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RCMP investigating interference in Canada’s elections

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The RCMP has confirmed it is investigating “broader foreign actor interference activities” in Canada, but Commissioner Brenda Lucki is declining to provide more details given the investigations are “ongoing.”

This confirmation came in a letter Lucki sent to the House of Commons committee studying foreign interference in Canadian elections.

This study was prompted by a Global News report that China allegedly interfered in Canada’s 2019 federal election, partly by funding the campaigns of at least 11 candidates, and that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was briefed about the allegations in January. CTV News has not independently verified Global News’s reporting, which Trudeau has also disputed.

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Lucki’s correspondence does not name any country in relation to the investigations, but she did appear to back up what other federal officials have said: that the Security and Intelligence Threats to Elections (SITE) Task Force—of which the RCMP is part— “did not have any criminal investigations into election-related activities” in the context of the 2019 federal general election.

Lucki said this was because “there was no evidence at the time.”

Now, the top Mountie says, the RCMP is “aware of foreign actor interference in relation to a broad range of activities, including interference in democratic processes.”

And while “open dialogue on the impact of foreign actor interference on Canada, its citizens, and its democratic processes is critical in helping defend against these threats,” Lucki said she is unable to provide the committee more information in order to protect the integrity of the work underway.

Lucki’s letter prompted a series of questions to Trudeau during question period on Tuesday, specifically related to the 2019 federal election interference allegations.

Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre asked Trudeau directly whether he was informed of such allegations.

Trudeau responded that law enforcement officials take foreign interference seriously, and that he can ensure all Canadians that the 2019 and 2021 elections were free and fair.

In a back-and-forth between the Conservative leader and prime minister, Poilievre repeatedly asked not whether there was electoral interference, but rather whether Trudeau was told of allegations there was.

“I can confirm, based on the news reports that a number of people have been remarking on for the past number of weeks, that I have never gotten any information from any of our security agencies, or police officers, or intelligence officials, or public servants, any information on anyone receiving, as a federal candidate, money from China, as the allegations highlighted,” Trudeau emphasized.

He added there are always concerns about foreign interference in Canada generally, and in elections specifically, but that “Canadians can be reassured that the integrity of our elections was not compromised.”

Bloc Quebecois Leader Yves-François Blanchet also addressed the alleged interference with the prime minister in question period — including how Trudeau’s handled it on the world stage — calling the issue confusing, and asking why it hasn’t been made public which 11 ridings may have been implicated.

Blanchet also said it’s hardly reassuring that Trudeau is sharing what he doesn’t know, as opposed to what he does know. He said Trudeau needs allies, instead of posturing for other world leaders. This, after a video of a tense interaction at the G20 Summit between Chinese President Xi Jinping and Trudeau was widely shared earlier this month, when talking points from an unofficial conversation between the two were given to the media, listing interference as a subject they discussed.

Asked by reporters on Tuesday about the RCMP investigations, Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino said he’d defer to Lucki and the lead investigators into the matter, but that the federal government takes allegations of foreign interference “very seriously.”

“CSIS and the RCMP do have existing protocols where they share information and intelligence, and those protocols are laid out by law and by statute,” Mendicino said. “What’s important is that they are able to do that work independently. And our job on the elected side of government is to equip them with the tools that they need to gather the intelligence, to gather the information, to gather the evidence that they need to root out potential foreign interference and where appropriate, to prosecute it in our courts.”

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NDP says Alberta premier’s prosecutor review flawed, calls for outside investigation

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Alberta premier's prosecutor

Alberta’s Opposition leader says Premier Danielle Smith’s assurance of a thorough investigation into allegations of interference with Crown prosecutors is “an empty talking point” given new details on the search itself.

NDP Leader Rachel Notley said that while the Smith-directed email search covered the four-month period in question, any deleted message was erased from the system after just a month, meaning the relevant time period for those emails was likely missed.

“It is outrageous that Danielle Smith is really naive enough to think that Albertans would trust an internal investigation that has not been transparently conducted, that has been conducted by people who answer to her, and that only considered deleted emails that go back 30 days,” Notley said Thursday in Calgary.

“This is an empty talking point and nothing else,” she added, renewing a call for an independent, judge-led inquiry into whether Smith and her office interfered in the administration of justice.

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Smith ordered an email review last weekend after CBC News reported allegations that a staffer in the premier’s office sent a series of emails last fall to Crown prosecutors questioning their assessment and direction in cases related to the blockade at the Coutts, Alta., U.S. border crossing in early 2022.

The CBC did not specify precisely when the emails were sent and said it has not viewed the emails in question.

RCMP laid charges against several people involved in the three-week blockade at Coutts to protest COVID-19 restrictions. The charges range from mischief to conspiracy to commit murder.

On Monday, the Justice Department reported that a review of almost a million emails — incoming, outgoing and deleted — sent over a four-month period last fall turned up no evidence of any communications between prosecutors and the premier’s office.

However, Alberta Justice, in a statement to media outlets Wednesday, stated that deleted emails are only kept for 30 days, meaning the search for deleted emails would only capture those from around Dec. 22 onward and perhaps not capture deleted emails during the time frame in question.

Alberta Justice, along with Ethan Lecavalier-Kidney, who speaks for Justice Minister Tyler Shandro, declined to respond to requests Thursday for that statement or explain why the statement was now being withheld.

Notley’s comments came a day after Smith faced a second CBC story, quoting unnamed sources alleging she pressured Shandro and his office to intervene in COVID-related cases.

Smith reiterated in a statement: “All communications between the premier, her staff, the minister of justice, and ministry of justice public servants have been appropriate and made through the proper channels.”

In the statement, Smith also accused the CBC of publishing “a defamatory article containing baseless allegations” referring to the original email story.

Chuck Thompson, the CBC head of public affairs, said in a statement Wednesday: “We stand by the story which transparently attributes the allegations to trusted sources and provides context to the allegations.

“As is our practice, we gave the premier and her office an opportunity to react and we included that response prominently in the story, including the sub-headline.”

Smith has given multiple versions in recent weeks of what she has said to justice officials about COVID-19 cases.

She has not taken questions in a general news conference with reporters since the affair took off two weeks ago when Smith announced that she was talking to prosecutors about the COVID-19 cases.

Smith has said she talked to prosecutors directly and did not talk to prosecutors directly. She has said she reminded justice officials of general prosecution guidelines, but at other times said she reminded them to consider factors unique to the COVID-19 cases. She has also suggested the conversations are ongoing and that they have ended.

She has attributed the confusion to “imprecise” word choices.

In her statement Wednesday, Smith delivered a sixth version, now saying she met not only with Shandro and the deputy attorney general, but also with other unnamed “ministry officials” to discuss the possibility of legal amnesty to those charged with “non-violent, non-firearms pandemic-related violations.”

The statement added: “The premier and her staff had several discussions with the minister of justice and ministry officials, requesting an explanation of what policy options were available for this purpose.

“After receiving a detailed legal opinion from the minister to not proceed with pursuing options for granting amnesty, the premier followed that legal advice.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 26, 2023.

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B.C. to install earthquake warning sensors to give life-saving notice

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B.C. to install earthquake warning

Up to 50 earthquake early warning sensors are being installed around British Columbia as part of a larger plan to protect people and infrastructure in a big quake.

The sensors will be connected to the national Earthquake Early Warning system that’s expected to be in operation by 2024.

A joint federal and provincial government announcement today says the sensors will give seconds, or perhaps tens of seconds, of warning before the strongest shaking arrives, helping to reduce injuries, deaths and property loss.

Bowinn Ma, B.C.’s minister of emergency management, says in a statement that an early warning system is critical to helping those in the province mitigate the impacts of a seismic event.

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When the full system is operational next year, more than 10 million Canadians living in the most earthquake-prone areas of the country will get early warning alerts, giving them precious seconds to take cover.

There are over 5,000 earthquakes in Canada every year, most of them along B.C.’s coast, although about 20 per cent of the quakes are along the St. Lawrence River and Ottawa River valleys.

On Jan. 26, 1700, a magnitude-9 megathrust earthquake hit North America’s west coast, creating a tsunami that carried across the Pacific Ocean and slammed into Japan.

The statement says if a similar quake happens when the early warning system is operating, it could give up to four minutes’ warning before the strongest shaking starts in coastal B.C. communities.

It says the system could also be used to automatically trigger trains to slow down, stop traffic from driving over bridges or into tunnels, divert air traffic, automatically close gas valves, and open firehall and ambulance bay doors.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 26, 2023.

This is a corrected story. A previous version said the earthquake warning system is expected to be operational in 2023. In fact, it is expected to be operational in 2024.

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Renters in Canada are facing the toughest market since 2001: CMHC report – Global News

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Renters in Canada are facing the toughest market in decades with low vacancies, higher prices and surging demand, according to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC).

The housing agency released its annual rental market report Thursday, which showed that the national vacancy rate for purpose-built rental apartments declined to 1.9 per cent last year — the lowest level since 2001.

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Meanwhile, the demand for rentals outstripped supply due to higher net migration, the return of students to on-campus learning and a rise in homeownership costs.

“Higher mortgage rates, which drove up already-elevated costs of homeownership, made it harder and less attractive for renters to transition to homeownership,” CMHC said in a statement.

CMHC data also showed that the average rent for two-bedroom units that were occupied by a new tenant rose by 18.3 per cent — well above the average rent growth for units without turnover. This made it difficult for Canadians trying to enter the rental market or find new housing to rent, the agency said.

“Lower vacancy rates and rising rents were a common theme across Canada in 2022,” Bob Dugan, CMHC’s chief economist, said in a statement.

“This caused affordability challenges for renters, especially those in the lower income ranges, with very few units in the market available in their price range.”


Click to play video: 'How will housing market look in the next year?'

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How will housing market look in the next year?


The average rent for a two-bedroom rental condominium apartment saw a significant increase to $1,930 from $1,771, about nine per cent year over year, according to CMHC.

Canada is also facing a housing crunch with a shortage of both homes and construction workers to build new units.

Another CMHC report released last week found that the annual rate of new home building had slowed by five per cent in December 2022 compared with November.

Last month, in a bid to help tackle skyrocketing rents across the country, the government of Canada opened applications for a one-time top-up as part of the Canada Housing Benefit (CHB) program — an initiative that would put $500 in the pockets of low-income renters.

&copy 2023 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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