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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he will not call an independent public inquiry into Chinese interference in Canadian politics after former governor-general David Johnston recommended against one.

Johnston, who was asked by Trudeau in March to lead an investigation into foreign meddling in the 2019 and 2021 elections, said in his report yesterday that such interference is an “increasing threat to our democratic system,” but concluded that because intelligence about Beijing’s activities is highly classified, it could never be openly discussed with Canadians in a public inquiry.

The former governor-general said he found no proof that Trudeau ignored intelligence briefings on Chinese influence operations in the 2019 and 2021 elections and discovered no evidence that the Prime Minister was informed of a warning by CSIS on how Beijing was targeting Conservative MP Michael Chong.

  • Andrew Coyne: “To be clear: that Mr. Johnston rejected an inquiry is not, in itself, proof he is in the tank for the government. Neither are his supporting conclusions ... These are conclusions that it would be possible for a person of goodwill to draw. They may even be right. But they are not necessarily right, and the arguments he presents in their favour are alarmingly thin.”
  • Campbell Clark: “The opposition wanted an inquiry headed by someone more inclined to be disruptive, named by them. Mr. Johnston’s attempt to throw the ball back in their court by urging party leaders to take part in a closed-door review of his work – backed by Mr. Trudeau – isn’t going to end that.”
  • John Ibbitson: “David Johnston is recommending public hearings into foreign interference in Canadian elections, but not a full public inquiry. This is a mistake. Even on the basis of what Mr. Johnston has learned over the past two months as the Independent Special Rapporteur on Foreign Interference, there is clearly an urgent need for a thorough overhaul of this country’s security and intelligence apparatus. The few months of public hearings and brief final report Mr. Johnston will produce are bound to be inadequate to the task.”
  • Erin O’Toole: I met with David Johnston for his report – here’s what happened
  • A guide to foreign interference and China’s suspected influence in Canada
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David Johnston, Independent Special Rapporteur on Foreign Interference, presents his first report in Ottawa on Tuesday, May 23, 2023.Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press

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Open this photo in gallery:

Terri Smith-Fraser, 57, a nursing assistant at a Halifax hospital who is temporarily off work after hurting her back, steps outside the van she lives in full-time while parked at a city park in Halifax on April 27.DARREN CALABRESE/The Globe and Mail

Van life more common with housing crisis

Terri Smith-Fraser, a 57-year-old grandmother, is changing the image of van life after a renoviction forced her out of her Halifax apartment. She says while safety is a concern, soaring rents and the housing shortage are making van life an option for people in her situation.

Van life – usually associated with the young and adventurous – seemed like the best choice for Ms. Smith-Fraser, who was unwilling to be a burden on her adult daughters or find a roommate after rent for her two-bedroom apartment more than doubled – too much to afford on her salary of $49,000.

Over this past year, Ms. Smith-Fraser has chronicled the ups and downs of living in a van to raise awareness about the housing crisis and to show others that her lifestyle is a possibility. However, friends and colleagues are still quizzical about her life. “Are you going to look for an apartment now?”

Also on our radar

Proposed bill to challenge oath to King Charles: New Brunswick Liberal MP René Arseneault is working on a bill to remove the requirement for parliamentarians to pledge loyalty to King Charles III, giving them the choice to swear an oath to Canada instead.

Alberta on its way to worst fire season ever: Alberta may experience the worst fire season on record as more than one million hectares have been ravaged less than halfway through the seven-month period when the province is most at risk from wildfires.

Ford strikes lithium deals in Quebec: Ford Motors has given a boost to Quebec’s developing lithium mining industry by signing an 11-year contract with Nemaska Lithium for future production from two planned facilities in the province.

Most Ontario housing investors live in province: New research from Statistics Canada shows that more than 80 per cent of home investors in Ontario live in the province. The trend is similar in other provinces.

Morning markets

U.S. debt talks weigh on stocks: World stocks fell on Wednesday as U.S. debt ceiling negotiations dragged on without resolution, stoking a general malaise in markets that saw safe haven assets like the U.S. dollar and gold hold near recent highs. Just before 5:30 a.m. ET, Britain’s FTSE 100 was down 1.40 per cent. Germany’s DAX and France’s CAC 40 slid 1.21 per cent and 1.42 per cent, respectively. In Asia, Japan’s Nikkei finished down 0.89 per cent. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng lost 1.62 per cent. New York futures were negative. The Canadian dollar was down at 73.84 US cents.

What everyone’s talking about

Taha Ghayyur: “If Canada is to be taken seriously as a candidate for the UN Human Rights Council, it must demonstrate a true commitment to human rights, both in word and in deed.”

Kent Fellows: “It’s easy to see what Volkswagen and Stellantis get out of the billions in subsidies that Canada is dangling in front of them for domestic battery plants ... It’s harder to see what the Canadian and Ontario governments get in return.”

Today’s editorial cartoon

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Editorial cartoon by David Parkins, May 24, 2023.Illustration by David Parkins

Living better

Non-sugar sweeteners could be harmful long-term, WHO says

The World Health Organization is warning against the consumption of non-sugar sweeteners, saying there is no evidence for their effectiveness in losing weight and that use of these sugar replacements could lead to unwanted health effects over the long term. Here’s a rundown of the WHO guideline, plus tips for reducing sweeteners in your diet.

Moment in time: May 24, 1941

Open this photo in gallery:Disc of the Week -- Bob Dylan’s Self Portrait ..the album was originally released in 1970. Handout

Robert Allen Zimmerman, better known as Bob Dylan, was born on May 24, 1941.Handout

Bob Dylan is born

On this day in 1941, Robert Allen Zimmerman was born in Duluth, Minn. Bob Dylan, the folk troubadour, would come later. He was raised in small-town Hibbing, where a newspaper ad for a 1958 concert billed him last, alphabetical listings being unkind to those with surnames beginning with Z. Shortly after, during a brief stint at the University of Minnesota, he began calling himself “Bob Dylan,” a tip of his flat cap to Welsh poet Dylan Thomas. It was a persona – a hobo songster, a self-made creation. By 1963, when he headlined Carnegie Hall, writer Walter Eldot of the Duluth News Tribune tried to account for the young Minnesotan’s unforeseen ascent: “Who and what is Bob Dylan?” What he was, was the most influential songwriter of the 1960s, setting the counterculture zeitgeist with anthems such as Blowin’ in the Wind and, later, The Times They Are a-Changin’. Today, the Nobel Prize laureate and member of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame tours, records and writes books regularly, raging passionately and eloquently against what Thomas referred to as the dying of the light. Brad Wheeler

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