Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre today asked what the “serious concerns” of interference were that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau previously said he raised with Chinese leader Xi Jinping while at the G20 Summit in Bali, Indonesia.
“His [Trudeau’s] office said he, quote, ‘Raised our serious concerns about interference activities in Canada.’ Was the prime minister ever briefed about any of these?” asked Poilievre during question period in the House of Commons on Nov. 23.
Poilievre was referring to Trudeau’s conversation with Xi on Nov. 15, during which the prime minister’s office said he raised concerns about Chinese interference in Canada.
On Nov. 7, Trudeau commented on allegations that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) covertly funded at least 11 candidates during the 2019 federal election. The allegations were outlined in a Global News story published the same day, which alleged that Trudeau was briefed about the illicitly-funded candidates in January.
Trudeau told reporters on Nov. 7 that China and other state actors “are continuing to play aggressive games with our institutions, with our democracies.”
Less than two weeks later, he said he was never briefed about any candidates receiving Chinese funding.
“I get briefed up regularly from our intelligence and security officials,” Trudeau told reporters in Djerba, Tunisia, on Nov. 20. “I have no information on any federal candidates receiving money from China.”
Trudeau repeated a similar message today during question period.
“There are a range of threats out there that Canadians and Canadian security agencies continue to be vigilant against,” he said. “We will always be there to protect Canadians.”
Poilievre asked “what specific interference” Trudeau’s office was referring to when it summarized his conversation with Xi on Nov. 15.
“We’ve known for many years that there are consistent engagements by representatives of the Chinese government into Canadian communities,” Trudeau responded.
‘Vulnerable to Influence’
Bloc Québécois MP Alain Therrien suggested during question period today that threats of foreign-funding of candidates could be solved by a return to “public funding of political parties.”
“We need to have Elections Canada fund parties based on the number of votes they receive instead of relying on large donors,” Therrien said. “We could do that tomorrow morning.”
He added that as allegations of foreign funding grow, the need for public funding becomes more urgent.
“We already knew that the dependence of political parties on private contributions made them vulnerable to influence by large donors,” he said. “We now know that, with Chinese interference in 2019, we have exactly the same problem with foreign powers.”
Trudeau replied by saying the last two federal elections were determined to be fair by a “nonpartisan committee” organized to assess them.
“Canadians can maintain their trust,” he said.
Canada’s chief electoral officer Stéphane Perrault yesterday faced questions from MPs about the alleged Chinese interference in the 2019 election, to which he replied that he received no reports of Beijing funding candidates.
“I’ve not received any reports regarding specific instances of noncompliance with the legislation or specific instances of Chinese interference in the election,” Perrault said.
Isaac Teo contributed to this report.