[guest post by JVW]
I guess I missed this over the weekend in the regular press, but The Spectator provides coverage today:
It’s been a sticky couple of weeks for Canada’s natural governing party, as the Liberals like to call themselves. Anonymous sources from CSIS, Canada’s intelligence agency, leaked information to two major Canadian media outlets, the Globe and Mail and Global News. The reports say China interfered in Canada’s two most recent federal elections, and that CSIS alerted the government, but that despite warnings the Liberals — who won both elections with a minority government — did nothing.
It’s simultaneously a crisis for the Liberals and a bit of a yawn. Canadians already knew Justin Trudeau was soft on China’s “basic dictatorship.” If there was to be foreign interference from one of the most aggressive world powers on the map — and why wouldn’t there be? — they wouldn’t expect him to stand up to it.
I find it hard to believe that Canadian voters, even supporters of Trudeau’s Liberal Party, would be so sanguine about election interference from a malevolent world power, but hey, maybe I’m just an unreconstructed Cold Warrior. I mean, Justin’s old man sure was accommodating to the Soviets back in the day, wasn’t he? (Not to mention the Cubans — one Cuban in particular — but let’s not go down that road. If you know, you know.) Going on:
In the 2021 election, according to reporters for the Globe and Mail who reviewed the leaked information, China intervened to keep a Liberal minority government in power — seen as the least prejudicial scenario for Chinese interests — and to prevent the election of anyone critical of Beijing, such as Conservative MP Kenny Chiu.
Chiu had criticized the crackdown on the Hong Kong protests, but more significantly, he introduced a private member’s bill to establish a registry of foreign agents (something the US has had in place since 1938). He lost his seat to a candidate reportedly preferred by Beijing, and was identified in the leaks as the target of a disinformation campaign.
Erin O’Toole, Conservative leader at the time of the 2021 election, said his party lost eight to nine seats because of disinformation from China. These disinformation campaigns — according to the CSIS leaks — were spread by leveraging Chinese-Canadian organizations, Chinese-language media outlets and Chinese social media network WeChat.
Seems a bit more involved than purchasing a bunch of Facebook ads that hardly anybody saw or starting up a few Twitter bot farms. And it wasn’t Beijing’s first time at the rodeo either:
As for the 2019 election, Global News published allegations from an unnamed CSIS source that China intervened on behalf of eleven candidates — nine Liberals and two Conservatives — and that the Chinese consulate in Toronto had transferred substantial funds to their campaigns via a large interference network.
But perhaps the most serious claim in the 2019 context was that sitting Liberal MP Han Dong knowingly participated in the foreign interference network, along with politician Michael Chan, who has been described as a longtime “kingmaker” within the Liberal party. Both Dong and Chan have denied the allegations.
The article also details how Chinese students studying at Canadian universities were organized into volunteer networks for Liberal candidates and how Chinese-Canadians were secretly reimbursed for financial donations made to Liberal candidates and causes. But without a national registry of foreign agents, as Kenny Chiu sought to get through the Canadian Parliament, it becomes pretty difficult to investigate these allegations. And the U.S. has its own issues with Chinese students acting as enforcers for the Chinese Communist Party.
Naturally, Justin Trudeau has responded in the expected fashion: suggesting that anti-Asian racism is at work, questioning the accuracy of intelligence reports, and even dismissing warnings from CSIS to the Liberal Party prior to the 2021 elections that Han Dong had troubling connections to China. The Prime Minister has thus far refused to call for Parliament to open an inquiry into the allegations. We don’t have to imagine the outrage that would ensue down here if a Republican President behaved as callously. But, as The Spectator reminds us, PM Trudeau is the same person who got away with draconian lockdowns during COVID, who froze the bank accounts of protesters against his government, who gave out multi-million dollar no-bid government contracts to his friends and cronies, who took family vacations paid for by lobbyists, and who apparently got aggressive with a female opposition politician, yet he somehow seems to skate away with the most unctuous and insincere apologies each and every time.
Maybe China recognizes a kindred authoritarian in Justin Trudeau, and maybe they see the same attitude of “nothing to see here so long as the economy is decent and the government isn’t coming after me” that the Chinese authorities see in their own people. In any case, it’s sad to witness this sort of rot in Rupert’s Land.
UPDATE 8:55 pm PST – Earlier tonight PM Trudeau admitted that his government largely ignored earlier recommendations on how to combat foreign interference in elections:
His comments came Monday night as he tasked the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians (NSICOP) with once again reviewing the issue of foreign interference in Canada, with a special eye on election meddling.
That body released a report back in 2019 that urged Ottawa to take the threat of foreign interference more seriously.
[. . .]
“We have to do a better job on following up on those recommendations. I fully accept that,” Trudeau told a news conference Monday night.
He announced he’s asked Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc and the Clerk of the Privy Council to bring forward a plan to implement any outstanding recommendations from NSICOP reports in the next 30 days.
Just as I wrote in the post: an unctuous and insincere (non-)apology. And he’ll get away with it, as he will the whitewashed report which will come from a toady he will appoint to run the investigation.