The prime minister was outraged and has ordered officials to get to the bottom of this. News reports, based on leaked security documents, allege the government of the People’s Republic of China actively interfered in recent Canadian elections, with the aim of defeating Conservative Party candidates and electing Liberals.
The prime minister finds this very disturbing. He wants to know who is behind the leak. Presumably they will face charges.
As to the threat to Canadian democracy, he says it is coming from opposition politicians casting doubt on the sanctity of our institutions. Otherwise, there is nothing to see here.
Were there illegal campaign donations? People paid by the Chinese government to work full-time on Liberal (or other) campaigns? A disinformation campaign targeting Conservatives not seen as friendly to the communist government of China? Why would anyone want to know that?
I too am concerned about the security leak. That sort of thing shouldn’t happen. By all accounts though the government had been informed of the concerns, and apparently had done nothing. Someone must have thought turning on the spotlight was more important thank keeping their job.
I wondered at first if the person who leaked the information might be protected under Canada’s whistleblower legislation, but reading the relevant Act, I doubt it. The security services are pretty exempt from those protections. I’m not sure that is a bad thing – leaking classified information is a serious thing.
It isn’t as if the allegations are new. There have been previous media reports about the Chinese government working to defeat certain candidates seen as critical of the communist regime Given that the goal seems to have been to elect Liberals, a cynic might say it isn’t in the PM’s best interests to investigate the claims.
Now, as the filibuster continues in the parliamentary committee that wants to call the Prime Minister’s chief of staff as a witness, Justin Trudeau has appointed a special rapporteur to look into the issues and advise the government on how to respond and whether there should be a public inquiry.
That seems like a delaying tactic to me. I don’t know how long it will take former Governor General David Johnston to complete his investigation, but I can’t see it being less than six months. I wonder if the prime minister is perhaps planning an election before then. That might be a smart move if he expects bad news from Mr. Johnston. Win another mandate, or be defeated, and what does foreign interference matter?
Of course, an election before the full story is known is also problematic for Trudeau. It is alleged his party benefited from illegal foreign interference in the past two elections. What checks are in place to ensure that that doesn’t happen again?
That past couple of weeks have been difficult for the government. The PM has said he takes allegations of election interference seriously, but kept saying there was nothing to worry about, even as more news stories would break about more attempts by the Chinese government to influence elections, even at the municipal level.
Trudeau, rightly or wrongly, has always been seen as being perhaps a little naive regarding the intentions of the Chinese government. His tepid response to the allegations has only increased the public’s concern about the integrity of our electoral system. To many it looks as if he is the one who isn’t taking the allegations seriously.
We’ll talk a bit more about foreign interference tomorrow, including why being Dutch isn’t the advantage some might think..