The Liberal government wouldn’t say in a document tabled in the House of Commons on Jan. 30 whether the Privy Council Office (PCO) or the Prime Minister’s Office received information on the funding of federal candidates by Beijing, citing secrecy.
The government filed an official response after Conservative MP Arnold Viersen submitted a written question on the issue on Nov. 22.
That same day Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had said “there has never been any information given to me on the funding of federal candidates by China.”
Trudeau was reacting to reporting from Global News that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) had been covertly funding candidates in past elections.
“Has anyone in the Office of the Prime Minister or the Privy Council Office received such information, and, if so, (i) who received the information, (ii) on what date was the information received, (iii) why did that person not inform the Prime Minister?” Viersen wrote in his order paper.
The response filed in an Inquiry of Ministry signed by Liberal MP Greg Fergus, who serves as parliamentary secretary to the prime minister, says that PCO receives intelligence from the Canadian intelligence community and formulates advice to Trudeau.
“That intelligence comes from operational sources, is sensitive, and must be protected,” says the document.
“Commenting on specifics of operational intelligence would put operations at risk and would jeopardize Canada’s access to valuable intelligence on national security threats.”
The government response says the panel established to protect against foreign interference in elections, the Critical Election Incident Public Protocol, had determined there had been no threats to the integrity of the 2019 and 2021 elections.
It added a previous comment made by National Security and Intelligence Advisor Jody Thomas before the Commons defence committee last December.
“We have not seen money going to 11 candidates, period,” Thomas said.
In plain terms, this does not necessarily mean the government had not received reporting to that effect.
Part of a redacted document produced by PCO’s Intelligence Assessment Secretariat (IAS) was published by Global News in December on the issue of CCP interference.
“2. China/Canada: Subtle but Effective Interference Networks” says a heading part of a Daily Foreign Intelligence Brief released on Feb. 21, 2020.
Directly under the heading is an assessment: “Investigations into activities linked to the Canadian federal election in 2019, reveal an active foreign interference (FI) network [rest of sentence and paragraph redacted].
Conservative MP Michael Cooper had read from that document during a house affairs committee meeting on Dec. 13 and asked testifying ministers to comment.
“I am not familiar with that specific report, but I certainly take at face value what our colleague has quoted,” said Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs Dominic Leblanc.