A closer look at MP Han Dong’s voting record on China
Toronto-area MP Han Dong is at the centre of a political firestorm following a Global News report that he allegedly spoke with a Chinese diplomat in 2021, advising Beijing to delay freeing Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, according to two intelligence sources.
While Dong acknowledged he had the conversation with China’s consul-general in Toronto, Han Tao, he strongly denied the allegations that he told Beijing to hold off the release of the two Canadians.
He has subsequently resigned from the Liberal caucus, giving an emotional speech Wednesday night in the House of Commons.
“What has been reported is false, and I will defend myself against these absolutely untrue claims,” said Dong, who will now sit as an Independent.
“Let me assure members that, as a parliamentarian and as a person, I have never advocated, and I will never and would never advocate or support the violation of the basic human rights of any Canadian or of anyone, anywhere, period.”
Global News previously reported last month that Dong is one of at least 11 Toronto-area riding candidates who was allegedly supported by Beijing in the 2019 federal election, according to national security sources.
The sources spoke to Global News on the condition of anonymity, which they requested because they risk prosecution under the Security of Information Act.
Dong has denied the allegations.
In an effort to glean more about the Don Valley North MP’s positions on issues regarding China, Global News has compiled a review of his votes and statements inside and out of the House of Commons:
Statements on the Two Michaels
Kovrig and Spavor spent more than 1,000 days in prison in China in what was believed to be in retaliation for Canada’s 2018 detention of Meng Wanzhou. The Huawei senior executive was arrested in Vancouver on a U.S. extradition warrant over fraud charges related to U.S. sanctions violations against Iran.
While two national security sources told Global News that Dong urged Chinese Consul General Han Tao to delay freeing the Michaels, Dong pushed back strongly against the allegations in a response to Global News.
“I raised the status of Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig and called for their immediate release,” he wrote.
“At every opportunity before they returned home, I adamantly demanded their release to Canada without delay. Any suggestions otherwise are false and are attempts to mislead you and your readers, and slander me.”
Global News reviewed all statements made by Dong in Parliament since he was elected in 2019 and found no remarks related to the Two Michaels or calls for their freedom prior to March 2023.
Dong did not respond to questions about where he’s previously made such statements.
The Globe and Mail reported Thursday that the Trudeau government determined there was no “actionable evidence” after it received a CSIS transcript of a 2021 conversation between Dong and China’s top diplomat in Toronto.
According to The Globe, a senior government source indicated that conclusions could not be drawn that Dong asked Beijing to keep the two Canadians in prison for political reasons.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was asked Friday by reporters about whether he believed Dong advocated for delaying the Michaels’ freedom.
The prime minister did not directly answer that question despite his office’s review of the conversation’s transcript.
“Dong gave a strong speech in the House that I recommend people listen to. We fully accept that he is stepping away from the Liberal caucus in order to vigorously contest these allegations,” the prime minister said.
Trudeau added that meddling by China, Russia or Iran “is a very real challenge to our democracy and is absolutely unacceptable.”
Calls for interference inquiry
Shortly after resigning from the Liberal caucus, Dong voted Thursday for an inquiry into foreign election interference.
The Trudeau government has been under intense pressure for perceived inaction after reports of China’s alleged meddling in Canadian elections.
Dong voted with the Conservative Party, Bloc Québécois and New Democrats to help pass the motion with 172 votes in favour and 149 against, largely comprised of Liberal MPs.
Since 2019, there have been three votes on Canada-China relations. One was to review “the Canada–China relationship,” the second a call to combat growing Chinese foreign operations in Canada, and third recognizing that authoritarian regimes like China “increasingly pose a threat to the rules-based international order.”
Dong voted with the entire or vast majority of the Liberal caucus against the three motions.
On Feb. 1, a Liberal motion was brought forward condemning China’s human rights abuses of the Uyghur minority in Xinjiang and called on the government to bring 10,000 Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims to Canada.
Uyghurs in other countries, the motion said, are pressured to return to China, where they face “forced sterilization, forced labour, torture and other atrocities.”
Dong voted before and after the Uyghur genocide motion but missed the show of hands on the Uyghurs, which passed with the unanimous consent of all 322 MPs present. His absence was first reported by the National Post.
The Toronto MP did not respond to questions from Global News about his non-attendence and referred Global to his statement before the House of Commons.
“Members skip their votes, abstain their votes all the time, and I wasn’t the only one that skipped the vote,” he told reporters Tuesday.
In February 2021, there was a House vote to declare that China’s treatment of the Uyghurs constituted genocide.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his cabinet abstained, but MPs were free to vote. Dong skipped that motion, which passed unanimously.
Amid a flurry of questions from reporters about the stunning allegations against him, Dong said that in 2020 he had called for a motion to study “election interference.”
In November 2020, Dong did call for a study on “ways to further protect Canada’s democratic and electoral institutions from cyber and non-cyber interference.”
The study, he said at the time, should include “how new domestic and international stakeholders, as well as other orders of government, can work together to strengthen Canada’s whole-of-society preparedness, resilience and civic engagement in the face of evolving threats to democracy.”
In 2021, a Conservative motion sponsored by MP Michael Chong requested that the Public Health Agency turn over unredacted documents related to the shipment of viruses sent from Canada’s National Microbiology Laboratory to Wuhan, China in 2019, and the subsequent firing of two scientists from the Winnipeg facility.
Dong voted with the nearly entire Liberal caucus against the motion, which nonetheless passed in Parliament.
Speaking to reporters outside the House of Commons earlier this week, Dong said he had voted in favour of motions considered hostile to Beijing’s interests.
“I voted to condemn China when they sanctioned one of our vice chairs of a standing committee,” he said. “I voted to include Taiwan in the WHO. In 2020, I moved a motion in [an] ethics committee to study election interference, domestic and international.”
China considers Taiwan a breakaway province and views any overture of support as meddling in its internal affairs.
In October 2022, Dong indeed joined 323 MPs in voting for the politically sensitive country to become a WHO member. And in June 2021, Dong joined all 327 MPs in favour of unanimously passing a Parliamentary committee motion to condemn Chinese sanctions levied against Conservative MP Michael Chong.
In February, Dong publicly supported the Liberal government’s move to expand the open-work permit program for Hong Kong residents.
The former British colony, which reverted to Beijing’s control in 1997, has seen a massive wave of emigration following anti-government demonstrations four years ago. The protests were sparked by a bill that would have allowed people to be extradited from Hong Kong to mainland China.
“[This] announcement will ensure that Hong Kong residents who share Canada’s values of freedom and democracy will continue to be able to seek opportunities to settle and succeed in Canada,” Dong said in a press release at the time.
Letters to the editor: ‘Danielle Smith’s rejection of conventional thinking.’ Populism and politics, plus other letters to the By The Globe and Mail
Re “The essence of Johnston’s report: Trust me, there’s no story here” (May 24): Columnist Andrew Coyne describes well what many Canadians were expecting from David Johnston and what he failed to deliver.
No. 1 is to know what the government knew, who specifically knew, when they knew it and what, if any, action they took. I find Mr. Johnston failed to deliver on a grand scale.
The result? Many Canadians have even less trust in government than they have ever had.
Not a good position for the country, nor the current incumbents in Ottawa.
Roger Emsley Delta, B.C.
Re “My work to protect Canada’s democracy from foreign interference is not done” (May 27): Most troubling to me is David Johnston’s scathing criticism of the whistle-blower who risked their own freedom to alert Canadians to the danger to democracy of China.
Without their courage and loyalty to the public interest at the highest level, none of this would have come to light. The messenger he would shoot deserves our deepest gratitude, as do the Globe reporters who similarly put their reputations on the line.
Alexandra Phillips Vancouver
David Johnston reminds us that he was appointed governor-general by Stephen Harper, that he has served in a number of public roles and never once was his integrity questioned. Except now.
Politicians, reporters and columnists wanted a public inquiry into foreign interference, not public hearings. They want the Prime Minister and his ministers on the “stand,” so to speak. Unconscionable attacks on the pristine reputation of Mr. Johnston have ensued.
Can we fuel criticism not with anger and personal attacks, but with clarity and respect for informed opinion? Not too high a standard, surely, when the central figure is a man of such stature and decency as Mr. Johnston.
Bill Wilkerson Port Hope, Ont.
Re “Targets of Chinese regime reject Johnston findings, call for public inquiry” (May 26): What would a public inquiry tell us that we don’t already know?
David Johnston confirmed The Globe and Mail’s reporting. He also shed light on the bungling way intelligence is, and is not, passed on to government officials. How could anyone do their job effectively when this is the case?
Most disturbing, in my view, is Pierre Poilievre’s rejection of Mr. Johnson’s invitation to take an oath of secrecy and read the full report. It points me to a profound cultural shift within our parliamentary democracy that now embraces members, and those who elect them, who would rather dismantle democratic procedures from the inside than be properly informed.
The Globe has done its job by alerting government and the public. We should now have action on Mr. Johnston’s findings. There’s lots of work to be done.
This should be the urgent path to maintaining our democracy, not a public inquiry.
Janet Tulloch Ottawa
Re “Stop the presses on the King Charles $20 bill” (May 24): “An antiquated, deeply diminished institution that belongs to a long-ago era.” I agree: Our constitutional monarchy is the worst possible system of government for Canada – except for all the others.
We live next door to a republic that recently demonstrated the dangers of a head of state who is the product of “democratic” choice. And look at Brazil, Argentina, Pakistan and countless other democracies with elected heads of state. They provide a stark contrast to modern and progressive constitutional monarchies such as Norway, Denmark, Sweden and the Netherlands.
I believe constitutional monarchies are a superbly modern way of balancing traditional safeguards and democratic progress, allowing bitter political disagreements to work themselves out without tearing the fabric of nations apart. And because our monarch lives hours away by plane, Canadians are spared the costs of upkeep and maintenance.
A good deal for Canada, eh? Saves a lot of $20 bills.
Larry Muller Trent Lakes, Ont.
Contributor Peter Donolo writes of the need for Canada to reduce its fixation on the monarchy, in favour of placing mug shots of prime ministers on our money. No offense to Lester Pearson, but why replace one entitled elite with another?
For the duration of my day job, I’ve invited Canadians and academia to think about how they are placed in relation to Indigenous nations, politics, communities and histories. And as a citizen of the Ktunaxa Nation, a Canadian and a scholar, I’m still wondering why Canadians can have such limited imaginations that prevent them from seeing Indigenous displacement and oppression that is not merely historic, but still in play.
In this not-so-reconciliatory moment, consider putting Indigenous leaders, who were persecuted by Canada, on our bills, an invitation to remember where our money comes from and at whose expense.
Many Canadians still don’t have a clue about these things.
Joyce Green Professor emerita, politics and international studies University of Regina
Re “America’s long embrace of stupidity” (May 22): While intelligence can sometimes present challenges, the acceptance of ignorance is a losing proposition.
Donald Trump, who appeals to the uneducated, provides evidence that stupidity is not a superpower. His ignorance did not yield solutions to problems plaguing the world. His reign of errors did not resolve issues such as domestic inequality, global warming and international conflicts.
The current countercultural movement by Canadian populists poses a dangerous threat to our democracy. The vocal criticism of gatekeeper expertise by Pierre Poilievre, along with Danielle Smith’s rejection of conventional thinking regarding public health and governance, are prime examples of this hazard.
Leonard Cohen and St. Augustine’s words –”behold the ignorant arise and snatch heaven beneath our eyes” – suggest that salvation may be achieved through ignorance. However, this notion relies on faith in matters beyond our world.
A discerning individual should question the intelligence of such a perception of reality.
Tony D’Andrea Toronto
As contributor Michael Enright so eloquently points out, this situation is nothing new to our southern neighbours.
It is a manifestation of America’s great divide, the socioeconomic distance between the haves and have-nots. Exacerbated by an inadequate social safety net and exploited by predatory politicians and media outlets, it has led to a toxic stew of conspiracy theories, misinformation and outright lies.
Add in racial tensions, gun-ownership disputes, abortion rights and illegal immigration at the southern border, and one fears that it’s only a matter of time before the fuse is lit on this powder keg, with catastrophic consequences.
Dave Hurley Belleville, Ont.
Letters to the Editor should be exclusive to The Globe and Mail. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. Keep letters to 150 words or fewer. Letters may be edited for length and clarity. To submit a letter by e-mail, click here: firstname.lastname@example.org
Goldman Cuts Israeli Shekel Forecasts on Politics, Intervention
(Bloomberg) — Strategists at Goldman Sachs Group Inc. have revised their forecasts to reflect a weaker shekel on renewed concerns that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s judicial plan will increase pressure on the currency and the central bank won’t intervene to support it.
Comments by central bank Deputy Governor Andrew Abir last week that interest rates need to be the main tightening tool have downplayed the “potential for FX interventions,” the strategists said in a report on Friday. The shekel slumped 2.3% last week after parliament passed a new national budget, which granted more funding to the nation’s ultra-Orthodox in order to secure the bloc’s loyalty to his right-wing coalition.
Goldman revised its forecasts of the shekel to 3.70 and 3.60 against the dollar in the next three and 12 months, respectively, compared with 3.50 and 3.40 previously. While that’s still stronger than the current level, the strategists said they expect volatility around their estimates to “remain elevated.” The shekel rose 0.3% to 3.7178 as of 2:50 p.m. in Jerusalem on Monday.
“With limited policy support, we think domestic political developments will remain in the driver’s seat for the shekel,” Goldman’s strategists, including Kamakshya Trivedi, said in the report.
The shekel’s correlation with the performance of global technology stocks began to break down in January amid massive protests against Netanyahu’s plans to give politicians more control over the judiciary and its appointments. His decision in late March to delay the plan had provided some reprieve for the currency, until last week.
The shekel trades at a more than 10% discount to Goldman’s estimated fair value of around 3.3 per dollar, the strategists said.
In April, Moody’s Investors Service lowered the outlook on the nation’s A1 rating to stable from positive, citing a “deterioration of Israel’s governance.”
“If market participants and tech investors continue to grow more concerned about domestic political developments and their impact on institutional quality, then risk premium may build further in the currency,” the strategists at Goldman said.
Construction work starts on 24 Sussex — but its future is still in doubt
Construction work has just started on 24 Sussex Drive, the prime minister’s official residence. The building has fallen into a state of deep disrepair after years of neglect and inaction.
But the National Capital Commission (NCC), the federal body responsible for official residences, said the new activity shouldn’t be interpreted as a commitment to fully restoring the 150-year-old property that has housed ten of the country’s prime ministers.
The NCC told CBC News this work must be done regardless of what the government ultimately decides to do with the heritage property.
Work started last week on stripping the property of asbestos and removing “obsolete mechanical, heating and electrical systems,” a NCC spokesperson said. The rehabilitation work is expected to take about a year.
The construction activity follows the commission’s decision to formally shutter the residence for health and safety reasons.
While the Gothic Revival-style home, perched high above the Ottawa River, has been unoccupied for years, the property was still being used by some staff until its 2022 closure. It was also used to host garden parties on the home’s expansive two-hectare grounds.
But the once-stately property is now infested with rodents. The property also has been deemed a fire hazard because the property uses outdated “knob and tube” wiring from another era.
A 2021 report concluded the residence is in “critical” condition and pegged the cost to complete “deferred maintenance” at $36 million. The report set the home’s “current replacement value” at $40.1 million.
The fate of the 34-room mansion is in the hands of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his cabinet.
Despite repeated pleas from heritage advocates, Trudeau has so far signalled he has no plans to save the building.
He’s lived since 2015 at Rideau Cottage on the grounds of the Governor General’s residence — a relatively small home originally built for an aide.
The sorry state of 24 Sussex has heritage enthusiasts feeling dejected.
David Flemming is the chair of Heritage Ottawa’s advocacy committee, a group determined to protect the capital’s built history.
He said it’s “atrocious” that Canada, a G7 country with a $2 trillion economy, doesn’t have a functioning official residence for the head of government.
“The politicians making the decision — this is not their building. This belongs to the people of Canada,” Flemming told CBC News.
“Having a residence for the prime minister is just the cost of doing business as a nation. The truth is we just don’t hold our built heritage in high regard in this country.”
Flemming said his group has written letters to Trudeau asking him to make a call on the home’s fate but their pleas have been repeatedly ignored.
“All we want is for something to be done. That’s it,” he said. “We just want him to make a decision. Whether it’s the prime minister’s residence or not, it should be kept as a public building.”
Flemming had pitched former governor general David Johnston as a neutral arbiter to lead a panel of experts to decide on the home’s future.
Given the recent controversy over Johnston’s role as special rapporteur on foreign interference, Johnston’s likely “not the one now,” Flemming said. But the idea still stands, he added — a distinguished panel of non-partisan people should decide how best to restore the dilapidated landmark.
Christina Cameron, a professor and former Canada Research Chair in Built Heritage at Université de Montréal, agrees that 24 Sussex can and must be saved.
She last saw the home’s interior in 2018. At the time, she said, the property seemed salvageable.
“There’s no reason why that house couldn’t be rehabilitated,” she said.
“I think it’s really sad. I’ve watched it over the years and no prime minister wants to be seen investing in something for himself. I don’t know how we break the logjam but it’s important that we do because it’s a home that’s critical to our national story, to our narrative as a country.
“So many people important to world history have crossed that doorstep, and we’ve all seen them pictured on that doorstep.”
Cameron said Trudeau should commit to restoring the property and dictate that the work be done on a deferred timeline so that it’s only available for the next occupant.
Trudeau could preserve history while neutralizing claims that it’s a self-serving decision, Cameron said. Or, she said, the home could be re-purposed for public use. Either choice would make it politically palatable for the current government, she said.
“I think the worst thing is to just not do anything,” she said.
The residence has become something of a political hot potato. The multi-million-dollar restoration price tag has deterred both Trudeau and his predecessor, Stephen Harper, from doing anything about a home that dates back to Ottawa’s days as a lumber town.
Trudeau said in April the government is working with “public servants as they chart a path forward for the official residences.”
A spokesperson for Trudeau did not comment on 24 Sussex’s future Friday, referring questions to Public Services and Procurement Minister Helena Jaczek.
A spokesperson for Jaczek told CBC News that they “don’t have much of an update on 24 Sussex.”
“We continue to work closely with the National Capital Commission to develop a plan for the future of 24 Sussex Drive,” the spokesperson said.
At least one former resident, former prime minister Jean Chretien, has said the home is “an embarrassment to the nation” that should be restored.
Maureen McTeer, former prime minister Joe Clark’s wife and author of a book on Canada’s official residences, has said the home isn’t worth saving. The home’s interior was gutted decades ago and it’s lost its historical value, she said in a 2015 interview.
Reached by email Thursday, McTeer said she had no comment on the home’s future.
Canada is an outlier among its allies when it comes to official residence repairs.
The British equivalent to 24 Sussex — 10 Downing Street — recently went through an extensive renovation.
The White House was overhauled under former president Donald Trump.
The Lodge, the Austrian prime minister’s official Canberra residence, received millions of dollars in restoration work in 2016.
Stornoway, the official home of the leader of the Official Opposition in Ottawa’s leafy Rockcliffe Park neighbourhood, is also in good condition — it received tens of thousands of dollars in repairs as recently as 2020.
While 24 Sussex has been left to rot, opposition leaders like Rona Ambrose, Andrew Scheer, Erin O’Toole, Candice Bergen and Pierre Poilievre have made use of Stornoway — an early 20th century home built by a prominent grocer that later served as a temporary home-in-exile for the Dutch Royal Family during the Second World War.
“You know, the federal government does have a good track record when they do decide to do restorations. We’ve got some top-notch architects and conservation people,” Flemming said.
“It just takes some political will — and there’s none of that right now.”
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