Trudeau denies security officials told Liberals to withdraw the MP’s candidacy
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is fighting back a recent news report alleging security officials have asked the Liberal Party to reverse the nomination of one of its MPs.
“In a free democracy, it is not up to unelected security officials to dictate to political parties whether or not they can run,” the prime minister told a news conference on Monday.
Trudeau was responding to a question about a Global News report that suggested Liberal MP Han Dong was allegedly helped by the Chinese consulate while running on the Don Valley North in the Toronto-area during the 2019 election.
CLOCK | Trudeau says CSIS can’t tell parties who should and shouldn’t run for office:
The report cites anonymous sources who claimed the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) had urged senior Liberal Party officials to withdraw his nomination, but Trudeau approved his candidacy.
“The suggestions we’ve seen in the media that CSIS would somehow say, ‘No, this person can’t run or this person can’t run,’ is not just wrong. It actually damages people’s confidence in our democratic and political institutions,” Trudeau said Monday.
Stephanie Carvin, associate professor of national security at Carleton University, questioned the suggestion that CSIS would seek a nomination overturned.
“CSIS’s mandate allows it to report on threats to Canada’s security [Prime Minister’s Office] to withdraw a nomination,” Carvin wrote in a tweet.
CLOCK | Trudeau defends Liberal MP Han Dong:
Dong said in a media statement that his nomination and campaign teams found no evidence of irregularities or compliance issues related to his candidacy or election.
“I have the utmost respect for the integrity of our democratic institutions and electoral processes,” the statement said.
Dong said all procedures and processes related to his campaign and political career have been publicly reported as required.
Trudeau also defended Dong during Monday’s press conference.
“Han Dong is an outstanding member of our team and suggestions that he is somehow disloyal to Canada should be disregarded,” he said.
Opposition parties have called for a public inquiry into allegations of foreign election interference by China.
Trudeau was asked if he would consider holding a public inquiry, but pointed to a House study as a way to get answers about foreign interference.
“Openness and transparency are extremely important for our democracies and for actively defending our democracies,” he said, adding that security officials will appear before the committee in the coming days.
But MEPs on the committee appeared frustrated at a perceived lack of transparency on the part of security officials during a hearing earlier this month.
Witnesses from the CSIS, the Communications Security Establishment (CSE) – Canada’s foreign signals intelligence agency – and the RCMP told the committee they could only give them a non-classified briefing and could not comment on operational details.
At one point, Conservative MP Blaine Calkins held up documents presented to the committee that were covered in redacted redactions.
“It’s really difficult to figure out what we should be doing when we actually don’t know what’s going on,” he said.
“I am very frustrated right now with the lack of information, lack of transparency and responsibility to figure out how to solve this problem.”
CLOCK | Former Trudeau Advisor on Calls for Public Inquiry:
Former CSIS director Richard Fadden said a public inquiry is the best place to get answers about foreign interference.
“The House has become very, very partisan and I think it will be almost impossible for Members of Parliament to look at this completely objectively,” he said. “In fact, I think it’s unfair to ask her to.”
Fadden also suggested that it might be possible to give access to classified information to those working on a public inquiry.
“This does not mean that the Commission can publish this information. But it means that when their report is released, we would have the reassurance of an objective commissioner that they’ve looked at the material and their conclusions make sense,” he said.
CLOCK | Senator calls for more “transparency” on alleged Chinese election interference:
But Senator Ian Shugart, who once served as a Privy Council clerk, said that while allowing an investigation access to classified information could be useful, it might not meet calls for transparency.
“There will still be an appetite for this information in some circles,” Shugart told CBC News Network Perfomance & politics Host David Cochrane. “I’m afraid the appetite, by and large, can never be satisfied.”
Still, Shugart said government “should be as transparent as possible.”
“I would even venture to say that the government should be more transparent at this point,” he said.