LILLEY: After O’Toole’s revelations on China, an inquiry must be held

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China provided money, workers and lies in a coordinated effort to defeat Erin O’Toole and the Conservatives in the 2021 election. That’s a summary of what the Canadian Security Intelligence Service told O’Toole last week during a private briefing.

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O’Toole rose in the House of Commons just before noon on Tuesday to provide a broad-stroke description of that briefing while avoiding giving details. The summary was enough to worry anyone concerned about China’s meddling in Canada’s democracy.

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“The first category of threat is related to foreign funding, specifically, the payment of funds by the Chinese Communist Party through the United Front Work Department (UFWD) to create specific products of misinformation about me as a member of Parliament and as leader of the Conservative Party of Canada,” O’Toole told the House.

He also said that the UFWD supplied human resources, providing workers to campaign against him, with some employed by this Beijing-directed group and others who were just aligned.

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“They were organized and directed by a foreign state to amplify misinformation efforts,” O’Toole said.

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O’Toole also told the House that CSIS told him there was an organized voter suppression campaign aimed at him personally as well as the Conservative Party generally and one candidate in the 2021 election.

These are all claims the Trudeau government has denied, claims that have not made it into the many reports on this issue once they have been thoroughly scrubbed by the government. Yet, here is CSIS telling O’Toole these details, and more, in a private meeting.

“The briefing from CSIS confirmed to me what I suspected for quite some time, that my parliamentary caucus and myself were the target of a sophisticated misinformation and voter suppression campaign orchestrated by the People’s Republic of China before and during the 2021 general election,” O’Toole said.

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These revelations by O’Toole, a respected parliamentarian just briefed by CSIS, should cast aside any doubts about the need for an independent public inquiry.

Every party in the Commons, except the Liberals, supports a public inquiry. The majority of Canadians, according to several polls, want a public inquiry. Other Canadians calling for an inquiry include Richard Fadden, the former CSIS director and national security advisor to Trudeau and Stephen Harper, and Jean-Pierre Kingsley, the former head of Elections Canada. Even Trudeau’s former principal secretary, Gerry Butts, has called for an inquiry.

Justin Trudeau doesn’t want a public inquiry; he wants to keep employing Johnston, a long-time family friend, to look into the matter.

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O’Toole said given what he has learned from CSIS, the Trudeau government can’t be trusted to handle this file any longer. He said the Trudeau government has gone from one smokescreen to another as they try to deflect blame on this issue to anyone but themselves.

“The problem does not lie with our proud, hard-working intelligence agencies. It lies in the wilful blindness of senior figures in this government and in the senior offices that advise it,” O’Toole said.

O’Toole noted that Trudeau was advised of China’s attempts to target O’Toole and the Conservatives in the lead up to the 2021 election, but did nothing. He also pointed out that this was happening at a time when the majority of MPs in the House of Commons voted to demand documents related to the firing of two Chinese scientists at Canada’s top bio-lab in Winnipeg.

Rather than release those documents, the Trudeau government challenged the issue in court, a case that fell apart when the 2021 election was called. Trudeau is clearly hiding something; the questions are what and why?

Any intelligence official worth their salt will tell you that every single party has skeletons in the closet when it comes to China and foreign interference, but only the Trudeau Liberals oppose an inquiry.

After O’Toole’s revelations Tuesday, no one should be against an inquiry unless they have something to hide.

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