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Politics Briefing: Commons committee probing Chinese interference wants to look into the 2021 election – The Globe and Mail




A House of Commons committee probing Chinese interference in the 2019 federal election was recalled Tuesday to extend its mandate to include the 2021 campaign, in response to what opposition MPs have called “shocking revelations” reported by The Globe and Mail.

The meeting of the standing committee on procedure and House affairs, scheduled to run between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. ET came despite a two-week break at Parliament. Details here on the meeting including a video link.


The hearing was requested by six committee members to expand the scope of a current study on foreign-election interference.

Conservative, New Democratic and Bloc Québécois MPs demanded the hearings resume after The Globe reported Friday that China had actively worked in the 2021 campaign to influence voters to elect a Liberal minority government and defeat Conservatives unfriendly to Beijing.

Ottawa bureau chief Robert Fife and senior parliamentary reporter Steven Chase report here.

Also, they report here on how Canadian politicians, officials and business executives are the prime targets of Chinese government espionage that employs blackmail, bribery and sexual seduction, with the country even enlisting the Bank of China in its foreign-influence activities.

Please watch The Globe and Mail for updates on Tuesday’s hearing.

This is the daily Politics Briefing newsletter, written by Ian Bailey. It is available exclusively to our digital subscribers. If you’re reading this on the web, subscribers can sign up for the Politics newsletter and more than 20 others on our newsletter signup page. Have any feedback? Let us know what you think.


INFLATION RATE DIPS – Canada’s annual inflation rate dipped below 6 per cent for the first time since early in 2022, helped by favourable base effects and lower prices for smartphone bills and vehicles. Story here.

TOUGH QUESTIONS FOR FORD – Ontario Premier Doug Ford is facing sharp questions about his relationship with developers as the legislature resumes following its winter break. Story here.

SCHREINER TO STAY GREEN – Ontario Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner said Tuesday that he is staying on to lead his party, after a group of Liberals tried to persuade him to cross the floor. Story here.

LEGAULT ASKS TRUDEAU TO PRESS BIDEN ON MIGRANTS – Quebec Premier François Legault is asking Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to press U.S. President Joe Biden on the massive influx of migrants entering Canada at an irregular border crossing, arguing that the province’s “capacity to receive refugees has been exceeded.” Story here.

TORIES WOO ETHNIC-MINORITY CANADIANS – The Conservatives are wooing ethnic-minority Canadians and newcomers to try to broaden their support in urban and suburban seats they need to win the next election, as a new poll shows the Tories have nibbled away at the Liberals’ lead among racialized voters since Pierre Poilievre became leader. Story here. Meanwhile, Deputy Conservative Leader Melissa Lantsman – story here – relishes being a different type of Tory.

OTTAWA DIDN’T DISCLOSE OUTSOURCING CEBA PROGRAM TO ACCENTURE – The federal government paid consulting firm Accenture Inc. at least $61-million to deliver the main pandemic loan program for businesses, according to details that Ottawa has never publicly released and that were obtained under access-to-information law. Story here.

ACTRA ACCUSES OTTAWA OF PROLONGING LABOUR DISPUTE – Canada’s largest actors’ union, ACTRA, says Ottawa is prolonging a long-standing labour dispute with advertising agencies by spending tens of millions of dollars with a major creative marketing company – which the union says has locked out its members from commercial campaigns. Story here.

NATIONAL GALLERY SPENDS $2M ON SEVERANCE – The National Gallery of Canada spent more than $2-million on severance payments over a period of two and a half years, not including payments to four senior staff members let go in the fall, as it parted ways with employees during a push to reorient itself around a new inclusion-focused mission. Story here.

LIBERAL MP SUGGESTS SOLUTIONS FOR ONTARIO LIBERALS – Liberal MP Nathaniel Erskine-Smith says the provincial Liberal Party’s future hinges on a break from the past, edging closer to a bid to lead the Ontario party. Story here from The Kingston Whig-Standard.


TODAY IN THE COMMONS – The Commons is on a break until March 6.

POLITICAL FORECAST – THE WEEK AHEAD – Both the House of Commons and the Senate are on breaks, with the House of Commons returning on March 6 and the Senate on March 7.

Still there will be committee action, with the Commons standing committee on procedure and house affairs meeting on Tuesday to discuss expanding the scope of their current study on foreign-election interference. (See above.)

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was on the road on Tuesday, holding a town hall with members of the Carpenters’ District Council of Ontario in York Region, Ontario, and a party fundraising event in Brampton, Ont.

Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland is attending meetings of the G7 and G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors in Bengaluru, India, from Thursday to Saturday. Topics on the agenda include Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, inflation and climate change.

Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly will be in New York City on Wednesday, speaking at the UN General Assembly’s emergency special session on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The minister’s visit follows meetings on trips to Ukraine, Germany, and France,

MINISTERS ON THE ROAD – Transport Minister Omar Alghabra, in Milton, Ont., announced funding for Trucking HR Canada to address labour shortages in the trucking industry. Mental Health and Addictions Minister Carolyn Bennett, in Toronto, announced funding to enhance mental health in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and recovery. Immigration Minister Sean Fraser, in Antigonish, N.S., along with Nova Scotia Health Minister Michelle Thompson announced a combined $1.22-million investment to support two rural public transit projects in Antigonish County. National Revenue Minister Diane Lebouthillier, in Murdochville, Que., announced federal-government funding for Chic‑Chac, a Gaspésie tourism business.

NEW ROLE FOR DELORME – Chief Cadmus Delorme of Cowessess First Nation, where hundreds of graves were found at a former residential school, has been appointed chairperson of the new Residential School Documents Advisory Committee. Earlier this month (story here from CBC) Mr. Delorme said he would not seek a third term as chief of the Saskatchewan First Nation. The documents advisory committee, comprised of survivors, First Nations, Inuit and Métis community members, and federal and expert representatives, is responsible for developing recommendations on the identification and sharing of documents of historical interest with the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation. The appointment was announced Tuesday by Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Marc Miller and Stephanie Scott, executive director of the national centre.

MOORE QUESTIONS EVENT – Former federal Conservative cabinet minister James Moore is here taking issue with an event held Tuesday by the Canada Strong & Free Network.


Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, in Ottawa, held private meetings and, in York Region, Ontario, participated in a town hall with members of the Carpenters’ District Council of Ontario. In the evening, Mr. Trudeau was scheduled to attend a Liberal Party of Canada fundraising event in Brampton.


Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre held a news conference on Parliament Hill.

No schedules released for party leaders.


On Tuesday’s edition of The Globe and Mail podcast, political columnist John Ibbitson discusses the importance of the public inquiry into the trucker convoy protest, which found the federal Liberal government acted appropriately in enacting the Emergencies Act. Mr. Ibbitson also talks about the political winners and losers and what he hopes will be done with the recommendations of inquiry head Justice Paul Rouleau. The Decibel is here.


PETER HERRNDORF – Peter Herrndorf has died, aged 82. “In a career that spanned more than five decades, Mr. Herrndorf brought daring change and innovation to the CBC, saved TVOntario from privatization and turned the moribund National Arts Centre into a genuinely national hub of creativity that was celebrated from coast to coast to coast and, perhaps most impressively, by members of all political parties,” Reporter Simon Houpt writes in an obituary here. Meanwhile, Steve Paikin, the host of TVOntario’s flagship current affairs program The Agenda, remembers Mr. Herrndorf here.


The Globe and Mail Editorial Board on the need for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to stand up to China: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is awfully tough on suspected Chinese spy balloons. After the United States shot one down off the coast of South Carolina on Feb. 4, he authorized a similar fate for another flying in Canadian airspace a week later. If only Mr. Trudeau were as quick to pull the trigger on Chinese interference in Canadian elections.”

John Ibbitson (The Globe and Mail) on how downtown Ottawa has been changed by the pandemic and trucker convoy: “Like all Canadian cities, Ottawa’s city centre was damaged by the pandemic, as people worked from home and office buildings sat empty. But in the national capital, public servants have been slow to return to work. And the protests left the city traumatized. Officials are so fearful of future protests that they have closed Wellington Street, at the foot of Parliament Hill, to traffic. “We are never going back to the world we lived in 2019,” said Mark Sutcliffe, Ottawa’s mayor. “And we need to adapt to what things are going to look like going forward.” The question, to which no one has the answer just yet, is what that adaptation will look like.”

Alex Beraskow (Contributed to The Globe and Mail) on government outsourcing being good, McKinsey and ArriveCan scandals notwithstanding: The Government of Canada is our country’s single largest employer and our most complex business. It is easy to target consultants and contractors as a cost sink, but while there are specific issues with McKinsey and ArriveCan, there is nothing inherently wrong with outsourcing. In fact, when done right, outsourcing is good and should be encouraged. At issue is the tough question “Do we make/build ourselves or do we buy?”

Quebec Premier François Legault (Contributed to The Globe and Mail) on why it’s time to close the breach at Roxham Road and enforce Canada’s borders: Since Prime Minister Justin Trudeau invited all those fleeing persecution, terror and war on Earth to come to Canada in January, 2017, the number of asylum seekers entering Canada has exploded. It was generous on the part of Mr. Trudeau, and in Canada as in Quebec, we have reason to be proud of our tradition of welcoming refugees. We did it for the Vietnamese boat people at the time, for the Haitians who were fleeing the Duvalier dictatorship, the Chileans who were fleeing the Pinochet regime and, more recently, for Afghans, Syrians and now Ukrainians. However, Mr. Trudeau’s good intentions turned into a real problem for Quebec and for Canada.”

Kent Roach, Amanda Carling, Jessie Stirling and Joel Voss (Contributed to The Globe and Mail) on how Ottawa’s new bill offers hope to the wrongfully convicted: After five years of research, review, and development, and with the help of numerous volunteers, we launched the Canadian Registry of Wrongful Convictions. As teachers of and students in a long-running course on wrongful convictions at the University of Toronto Faculty of Law, we thought we knew about most of Canada’s remedied wrongful convictions. We were wrong.”

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Trudeau’s chief of staff Katie Telford to testify at committee probing Chinese government interference



Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s chief of staff has agreed to testify before one of the committees investigating the extent of the Chinese government’s interference in Canada’s elections — and what the Liberal government knew about it.

“While there are serious constraints on what can be said in public about sensitive intelligence matters, in an effort to make Parliament work, [Katie] Telford has agreed to appear at the procedure and House affairs committee as part of their study,” says a Tuesday statement from the Prime Minister’s Office.

The decision clears a logjam at the procedure and House affairs committee (PROC), where Liberal MPs have been filibustering over the past two weeks to stall a vote on calling Telford to appear.

The committee resumed Tuesday morning and voted to call Telford to appear for two hours between April 3 and April 14.



Katie Telford is ‘a critical witness’ on election interference: Conservative MP


St-Albert Edmonton Conservative MP Michael Cooper introduced a motion to force the prime minister’s Chief of Staff Katie Telford to testify at committee on election interference.

Committee member and Conservative MP Michael Cooper, who first floated the motion, said that while Liberal MPs should answer for their actions in obstructing the committee, he’s pleased with Tuesday’s decision.

“It’s critical that she testify. She’s the second most powerful person in this government, arguably. But not only that, she played an integral role in the 2019 and 2021 election campaigns on behalf of the Liberal Party,” he said.

“She is a critical witness to get to the heart of the scandal, which is what did the prime minister know, when did he know about it and what did he do or fail to do about Beijing’s interference in our elections?”

Liberal MP Greg Fergus said he wasn’t willing to call her to testify, but Telford volunteered.

“It allows us to move on to other business,” he said. “The tradition is not to have political staff come before committees. It should be ministers who are really responsible for this. It makes a lot of sense. It’s been a long-standing tradition of the House and one that should be broken with great hesitation.”

A man with brown hair, wearing a dark overcoat, white shirt and blue tie, steps off an elevator.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau steps off the elevator as he arrives on Parliament Hill, Tuesday, March 21, 2023 in Ottawa. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

The approved motion also invites the national campaign directors for the Liberal and Conservative parties during the 2019 and 2021 federal election campaigns to testify. It extends the invitation to Jenni Byrne, adviser to Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre, and Tauscha Michaud, chief of staff to former leader Erin O’Toole.

Public and political interest in foreign election interference has intensified since the Globe and Mail alleged that China tried to ensure that the Liberals won a minority government in the last general election. The newspaper also published reports saying Beijing worked to defeat Conservative candidates who were critical of China.

Back in the fall, Global News reported that intelligence officials warned Trudeau that China’s consulate in Toronto floated cash to at least 11 federal election candidates “and numerous Beijing operatives” who worked as campaign staffers.

Trudeau has said repeatedly he was never briefed about federal candidates receiving money from China.

The Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) calls foreign interference activities by the Chinese government the “greatest strategic threat to national security.”

An independent panel tasked with overseeing the 2021 election did detect attempts at interference but concluded that foreign meddling did not affect the outcome.

Conservative motion fails in House

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh took credit for Telford’s decision to appear on Tuesday.

Earlier in the day, Singh said his party would back the Conservatives in passing a motion compelling her to appear before another parliamentary committee — the standing committee on access to information, privacy and ethics — if the government didn’t stop filibustering in committee. The PMO announced Telford’s appearance not long after.

“I forced the government and I made it really clear today they had a choice. They could stop the obstruction in committee, allow the witness to testify or we would support the motion,” Singh told reporters Tuesday. His party has a confidence-and-supply agreement with Trudeau’s Liberal minority government.

New Democratic Party leader Jagmeet Singh rises during Question Period, Tuesday, March 21, 2023 in Ottawa.
New Democratic Party leader Jagmeet Singh rises during Question Period, Tuesday, March 21, 2023 in Ottawa. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

The Conservative motion was defeated in the House of Commons Tuesday by a vote of 177 to 145.

NDP MPs voted on the side of the Liberals. They were booed by the Conservative bench.

Speaking to journalists after the vote, Conservative MP Andrew Scheer took a swing at Singh.

“I’ve served with several NDP leaders. I served in the house with Jack Layton, Ed Broadbent, Alexa McDonough and Thomas Mulcair. I’ve never seen an NDP leader like this, selling out longstanding principles that that party used to stand for, in exchange for who knows what,” he said.

The former Conservative leader went on to lambaste the government for staging what he called a “theatrical display” at committee before climbing down and agreeing to let Telford testify.

“Now the prime minister is expecting, Justin Trudeau is expecting a gold star for exhausting every attempt to delay and block Ms. Telford from testifying,” he said.

“None of this takes away from the urgent need for a full independent public inquiry.”

Singh said he’ll also still push for a public inquiry into the allegations of election interference.

“I’ve said clearly, both publicly and privately, that … we need a public inquiry and we need questions answered in the meantime,” said Singh,

“Absent a public inquiry process, the only process that we have is the committee work.”


Conservatives want a ‘partisan show’ in committee, says minister


“The Conservatives have wanted to vandalize committees,” said Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc. “Many of the questions that they pretend they want to ask Ms. Telford are protected by national security confidences.”

The Liberals floated making the vote on the Telford motion a confidence matter, but Trudeau shut that down — pushing off speculation about an early election for the time being.

On Tuesday, the Prime Minister’s Office also released the mandate for former governor general David Johnston‘s position as independent special rapporteur on foreign interference.

The terms of reference say Johnston will report regularly to the prime minister and must make a decision on whether the government should call a public inquiry by May 23, 2023. The PMO says the prime minister expects Johnston to complete his review by Oct. 31, 2023.

The Conservatives and the Bloc Québécois have pushed back against Johnston’s appointment, arguing that he is too closely linked with the prime minister.

Trudeau has shot back by accusing Poilievre of attacking Canada’s “institutions with a flamethrower.”


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Trudeau retreats, and retreat is his best political strategy



Prime Minister Justin Trudeau responds to a question from the opposition during Question Period, March 21, in Ottawa.Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau retreated on Tuesday so that his chief of staff, Katie Telford, will now testify before a parliamentary committee. But it turns out retreat is a good plan for his Liberals.

Despite the chatter, Mr. Trudeau was never going to trigger an election simply to stop Ms. Telford from testifying. That would be a nutty political calculation.

The Liberals had already spent a lot of political capital blocking the opposition demands for Ms. Telford to testify, filibustering at the committee and taking a beating from commentators and painting themselves into a corner.

Retreat, on the other hand, provided some technical political advantages.


Ms. Telford’s appearance at the procedure and House affairs committee, when it comes, could still be tricky, though she won’t be telling all about the PM’s intelligence briefings on Chinese interference in Canadian elections.

But it was getting harder and harder to avoid ever since the NDP, the Liberals’ parliamentary allies in a confidence and supply agreement, broke with the Liberals and supported the opposition demand to have Ms. Telford testify.

The Conservatives had presented a motion in the House of Commons demanding she appear that was coming to a vote Tuesday night.

But once the Liberals conceded, and Mr. Trudeau announced that Ms. Telford would testify, the NDP voted against that motion. And the Liberals avoided umpteen hours of hearings including testimony from 30 cabinet ministers, officials and political party representatives.

Mr. Trudeau’s opponents can crow that he blinked – and Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre said he had flip-flopped after weeks of pressure – but retreat was good for the Liberals.

There will still be the spectacle of the Prime Minister’s chief of staff refusing to reveal much about what the Canadian Security Intelligence Service told the PM about Beijing’s efforts to influence Canada’s elections in 2019 and 2021. Mr. Trudeau told reporters that there are lot of things about intelligence that Ms. Telford, much like officials who have previously testified, won’t be able to say in public.

The Conservatives know that. Perhaps what they really want to ask Ms. Telford – also a key figure in Liberal election campaigns – is whether CSIS warned campaign staffers that they suspected Liberal candidates might be compromised by ties to Beijing. (Ontario Progressive Conservative Premier Doug Ford answered a similar question on Tuesday by telling reporters that CSIS briefed his chief of staff about MPP Vincent Ke last fall, but only in vague terms.)

But at this point, the Liberals are almost hoping that the Conservatives will have their knives out for Ms. Telford when she testifies.

Mr. Trudeau keeps saying that Canadians don’t want to see Chinese interference become a partisan issue. The Liberals accuse the Conservatives of turning the issue into a political circus, but the truth is they hope the hearings will look like one.

At any rate, Ms. Telford was always going to end up having to testify, at least to avoid something worse. The Liberals suffered damage in a vain attempt to prevent it. Mr. Trudeau should learn a lesson about the value of retreat.

While the opposition parties howled for an inquiry, Mr. Trudeau named former governor-general David Johnston as a “special rapporteur” – prompting both the Conservatives and the Bloc Québécois to argue that Mr. Johnston’s friendship with the Trudeau family makes him unfit for the role.

But now the timeline that Mr. Trudeau has given to his “special rapporteur” presents the opportunity for another retreat. Mr. Johnston has six months to issue his final recommendations but a surprisingly short time, until May 23, to come up with recommendations on whether there should be another process – such as an inquiry.

You would think that in that brief period, Mr. Johnston can only look around at all the perplexing questions hanging over the Canadian polity, and realize he has little choice but to recommend some step that will be seen as providing a truly independent review that offers some transparent answers.

Mr. Trudeau should hope so. That’s the place where all of this has to go. The Prime Minister would be better off backing out of the corner he is in quickly, and getting to that place with less damage.


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Foreign interference: Conservatives forcing vote on new study



In an effort to keep the foreign interference story at the forefront, and to do an apparent end run around the Liberal filibuster blocking one study from going ahead, the Conservatives forced the House to spend Monday debating a motion instructing an opposition-dominated House committee to strike its own review.

Monday was a Conservative opposition day in the House of Commons, allowing the Official Opposition to set the agenda, and Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre picked a motion that, if passed, would have the House of Commons Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics Committee embark on a fresh foreign interference study. The motion is set to come to a vote on Tuesday.

The motion also contains clear instructions that the committee—chaired by Conservative MP John Brassard— call Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s chief of staff Katie Telford to testify under oath, followed by numerous other officials and players believed to have insight surrounding allegations of interference by China in last two federal elections.

Among the other names the Conservatives are pushing to come testify: Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland, authors of the Critical Election Incident Public Protocol reports for the 2019 and 2021 elections James Judd and Morris Rosenberg, respectively, and former Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation officials.


Also on the list: many federal security officials who have already testified and told MPs they are limited in what they can say publicly, current and former ambassadors to China, a panel of past national campaign directors as well as the representatives on the Security and Intelligence Threats to Elections (SITE) task force from each major party.

Trudeau’s name is not on the witness list, but that could change down the line depending on the trajectory of the testimony and how the story evolves. In order to fit in what would be more than a dozen additional hours of testimony, the motion prescribes that the committee meet at least one extra day each week regardless of whether the House is sitting, and have priority access to House resources.

All of this was sparked by The Globe and Mail and Global News reports citing largely unnamed intelligence sources alleging specific attempts by Beijing to alter the outcomes of the 2019 and 2021 campaigns and what the opposition thinks is an insufficient response by the Liberal government.

Officials have repeatedly asserted the integrity of both elections held, despite China’s interference efforts.


The Conservative motion dominated Monday’s question period, with two central questions swirling: How will the NDP vote? And will the Liberals make it a confidence vote?

So far the NDP have not tipped their hat in terms of their voting intention, with signals being sent that the caucus is still considering its options, while expressing some concerns with the motion’s scope and witness list.

During debate, NDP House Leader Peter Julian said that while the motion has some positive elements, others are curious. He pointed to a motion the New Democrats will be advancing later this week, asking for a public inquiry into foreign interference efforts broadly, as better addressing Canadians’ calls than focusing in just on China.

The Conservatives and the Bloc Quebecois wouldn’t have the votes to see it pass without them, and one-by-one Conservative MPs have risen in the House to put more pressure on the NDP to vote with them.

“While this motion is a test for this government, it is also a test for the NDP,” said Conservative MP and one of the party’s leading spokespeople on the story Michael Cooper, kicking off the debate on Monday.

“The NDP has a choice: They can continue to do the bidding for this corrupt Liberal government, propping up this corrupt prime minister. Or, they can work with us to protect the sanctity of the ballot box and the integrity of our elections by working to get the answers that Canadians deserve… We will soon find out what choice they make,” Cooper said.

The New Democrats have been in favour of an as-public-as-possible airing of the facts around interference, including hearing from Telford and other top staffers, as they’ve been pushing for at the Procedure and House Affairs Committee (PROC).That effort though, has been stymied by close to 24 hours of Liberal filibustering preventing the proposal from coming to a vote.

If the New Democrats support Poilievre’s motion, it’ll pass and spark this new committee study.

But, if the Liberals want to shut this effort down, Trudeau could declare it a confidence motion and tie NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh’s hands, unless he’s ready to end the confidence-and-supply agreement, which is coming up on its one-year anniversary.

The premise of the pact is that the NDP would prop-up the Liberals on any confidence votes in exchange for progressive policy action. Part of the deal predicates discussions between the two parties on vote intentions ahead of declaring a vote is a matter of confidence.

In weighing whether this is confidence vote-worthy, Trudeau would likely be assessing whether risking an election call over an election interference controversy —which could be the result of a failed confidence vote given the Liberals’ minority standing—is the right move.

Asked by reporters on Monday whether the prime minister will be designating the vote a matter of confidence, Government House Leader Mark Holland wouldn’t say.

“We are having ongoing discussions and dialogue. I think that it’s not helpful to jump to the end of a process when we’re still having conversations, Holland said. “I understand the temptation to go to the end of the process when we’re still in the middle of it…We’re in a situation right now where we continue to have these discussions.”

In weighing whether this is confidence vote-worthy, Trudeau’s top advisers would likely be assessing whether risking an election call over an election interference controversy —which could be the result of a failed confidence vote given the Liberals’ minority standing—is the right move.

Decrying the motion as “heavily steeped in partisan politics” with the objective of playing “games with what is an enormously serious issue,” Holland suggested that some of those listed by the Conservatives, including Telford, were not best placed to speak to concerns around foreign interference in the last two elections.

“It is not a move aimed at trying to get answers, or trying to get information,” Holland said.

The Liberal House leader also echoed the prime minister’s past position that calling staffers who can’t say much, and other officials who have already testified, to come and say again that they’re unable to answer more detailed questions due to their oaths to uphold national security, won’t help assuage Canadians’ concerns over China’s interference.


During his time as democratic reform minister under former Conservative prime minister Stephen Harper, Poilievre was opposed—as the Liberals are now— to having staff testify at committees.

Asked why it is so important from his party’s perspective to have Telford appear, Poilievre said last week that because she’s been involved with Trudeau’s campaigns, from his leadership bid through the last two federal elections, she would be aware of all of the intelligence briefings he’d been provided. He did not acknowledge that, like the prime minister, she too would be restricted in speaking publicly about them.

“She knows all the secrets. It’s time for her to come forward and honestly testify about what happened. What was Beijing’s role in supporting Justin Trudeau? And how do we prevent this kind of interference from ever happening again in Canada?” Poilievre said.

This move comes after Trudeau’s pick of former governor general David Johnston as the special rapporteur to look into foreign interference and provide recommendations to further shore up Canada’s democracy became highly politicized over Conservative and Bloc Quebecois questioning of his impartiality and potential conflict of interest given his connections to the Trudeau family and foundation.

On Friday, Trudeau said the Conservatives are politicizing the important issue of Canadians’ confidence in elections, while defending his pick as “absolutely unimpeachable.” He sought to explain why he’s gone the route of tapping an independent investigator and asking for closed-door national security bodies to review the facts.

“Canadians aren’t even sure if this government is really focused on their best interests or is in the pockets of some foreign government. That’s something that needs to be dealt with extraordinarily seriously,” Trudeau said. “And the partisan nature of politics means that no matter what I say, people are going to wonder— if they didn’t vote for me— whether or not they can trust me. And that polarization is getting even more serious.”

Pointing to Poilievre’s past cabinet position, Trudeau noted: “He was in charge of the integrity of our elections. He was in charge at the time, of making sure that China or others weren’t influencing our elections. He understands how important this, or he should.”



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