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Trudeau’s chief of staff Katie Telford to testify at committee probing Chinese government interference

Chief of Staff to the Prime Minister Katie Telford arrives to appear as a witness at the Public Order Emergency Commission in Ottawa, on Nov 24, 2022. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

Chief of Staff to the Prime Minister Katie Telford arrives to appear as a witness at the Public Order Emergency Commission in Ottawa, on Nov 24, 2022. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

Photo: La Presse canadienne / Sean Kilpatrick


Conservative motion will be voted on later today

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's chief of staff has agreed to testify before one of the committees investigating the extent of the Chinese government's interference in Canada's elections — and what the Liberal government knew about it.

While there are serious constraints on what can be said in public about sensitive intelligence matters, in an effort to make Parliament work, [Katie] Telford has agreed to appear at the procedure and House affairs committee as part of their study, says a Tuesday statement from the Prime Minister's Office.

The decision clears a logjam at the procedure and House affairs committee (PROC), where Liberal MPs have been filibustering over the past two weeks to stall a vote on calling Telford to appear.

The committee resumed Tuesday morning.

WATCH | Telford a 'critical witness,' says Conservative MP:

Katie Telford is 'a critical witness' on election interference: Conservative MP

St-Albert Edmonton Conservative MP Michael Cooper introduced a motion to force the prime minister's Chief of Staff Katie Telford to testify at committee on election interference.

Committee member and Conservative MP Michael Cooper, who first floated the motion, has called Telford 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? he said Monday.

Public and political interest in foreign election interference has intensified since the Globe and Mail alleged that China tried to ensure that the Liberals won a minority government in the last general election. The newspaper also published reports saying Beijing worked to defeat Conservative candidates who were critical of China.

Back in the fall, Global News reported that intelligence officials warned Trudeau that China's consulate in Toronto floated cash to at least 11 federal election candidates and numerous Beijing operatives who worked as campaign staffers.

Trudeau has repeatedly said he was never been briefed about federal candidates receiving money from China.

The Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) calls foreign interference activities by the Chinese government the greatest strategic threat to national security.

An independent panel tasked with overseeing the 2021 election did detect attempts at interference but concluded that foreign meddling did not affect the outcome. (new window)

A separate motion will be voted on later today in the House of Commons calling for Telford to testify before another committee — the standing committee on access to information, privacy and ethics — no later than April 14, and to answer questions for three hours regarding China's alleged efforts to interfere in Canadian elections.

Trudeau said the vote will not be a vote of confidence in his minority government, pushing off speculation about an early election for the time being.

The motion, moved by Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre, 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 Canadian Security Intelligence Service director David Vigneault.

Catharine Tunney (new window) · CBC News