Foreign interference on Canada, the NDP “disavows” the government

TORONTO – There is a limit to it: Jagmeet Singh, leader of the NDP and “crutch” of the minority government led by Justin Trudeau, must have thought that when he decided to present a motion inviting the special rapporteur on Chinese interference, David Johnston, a trusted man of the Prime Minister, to “step aside” after the decision not to recommend the opening of a public inquiry into Beijing’s influence on Canadian politics.

“The perception of his bias is so high that it erodes the work that the special rapporteur can do” Singh told reporters in the House of Commons on Monday, announcing the tabling of the motion that will force MPs to vote on whether to to ask Johnston to step aside and the federal government to launch a public inquiry, as requested for some time by all the oppositions.

In the motion, according to CTV, the petitioner – NDP MP Rachel Blaney – calls on Johnston to “step away” from the role and for the federal government to “urgently set up” an inquiry which: would be led by an individual selected with unanimous backing from all recognized parties in the House; would be granted powers to review all aspects of foreign interference from all states, not just China; and would be asked to present its report and any recommendations ahead of the next dissolution of Parliament or before the next federal election.

The motion, if passed as-worded, also requests that the Procedure and House Affairs Committee (PROC), which conducted the parliamentary study into interference in foreign elections, report back to the House with a recommendation on who could conduct this inquiry. Blaney’s wording further notes that Johnston advised against a public inquiry “despite noting significant shortcomings and leaving many unasked or unanswered questions” and that “serious questions” have been raised about his tenure. “Only a comprehensive public inquiry can fully restore Canadians’ confidence in the integrity of our democratic institutions”, it reads, contradicting a key conclusion of Johnston’s report released on Tuesday, which said that, due to the sensitive nature of the central intelligence to the matter, a public review “simply can not be done”.

While emphasizing the real threat posed by foreign election interference and the need to address some serious intelligence gaps, Johnston advised against a public inquiry into the federal government’s handling of the matter, but announced a series of “public hearings” . This decision was quickly struck down by opposition parties, who pointed to Johnston’s initiative as the latest example of how the former governor general was at odds, given his close family ties to the Trudeau family and his past as a member of the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation (named after Justin’s father) who ended up in the storm for a donation linked to China.

Given that the Conservatives and Bloc Quebecois also want a public inquiry and have questioned Johnston’s impartiality, it is likely that the New Democrats can win enough votes among other opposition MPs to pass theirs motion. While the motion is non-binding, if passed it would be yet another message delivered to the ruling Liberal minority that the will of the majority of MPs in the House of Commons is for an independent broadcast of the facts surrounding allegations of foreign meddling by China in the elections federal 2019 and 2021.

In the pic above, Singh and Trudeau (photo: YouTube – CPAC)