Tories to work with NDP, Bloc to set terms on possible foreign interference investigation

The federal Conservatives are willing to work with other opposition parties to set the terms of reference for a possible investigation into foreign interference and plan to start the process in the coming days, the Tory leader said on Sunday.

Pierre Poilievre said he will contact the New Democrats and the Quebec Bloc next week to get the job done.

Poilievre’s comments came a day after the Liberal government reopened the possibility of holding a public inquiry into allegations that China meddled in two recent federal elections, but only if opposition parties intervene in the process and present their opinions. terms of reference. timeline and potential leader.

“I will work with colleagues in the opposition to make sure that the person who fills the post is independent and impartial,” Poilievre told a news conference on Sunday afternoon.

He said he wants to see someone in the role who has no ties to the Trudeau family or the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation, and who has a record of impartiality and neutrality.

Poilievre is also asking Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to call an investigation immediately.

“He needs to call it right away. He has to get someone who is ready for the job and we need to have terms of reference that have tight deadlines so that the hearings can take place as quickly as possible and put the whole truth on the table before the next elections”. Poilievre said.

The New Democrats also have certain qualifications in mind.

NDP leader Jagmeet Singh said on Saturday that a public inquiry should be led by a judge with no ties to the Liberal Party or the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation, who has also refrained from donating to a federal political party in at least the last last decade.

The government is working to find potential loopholes in the way it handles claims of foreign interference and initially appointed former Governor-General David Johnston as special rapporteur to investigate the issue.

But Johnston resigned from the post on Friday, citing the highly partisan atmosphere around his job.

Johnston’s appointment had been controversial from the start. Poilievre repeatedly accused him of being too close to the Trudeau family to provide an impartial review of the government’s actions. Johnston was a friend of Pierre Elliott Trudeau and took ski trips with the Trudeau family when the current prime minister was a child.

The New Democrats had also called for Johnston to resign due to perceived bias.

All opposition parties have called on the government to conduct a public inquiry into foreign interference.

Starting last fall, the Globe and Mail and Global News published a series of reports citing unnamed security sources alleging that Beijing had made a coordinated effort to interfere in the 2019 and 2021 federal elections.

In March, facing mounting pressure inside and outside the House of Commons, Trudeau appointed Johnston as special rapporteur, tasking him with charting the way forward for the government to address the issue. He was asked to report by May 23 on whether that should include a public inquiry.

“A deep and comprehensive review of foreign interference, its effects and how to prevent it should be an urgent priority for your government and our Parliament,” Johnston wrote in his resignation letter to Trudeau on Friday.

He reiterated the conclusion he reached in his report last month, saying a public inquiry would not be helpful given the limitations of national security laws and the amount of classified information that would be dealt with.

He suggested holding public hearings to educate Canadians about how foreign interference happens and how to handle it.

Johnston said Friday that he will publish a short final report at the end of the month. That will finish his job.

Stepping aside, Johnston encouraged Trudeau to appoint a “respected person with national security experience” to finish the job he started, suggesting he consult with opposition parties about who that should be.

The Conservatives do not want to see Trudeau name another rapporteur, and Poilievre on Sunday reiterated his calls for a public inquiry.

“We want me to end the cover-up, call for a public inquiry, and I will work with our opposition colleagues to make sure that whoever plays that role is independent and impartial by conducting a thorough and public inquiry,” Poilievre said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on June 11, 2023.

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