The federal Conservatives are denouncing Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s appointment of former governor general David Johnston as the Liberal government’s “independent special rapporteur” on foreign election interference.
Trudeau announced Johnston’s appointment to the role on March 15, saying in a news release that he made the decision following “consultations with all parties in the House of Commons.”
However, sharp criticism came shortly after the appointment from one of the Conservative Party’s deputy leaders and a number of its MPs.
Deputy Leader Melissa Lantsman pointed out that Johnston is a member of the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation, which made headlines in late February after a Globe and Mail report said a Chinese diplomat instructed a wealthy businessman with ties to the Chinese Communist Party to make a large donation to the Trudeau Foundation, for which the CCP would reimburse him.
The foundation’s president announced just days after the story broke that it would be returning the $200,000 donation after learning of its “potential connection between the Chinese government.”
Referring to Johnston’s appointment as special rapporteur, Lantsman said the prime minister has appointed a “Trudeau Foundation insider to tell us that we don’t need a public inquiry into Beijing’s donations to the Trudeau Foundation & their election interference.”
“They got $200,000 from Beijing,” Lantsman wrote on Twitter on March 15, referring to the Trudeau Foundation. “Maybe it would be best to find someone not associated with it?”
Conservative House Leader Andrew Scheer made similar comments on the matter, calling the Trudeau Foundation a “partisan group of elite insiders” that received funding from Beijing.
“No one associated with it can be trusted on this issue. Call a public inquiry now,” he wrote on Twitter on March 15.
The Epoch Times contacted the foundation for comment but did not hear back.
The foundation was created in the name of former prime minister Pierre Trudeau to provide scholarship programs. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said he’s had no ties to the foundation since being elected to public office.
As the independent special rapporteur on foreign interference, Johnston “will have a wide mandate to look into foreign interference in the last two federal general elections and make expert recommendations on how to further protect our democracy and uphold Canadians’ confidence in it,” according to Trudeau’s March 15 news release.
The release said a mandate for Johnston’s role will be finalized in the coming days and made public.
Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre has yet to comment on Johnston’s appointment.
However, the party’s finance critic Jasraj Singh Hallan said on Twitter on March 15 that Johnston is “another random Liberal tasked by Trudeau to support his corruption and scandals,” while Conservative transport critic Mark Strahl repeated on the same day his party’s call for a public inquiry into election interference.
Strahl wrote on Twitter that Trudeau shouldn’t be “trying to protect himself and his party” by appointing a “family friend” as special rapporteur.
The prime minister called Johnston a “family friend” in 2017 at the end of Johnston’s term as governor general.
In the news release on March 15, Trudeau said he is confident that Johnston’s review of foreign election interference allegations will be “impartial.” He added that his government “will comply with and implement his [Johnston’s] public recommendations, which could include a formal inquiry, a judicial review, or another independent review process.”
Noé Chartier and Marnie Cathcart contributed to this report.