It appears that Justin Trudeau’s coverup of Chinese government interference in Canadian elections is going to drag on, at least for a while.
In government (any government) there’s a golden rule: when you’re cornered and need to stall, you name a committee.
Justin Trudeau is following that rule in naming a “special rapporteur.” A high sounding but empty announcement that will not allow Canadians to get to the bottom of exactly what the Chinese Communist Party may have orchestrated to influence our elections.
Having thus far refused to take any serious action to investigate Beijing’s interference in our fundamental democratic institutions, Trudeau is now trying to get the heat off himself, by delegating what should be his own job as head of government, to someone else.
Trudeau says that it’s the special rapporteur who’ll decide whether or not there should be a full inquiry into Chinese government meddling in our democracy. What an unprecedented abandonment of responsibility by Trudeau!
In answer to a French question, Trudeau let the cat out of the bag when he said that maybe the special rapporteur will decide that the best way to look at foreign interference in our elections is NOT to have an inquiry!
The whole thing appears to be an exercise in sleight of hand that nobody, except other members of his Liberal government, is buying.
During his announcement, Pablo Rodriguez, Melanie Joly and Dominic LeBlanc stood beside Trudeau like potted plants and didn’t say a single word.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks during a news conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Monday, March 6, 2023. Trudeau is calling on the committee of parliamentarians that reviews matters of national security and the national intelligence watchdog to independently investigate concerns about foreign interference in Canada. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Probably better for them and their future careers. Marco Mendicino got, literally, a big pat on the back from JustinTrudeau for helping to run interference during the news conference.
While 70 per cent of Canadians are troubled by the CSIS reports about Chinese interference in our elections, Trudeau has used one of his own favourite tactics: double down.
Everyone is saying the same thing? Trudeau tells them they’re all wrong in his patented teacher-talking-to-a-child tone.
Where Trudeau really pushes his luck and undermines his own announcement is when he says that the members of the panel that looked at the last election were independent. They were his employees!
If his special rapporteur is as independent as them, Trudeau is wasting everyone’s time.
Of course the worst part was when he tried to say that Morris Rosenberg, who wrote the recent review of the panel’s work, was also independent.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had occasion to work with Rosenberg at l’Universite de Montreal and he’s outstanding. But Rosenberg also headed-up the Pierre Trudeau Foundation for years, not exactly a reassuring sign of independence from this Trudeau.
One of the lead journalists of the series of articles on the CSIS reports of Chinese government interference, Robert Fife, was asked by Aaron Rand on iHeartRadio last week why he thought Trudeau was trying so hard to block a full inquiry. Fife’s answer was unambiguous: because a full inquiry could hurt Trudeau and the Liberals.
But if the Conservatives think that there’s no downside to going after Trudeau, then they missed one important detail in Trudeau’s meandering press conference.
When Trudeau intones about the grave dangers of “xenophobia and fear mongering,” he knows exactly what he’s doing. It’s a game invented by the Liberals and like the proverbial fly, Poilievre should avoid this particular invitation to enter the spider’s parlour.
The Liberals know how to handle every fold and angle they’ve woven into the Canadian multiculturalism web without getting trapped. Critics railed when Trudeau proclaimed that Canada is now a post-national country. He was stating an emerging demographic and sociological fact that is insufficiently understood.
The realities of diaspora politics, from radio stations and social media targeting cultural communities in their home language, to well-oiled schemes to influence and cajole during elections and leadership races, are now part and parcel of Canadian institutional life.
The role of diasporas in bringing about change is now an area of serious study. Canadian academic Dr. Matthew H. Godwin is a program lead at the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change and his recently published book shows the importance of understanding the phenomenon.
The Conservatives are a very blunt instrument trying to till this fertile electoral soil. Since Jason Kenney left Ottawa, there has been no one in the blue ranks who knows the contours and the far reaches of our country’s numerous ethnocultural landscape.
Trudeau is virtue signaling to the nearly two million Canadians of Chinese origin that he’s on their side. Everytime someone says “Chinese” and not “Chinese government” he knows what to do: defend those individual Canadians who may indeed feel targeted.
It’s been that way with First Nations, Inuit and Métis Canadians. Most already distrust Poilievre because of the horrible statements he made on the very day of the residential schools apology in Parliament. He has since apologized for those, but his recent visit to the Frontier Centre, with its own history of downplaying the genocide of the residential school system, has left most of their 1.5 million votes on the Liberal side of the ledger.
So, too, for many Muslim Canadians.The debacle surrounding the appointment of Amira Elghawaby may have hurt Trudeau in Quebec, in the Muslim community many see him as having stood up for them. Poilievre’s strident tone may well have been taken personally. The Muslim community also represents nearly two million votes.
Three Conservative MPs have lunch with a German Euro-MP and Holocaust denier and Poilievre throws them under the bus, only to be reprimanded by members of the hard right media who usually idolize him.
CIJA, the respected lobby of Canada’s Jewish community, blew the whistle on the meeting which is really bad news for Poilievre, who’d worked assiduously to maintain Harper’s excellent rapport with that community.
Trudeau is just waiting patiently as the Conservatives keep helping the Bloc Quebecois stall Bill C-13. Despite its flaws, that law is largely seen by the one million Francophones outside Quebec as an important and helpful updating of The Official languages Act. Polievre could wind up losing any hope of getting their support as well.
You can’t throw millions of votes in the wastebasket and hope to win an election. The math just doesn’t hold. Poilievre may revile the mainstream media, but he’s losing the votes of mainstream Canadians.
Trudeau’s press conference announcing his special rapporteur turned rapidly partisan with potshots at both Harper (didn’t he leave politics?) and, of course, Poilievre himself.
That, indeed, is what this is all about: partisan politics.
Trudeau is trying to remove debris from the runway so he can launch an election sooner, rather than later. This is a big piece of debris.
Earlier during the day on Monday, Poilievre held his own news conference to introduce private a member’s bill to ban medical assistance in dying in cases of mental illness.
The Liberals had already punted that one forward, but Poilievre wasn’t going to let that stop him. He knows it’s a live-wire issue for many voters and he will do whatever he can to keep it active, the better to be seen fighting it.
Everyone is positioning right now.
Trudeau’s window for calling an election has been narrowing. He’s well into his eighth year in power.
A revised electoral map will soon be adopted and it provides for the creation of new ridings, including several in Alberta. Those are expected to go to the Conservatives. However, if Trudeau calls the election less than seven months after the adoption of the new map, it’s the old electoral map that will still apply in the next election. That math is tempting for the Big Red Machine.
Lost in all of these partisan calculations, of course, is the fact that there is already sufficient information that there were indeed Chinese government activities that sought to influence the outcome in numerous ridings.
The issue of Chinese government interference is, in many ways, a useful distraction to help keep voters’ minds off the 28 per cent increase in the civil service and $20 billion a year in outsourcing since Trudeau became prime minister. Who knew that competence could be an electoral issue?
But Canadians don’t want to be distracted, they want Trudeau to defend our democracy. That begins with a full inquiry into exactly what happened during the last election so it can never happen again by any country and with any diaspora community.
Anything less than a full inquiry is an abdication of responsibility by Trudeau.
Tom Mulcair was the leader of the federal New Democratic Party of Canada between 2012 and 2017