Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre speaks to reporters ahead of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs (PROC) regarding foreign election interference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Wednesday. © Spencer Colby/Canadian Press Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre speaks to reporters ahead of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs (PROC) regarding foreign election interference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Wednesday.

Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre and the NDP are demanding that the federal government launch a public inquiry into allegations that the regime in Beijing interfered in two recent federal elections.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has so far ducked calls to launch an inquiry. He has argued the House of Commons committee currently studying foreign election inference is the best forum for this sort of investigation.

Poilievre said the Commons committee’s work must continue and the prime minister’s chief of staff, Katie Telford, should be called to appear before it.

But he said the “massive” news that Beijing and its agents may have interfered in Canada’s democratic process also demands an outside review.

Poilievre said such an inquiry should be limited to China’s alleged actions. The NDP motion on the matter, meanwhile, calls for an inquiry into all foreign interference in Canada’s democratic process.

The procedure and House affairs committee is hearing from senior officials Wednesday about China’s alleged meddling.

Jody Thomas, the prime minister’s national security adviser, told MPs that she and other officials have routinely briefed Trudeau about election interference by China — she called communist regime the “greatest threat” — and other bad actors like Russia and Iran.

Thomas said there were foreign interference “attempts” in 2019 and 2021.

She declined to provide specifics about the interference, saying it would be inappropriate in light of strict national security laws that require secrecy.

“The unlawful sharing of information and inappropriate sharing of information, I believe, jeopardizes our national security. It jeopardizes institutions and puts people at unnecessary risk and it’s very concerning,” Thomas told MPs.

RCMP is not investigating, government says

While multiple media reports have detailed allegations of foreign interference, including attempts to co-opt candidates, Shawn Tupper, the deputy minister of the Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, said Wednesday there are no active RCMP investigations underway into election matters.

Thomas did say, however, that government is “taking concrete steps to strengthen our counter foreign interference approach, including by making sure that those who engage in such activities face consequences.”

Poilievre said a public inquiry should be chaired by someone who is acceptable to all political parties to ensure its independence.

He said a recent report on the matter authored by Morris Rosenberg was unacceptable because Rosenberg previously held a role with the Trudeau Foundation, a non-profit named for the prime minister’s father.

Poilievre said the Liberal government hasn’t done enough to curb Beijing’s influence in Canada.

“He did one thing — one thing. He appointed a panel and had a report written by someone who is the former head of the Trudeau Foundation,” Poilievre said of the prime minister.

“That’s it. No foreign influence registry, no laws to protect the Canadian diaspora community. No action against foreign interference and no effort to inform the Canadian people that all of this was happening to our democracy.”

Rosenberg’s report, released Tuesday, found that the Government of Canada did not detect foreign interference that threatened Canada’s ability to hold free and fair elections in 2019 and 2021.

The report did say, however, that there were attempts to interfere in both campaigns.

Canada has a long list of grievances against Beijing.

A ‘vast campaign of foreign influence’

China has been accused of meddling in Canada’s elections. A Chinese national was mysteriously fired from Canada’s National Microbiology Lab. A Chinese national working at Hydro-Quebec has been criminally charged for alleged economic espionage. China’s ambassador threatened MPs and senators with “forceful measures” as payback for Parliament describing China’s treatment of its Uyghur minority as a genocide. And Beijing arbitrarily detained two Canadians for more than 1,000 days.

Last fall, Global News reported that Trudeau had been briefed by national security officials about “a vast campaign of foreign inference” in Canadian politics — a campaign that allegedly included “a clandestine network” of candidates in the 2019 election, a movement to place “agents into the offices of MPs in order to influence policy,” an attempt to “co-opt and corrupt former Canadian officials to gain leverage in Ottawa” and a campaign to “punish Canadian politicians whom the People’s Republic of China views as threats to its interests.”

CSIS reportedly told Trudeau that China’s consulate in Toronto floated cash to at least eleven federal election candidates “and numerous Beijing operatives” who worked as campaign staffers.

Last month, the Globe and Mail reported that China again employed a “sophisticated strategy to disrupt Canada’s democracy” in the 2021 election campaign because Chinese diplomats and their proxies “backed the re-election of Justin Trudeau’s Liberals.”

Also in February, Global News reported, citing unnamed sources, that national security officials briefed Trudeau about Liberal MP Han Dong.

The news outlet said CSIS has identified Dong as “a witting affiliate in China’s election interference networks.” Global also reported Dong was one of the eleven candidates allegedly supported by Beijing in the 2019 election.

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