Alleged foreign interference at the centre of one riding
In his new role as special rapporteur investigating alleged foreign interference, David Johnston will likely take a deep dive into the suburban Toronto riding of Don Valley North.
The riding is emerging as a nexus for alleged meddling by China. It’s represented federally by a Liberal and provincially by the Progressive Conservative party — but what raises eyebrows are their connections to a wealthy supermarket mogul with close ties to the Chinese Consulate in Toronto.
The connections are between Liberal MP Han Dong, PC MPP Vincent Ke and supermarket mogul Wei Chengyi. Wei owns the Foody Mart grocery chain that has stores in Ontario and British Columbia. The two politicians often appear with the businessman at events covered by Chinese ethnic media.
But for Canadians who don’t speak Mandarin or Cantonese – only now is the tangled web of relationships being unraveled.
A HANDSHAKE WITH PRESIDENT XI JINPING
Four years ago, Wei attended a conference in Beijing for overseas Chinese business leaders. Media reports from May 2019 show video of him shaking hands with China’s President Xi Jinping.
One month later, Dong announced he would enter the nomination race to become the Liberal candidate for Don Valley North in Canada’s federal election that fall. He launched his campaign at the Foody Mart head office located in the riding. Wei stood alongside him.
After Ke won his provincial seat in 2018, Wei was listed in the credits as a main advisor on a documentary celebrating Ke’s win. The feature was posted on 365 Net TV, a Chinese digital program.
Wei is also the honorary chairman of the Canada Toronto Fuqing Business Association (CTFBA) which promotes ties to China. Its translated mission statement includes a goal to “unite rural feelings, integrate resources…and carry forward the spirit of unity.”
But one of CTFBA’s affiliate organizations is located at 220 Royal Crest Court in Markham, Ont. The address correlates with a Chinese Police Station identified by the Spain-based NGO Safeguard Defenders which monitors disappearances of people in China.
Last November the RCMP confirmed it was investigating the office.
WATCHING OVER THE CHINESE DIASPORA
On its website, the Fuqing association also states that it was created under the “specific guidance of the United Front Work Department.”
According to the Canadian government, the UFWD is a branch of the Chinese Community Party. The document from Public Safety Canada released in 2021, says the UFWD is used to “stifle criticism, infiltrate foreign political parties, diaspora communities, universities and multinational corporations.”
Tens of thousands of Chinese agents work for the UFWD worldwide to keep tabs on the activities of its diaspora. According to intelligence experts, more than 40,000 staff have been added to the UFWD since Xi rose to power.
Scott McGregor is a former military intelligence officer and the co-author of The Mosaic Effect, How the Chinese Communist Party Started a Hybrid War in America’s Backyard.
He says the United Front works through a network of overseas Chinese associations to “collect intelligence and conduct propaganda.” McGregor says in some cases money is laundered through the UFWD to achieve its aims.
“With transnational crime, it often happens in the funding piece so they can conduct the operations they’re launching (like) a protest with paid protesters to other activity that’s going on. The money often comes from organized crime,” said McGregor.
The intense media scrutiny follows reports in The Globe and Mail and Global News about an orchestrated attempt by the Chinese government to get 11 candidates who were sympathetic to China elected in 2019. Both news organizations cited Canadian intelligence sources.
After viewing national security documents based on CSIS intelligence, Global News named Han Dong as a “witting affiliate” in Chinese interference networks and has also alleged that a staff member in Vincent Ke’s office may have channeled money to candidates Beijing deemed “friendly” during the 2019 federal election.
Ke was also embroiled in controversy last spring, when the Ontario Liberals called on the provincial police commissioner to investigate a breach of trust by Ke or his office.
Documentation obtained by the provincial party showed what the Liberals called 15 “hidden shell companies” incorporated by Ke’s staff and their family members after he was elected in 2018. Some of the registered non-profits had addresses corresponding to the homes belonging to relatives of Ke’s staff.
One organization received a $25,000 provincial grant to help keep seniors healthy. The OPP did not proceed with an investigation.
SILENCE, DEFENCE AND DENIALS
Wei has not responded to multiple requests for comment from CTV News. The requests were made in phone calls and emails to the business association he belongs to and the supermarket he operates.
In a statement posted on his Twitter page, Dong said: “I strongly reject the insinuations in media reporting that allege I have played a role in offshore interference in these processes and will defend myself vigorously.”
Ke called Global’s allegations “false and defamatory,” but resigned from the PC caucus to sit as an independent at Queen’s Park.
“I do not want to be a distraction to the government and take away from the good work Premier Fordis doing for the province of Ontario. Therefore I will be stepping away from the PC Caucus in order to dedicate time to clearing my name and representing my constituents.”
CTV News has not seen the classified reports but has spoken to more than a dozen sources from within the Chinese community in the Greater Toronto Area.
These sources include federal and provincial election campaign managers, former candidates, ethnic media reporters and local activists. Some of them were interviewed by CSIS agents and provided names.
A LIST OF NAMES
Dong and Ke are among a group of local, provincial and federal politicians, multiple CTV News sources have named as benefactors of Chinese state support.
Sources have told CTV that under the direction of the Chinese consulate officials, intermediaries paid for party memberships and bussed in international students and seniors to cast ballots to secure Ke’s nomination.
Similar incidents are alleged to have happened during Dong’s federal nomination win.
Gloria Fung is a pro-democracy activist with Hong Kong-Canada Link. She says Beijing has funded many candidates over several elections in order to place them in government at the municipal, provincial and federal levels.
“The money has been distributed through individual members of the United Front organization to the candidate. So each one would donate to an individual making sure that it doesn’t exceed the maximum limit. But the funds came from the United Front organization, which in turn get their funding from the Chinese Embassy,” Fung said.
In the past few years, Fung has been threatened and harassed for protesting against restrictive laws imposed by China on Hong Kong. She knows investigating interference will be a challenge.
“They will not be so stupid as to leave a paper trail.”
Canada: Fatal stabbing in Vancouver leaves city shaken – Hindustan Times
An Indo-Canadian has been arrested and has been charged with second-degree murder. The victim has been identified by the Vancouver Police Department as 37-year-old Paul Stanley Schmidt
Toronto: The city of Vancouver in British Colombia was left shaken after a person at Starbucks cafe was fatally stabbed, with an Indo-Canadian arrested for that alleged murder.
The incident occurred on Sunday, around 5.40pm and followed a brief altercation outside the outlet between two men.
The victim was identified by the Vancouver Police Department (VPD) on Monday as 37-year-old Paul Stanley Schmidt. Meanwhile, Inderdeep Singh Gosal, 32, has been charged with second-degree murder.
Police continue to seek additional witnesses to the crime. “We believe this homicide was witnessed by dozens of bystanders, and there may be people with information who have not yet come forward,” VPD Sergeant Steve Addison said, in a release.
“We particularly want to hear from anyone who was present in the moments before the stabbing, or anyone who has cell-phone video of the incident.”
Investigators don’t believe the victim and suspect knew each other. The release added that the “the circumstances that led up to the fatal stabbing remain under investigation”.
A police constable patrolling the area was flagged down “moments after” the stabbing occurred. The suspect was arrested at the crime scene. Officers attempted to save the victim’s life but he did not survive and succumbed to the injuries sustained after being rushed to hospital.
Raw footage of the incident posted online have gone viral throughout Canada, as they show the victim lying outside the Starbucks, surrounded by his own blood, and also the alleged murderer, walking in and out of the glass doors to the establishment. Another video shows Gosal being arrested and taken into custody by police.
Schmidt was the city’s sixth homicide victim of this year.
The apparent random act of violence attracted criticism of the law and order situation in Vancouver, among the major cities in Canada. Filmmaker Aaron Gunn tweeted, “Things are not getting better. They are still getting worse.”
Is femicide in Canada's Criminal Code? – CTV News
Advocates are pushing for the term femicide to be added to Canada’s Criminal Code, saying it would help raise awareness on the issue.
In 2020, a report by the Canadian Femicide Observatory for Justice and Accountability found that one woman or girl is killed every two and a half days in Canada. Femicide refers to homicides that target women and girls because of their gender.
Understanding the violence females face specifically, advocates are hoping for more awareness of femicide at the federal level.
“It’s really important that we name femicide,” Jennifer Hutton, CEO of Women’s Crisis Services of Waterloo Region, Ont, told CTV’s Your Morning on Tuesday. “There are some unique traits about femicide. It’s really about men’s violence against women.”
Hutton believes femicide should be in the Criminal Code to prevent tragedies through better understanding.
“Until we name it, then how can we change it?” she said.”When it’s a separate part of the Criminal Code, then we have better data to track it, so we know just how prevalent it really is.”
Femicide can include instances when a woman or girl is killed by an intimate partner, a non-intimate partner, or in an armed conflict. The term can also include women who are not the intended victim, but are killed in the femicide of another woman, too.
For Indigenous women and girls, Hutton says they are killed at six times the rate of non-Indigenous women and girls.
Hutton is partnering with Jenna Mayne, who hosts the podcast “She is Your Neighbour” focusing on femicide in Canada.
“We hear from survivors, we hear from family members who have lost women to femicide, and we hear from experts,” Mayne said. “I think these stories are difficult to hear, but they’re so important to hear too.”
To listen to the full interview click the video at the top of this article.
Grocery rebate coming in federal budget 2023
The 2023 federal budget will include a one-time “grocery rebate” for Canadians with lower incomes who may be struggling with the rising cost of food, CTV News has confirmed.
According to sources, the new measure will be unveiled in Tuesday’s federal budget and will help nearly 11 million lower-income Canadians.
The new measure would see eligible couples with two children receive a payment of up to $467, a senior would receive $225, while a single person would receive $234 dollars.
The benefit will be rolled out through the GST rebate system, once a bill implementing it passes in the House of Commons, according to sources. This move is essentially re-upping and re-branding the recent GST rebate boost.
The amounts expected to be offered are exactly what the Liberals offered through last fall’s doubling of the GST credit, a boost that was estimated to cost $2.5 billion and got all-party backing. It’s not expected that there will be a requirement to spend the rebate on groceries.
According to Statistics Canada’s latest inflation report, food prices rose 11.4 per cent year-over-year in January, nearly double the rate of inflation of 5.9 per cent and up from 11 per cent the previous month.
The increased cost of food has been the focus of a parliamentary study that’s seen grocery CEOs, including Loblaw chairman and president Galen Weston, grilled over grocery profits.
“I’ve been talking with Canadians from coast, to coast, to coast over the past many months hearing directly concerns around affordability, around the high cost of food, of rent, of so many different things. That’s why a big part of the budget will be focused on measures to help Canadians in targeted ways,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters on Parliament Hill on Monday.
“Groceries will certainly be part of it but, there’s other things as well that we’re going to continue to do to be there for Canadians…I look forward to a great budget tomorrow.”
The NDP had been calling for the Liberals to double the GST tax credit. Reacting to the news, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said this measure “looks very much like… what we’ve been asking for, for a long time.”
Both Trudeau and Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland have been hinting for weeks that the 2023 budget would include targeted affordability measures to directly help those feeling the pinch of inflation the most.
“This support will be narrowly focused and fiscally responsible. The truth is, we can’t fully compensate every single Canadian for all of the effects of inflation or for elevated interest rates,” Freeland said last week in a pre-budget speech signalling her priorities. “To do so would only make inflation worse and force rates higher, for longer.”
On Monday afternoon, the finance minister took part in a long-standing tradition of picking out a new pair of shoes to wear on budget day.
This year, Freeland opted for a pair of black heels that were on sale at Canadian retailer Simons, from the store’s in-house brand. She placed them in a reusable tote bag after purchase.
WHAT ELSE TO EXPECT IN BUDGET 2023?
With the economy expected to continue slowing in the months ahead, potentially leading to a recession, Freeland is facing calls for the massive fiscal document to include a plan to promote economic growth.
Amid Bank of Canada’s interest rate hikes, inflation cooled to 5.2 per cent in February. That’s down from 5.9 per cent in January, after 40-year record highs over the summer, reaching 8.1 per cent in June.
“What Canadians want right now is for inflation to come down and for interest rates to fall. And that is one of our primary goals in this year’s budget: not to pour fuel on the fire of inflation,” Freeland said in her pre-budget positioning speech.
At the same time, she signalled the 2023 federal budget will still be prioritizing “two significant and necessary investments”: the $46.2 billion in new funding included in the $196 billion federal-provincial health-care funding deals, and new measures to boost Canada’s clean industrial economy.
It’s the latter that government officials have signalled will get some attention in tomorrow’s budget, with several news outlets reporting there will be sizable—30 per cent, according to Reuters— new clean technology-focused tax credits to generate growth in the electrical vehicle supply chain and in critical mineral extraction and processing.
The November 2022 fall economic update had telegraphed that these kinds of credits and investments were ahead.
“Tomorrow…we’re bringing forward a budget that is focused on affordability and supporting Canadians… and creating great jobs for the middle class in a clean and growing economy. Those are the focuses that we’ve been laser focused on over the past many years,” Trudeau said in the House of Commons on Monday, fresh off of U.S. President Joe Biden’s visit, where the green economy was a central piece of discussion.
Canada’s clear focus on the clean transition comes in part out of a need for these sectors to remain competitive in the face of the U.S. Inflation Reduction Act, which offers billions of dollars in energy incentives south of the border.
The Canadian Press has also reported that Tuesday’s budget will include an increase to the withdrawal limit for a registered education savings plan (RESP) from $5,000 to $8,000; and a plan to go after hidden or unexpected consumer fees known as “junk fees” that inflate the overall cost of a product or service.
Finance Canada officials, who for some time have been parsing the stacks of pre-budget submissions from various industries and sectors, will also have to factor in the Liberals’ commitments to the New Democrats, with key planks of the two-party confidence deal due to come to fruition this year.
“We still want to see confirmation of the dental care expansion to include seniors, people living with disabilities and kids 18 and under. We really want this budget to save money for people, and that’s something really important for us,” Singh said.
With this budget, Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre has called on the federal government to lower taxes, end “inflationary” spending, match new spending with savings, and improve housing affordability.
“He wants to take away everybody’s money, centralize it in his own hands, and promise that it will trickle down through his mighty bureaucracy… And there will maybe be a few little drops that get down to the people who actually earned it in the first place,” Poilievre levelled at the prime minister during Monday’s question period. “Will he cap government spending and put an end to the inflationary deficits, tomorrow?”
The fall economic statement issued in November 2022 projected the federal deficit at $36.4 billion in 2022-23, down from the $52.8 billion forecast in the April 2022 federal budget. Freeland also forecasted that federal coffers could be back to balance by 2027-28.
The 2023 federal budget is coming just ahead of a two-week break in the House of Commons, allowing Liberal MPs to then descend on their ridings to promote it to their constituents before coming back to the capital to work on getting the budget implementation legislation passed through the minority Parliament.
With files from CTV News’ Chief Political Correspondent Vassy Kapelos, and CTVNews.ca’s Michael Lee and Spencer Van Dyk
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