By now it will have dawned on many people that we have a full-blown, five-alarm national security crisis on our hands.
Two possibilities are open to us; each would be a crisis of a different kind. Either 1: rogue officers within the Canadian Security Intelligence Service have been making a series of sensational and wholly false accusations against the government of Justin Trudeau and certain prominent members of the Liberal Party, in an apparent bid to destabilize the government.
Or 2: the substance of the charges is true. That this is easily the more plausible of the scenarios underlines the gravity of the situation.
It is dismaying enough that the government of China has been, according to top secret CSIS documents leaked to the media, systematically interfering in federal elections on behalf of the Liberals: a sophisticated operation combining disinformation campaigns against Conservative candidates with clandestine donations of cash and manpower to Liberal candidates – and in least one case, even choosing the candidate.
Worse, it is alleged that, although CSIS officials warned the government multiple times over several years that this was going on, it did nothing about it: neither implementing measures to stop it nor informing the public nor even warning the opposition parties.
The reports on China’s activities were not some sketchy draft left on a junior officer’s desk. CSIS officials, presumably at the highest levels, were confident enough in them to share them with the government, also at the highest levels. It is hard to imagine they would not have been seen by the Prime Minister.
That people at CSIS have been willing to leak it to the media, even at the risk of lengthy prison terms, suggests they are extremely concerned about it. At the least, they may be frustrated that the Trudeau government has been so uninterested in pursuing the matter. They may even have begun to wonder why.
The Liberals’ longstanding coziness with China is a matter of public record: the baffling decisions on takeovers of Canadian companies with sensitive security implications; the endless dithering over whether to allow Huawei to supply equipment to Canada’s 5G telephone networks; the appointments of Beijing cheerleaders John McCallum and Dominic Barton as ambassadors to China.
But these are public policy decisions, for which the government can be held to account. Even the revelation that China has targeted the Prime Minister, in particular, with an aggressive influence campaign – the cash-for-access fundraisers with Chinese billionaires, the hundreds of thousands of dollars contributed to Mr. Trudeau’s family foundation – does not necessarily prove anything.
The Prime Minister, after all, might have adopted the same stance toward China even without such inducements. China’s preference for the Liberals may likewise have a perfectly innocent, i.e. appalling, explanation: that the Liberals are soft on China’s “basic dictatorship.”
But the means the regime has chosen to express that preference clearly cross the line into interference. The Trudeau government’s apparent indifference to its activities therefore raises some disturbing questions. Was the government merely the unwitting beneficiary of China’s electoral assistance, and having been apprised of it, chose to cover it up? Or is there something more to this than even that?
The regime’s success in installing its preferred choice as the Liberal candidate in the Toronto riding of Don Valley North – allegedly with his knowledge – is particularly alarming. The candidate, now MP, Han Dong, was allegedly the choice of former Ontario cabinet minister Michael Chan, an important Liberal fundraiser and organizer long on CSIS’s watchlist over his alleged close ties with the Chinese consulate in Toronto and meetings with suspected Chinese intelligence operatives. Yet, though CSIS directly briefed Liberal Party officials on their concerns, Mr. Han’s candidacy stood.
But perhaps the most outrageous part of these revelations has been the Prime Minister’s response to them. Rather than impress upon China how unacceptable its conduct has been, Mr. Trudeau has reserved his wrath for the anonymous whistle-blowers at CSIS, whom he demanded the agency ferret out.
The rest has been a blizzard of denials and deflections, reminiscent of past Liberal scandals. The overall election result, the Prime Minister keeps repeating, was not affected, as if that meant there was no problem. Those who raise concerns about China’s interference are merely helping China to undermine Canadian democracy. Or they’re election deniers on a par with Donald Trump. Or they’re racist.
Understand: the government has been presented with evidence by the country’s security service that there are people in Parliament who were effectively put there by a foreign dictatorship, part of a broader network of Beijing-sponsored candidates and staffers to various MPs. In any other country there would be police investigations, public inquiries, perhaps even a resignation or two. But in Canada? Move along folks, nothing to see here.
No wonder CSIS is worried.