Conservatives attempt to force top Trudeau aide to testify on Beijing interference
Liberals have resisted efforts to get PM's Chief of Staff Katie Telford to appear before committee
The Conservatives have put forward a motion in the House of Commons which would compel Katie Telford, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's chief of staff, to testify before a House of Commons committee on the Chinese government's efforts to interfere in Canadian elections.
The motion, moved by Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre, would order Telford to appear before the standing committee on access to information, privacy and ethics no later than April 14, 2023 and to answer questions for three hours.
The motion also invites a number of a cabinet ministers and officials to testify, including Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland, Minister of Public Safety Marco Mendicino and CSIS Director David Vigneault.
Conservative member of Parliament Michael Cooper, speaking in favour of the motion in the Commons Monday, said MPs need to question Telford to understand the nature of Beijing's attempts to influence the 2019 and 2021 federal elections.
After all, Katie Telford, as the prime minister's chief of staff, is a critical witness to get to the heart of this scandal. Namely, what does the prime minister know, when did he learn about it, and what did he do, or fail to do, about Beijing's election interference? Cooper said.
On [foreign interference], the prime minister has refused to answer the most basic of questions.
MPs will vote on the motion tomorrow.
The move is the latest opposition attempt to pressure the government on foreign interference. A series of stories from Global News and the Globe and Mail have reported that Beijing undertook a range of influence operations in the two most recent elections.
The reports said those efforts ranged from campaign finance fraud to the spread of misinformation. One of the Globe and Mail stories said Beijing wanted to see a Liberal minority government elected in 2021.
In an anonymous Globe and Mail op-ed last week (new window), the individual who leaked secret material about foreign election interference to the media — identified as a national security official — said they were alarmed by a lack of action by the government.
Last week, Trudeau appointed former governor general David Johnston (new window) as a special rapporteur responsible for looking into foreign election interference. The Conservatives have criticized the appointment (new window), citing Johnston's role with the Trudeau Foundation.
The government has so far resisted calls from opposition parties for a full public inquiry (new window) into the matter.
Liberal members of the procedure and house affairs committee (PROC) have worked against Conservative attempts to get Telford to testify before the committee. Cooper said Monday the Liberals were engaging in a
shameful filibuster to prevent Telford from testifying.
- Opposition leaders question ties between PM and special rapporteur, repeat calls for public inquiry (new window)
Responding to the motion in the House of Commons Monday, Mendicino pointed to moves the government has made to study and combat foreign interference, including Johnston's appointment, consultations on a foreign agents' registry and the establishment of a panel which examined and affirmed the integrity of the 2019 and 2021 federal elections.
The Conservatives have gone to some lengths, at times, to be political and to be partisan. I think that that is regrettable, Mendicino said.
Mendicino added that the government would respect Johnston's recommendations, including a recommendation for a full public inquiry.
China's government has denied claims that it has interfered in Canada's elections.
Richard Raycraft · CBC News