement from the national police force Monday said it is looking into the leaks to the media about it.
The Globe and Mail newspaper, citing classified Canadian Security Intelligence Service records, recently said China worked to help ensure a Liberal minority victory in the 2021 general election as well as defeat Conservative politicians considered unfriendly to Beijing.
A Global News report cited anonymous sources alleging CSIS had urged senior Liberal party staff to rescind Han Dong’s nomination in a Toronto riding in 2019 due to alleged Chinese interference in his bid to become the Liberal candidate.
Trudeau said Friday that the government knows China attempted to interfere in Canada’s election in both 2019 and 2021 and that it knows that because his government put a process in place to look for such activities.
He also said he knows Canadians want reassurance that the issue is being investigated by independent experts, which he said is what is happening.
But opposition parties want the government to provide much more information about what actually happened in the 2019 and 2021 election.
Both Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre and NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said Monday they will not accept any process to investigate the depth of foreign meddling in Canadian elections that is not as transparent as possible.
That includes private briefings on classified material for themselves or any of their MPs. Trudeau is scheduled to make an announcement Monday evening, which Poilievre said he expects to be a “secretive process that will never bring about the truth.”
He said anything that would require Conservative MPs to keep quiet about information they receive is “a trick or a trap.”
“What they would do is bring opposition MPs or leaders into a room, give them some information and then swear them to secrecy so they couldn’t ever speak about it again so effectively that would be a trick to try to prevent anyone debating the subject,” he said.
“So no, we’re not going to have a situation where Conservatives are told that they have to be quiet about this scandal because they’re sworn to secrecy. What we need is a public inquiry that is truly independent to get to the bottom of it all while continuing the parliamentary investigation.”
Singh said he hated to agree with Poilievre, whom he refused to call by name, but that he too believes a secret briefing is not going to shed enough sunlight on the matter.
“I don’t think this should be in any way private,” he said.
Singh has floated the notion that he could make an inquiry a new requirement for continued NDP support of the Liberal minority government under the confidence-and-supply deal between the two parties.
On Monday, Singh would not commit to that, saying a decision has not yet been made.
The agreement would see the NDP support the Liberals on key votes in the House of Commons until as late as 2025, in exchange for the Liberals advancing on key NDP priorities.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 6, 2023.
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