A parliamentary committee chair says foreign interference watchdog David Johnston was already scheduled to testify before opposition MPs demanded his appearance in a letter this week.
Liberal MP Bardish Chagger said at a hearing today that the committee invited Johnston to appear two months ago, and he is already scheduled to appear in less than two weeks.
Opposition members of the committee wrote a letter this week demanding Johnston’s testimony after his first report on alleged foreign meddling was published Tuesday.
The Conservative, NDP and Bloc Quebecois MPs said they want Johnston to explain why he decided against recommending a public inquiry on foreign meddling.
Liberal MPs accused Conservatives of being irresponsible by implying that there was any reluctance on Johnston’s part to talk to the committee.
Chagger said Johnston has agreed to testify for two hours on June 6, including about the contents of his report.
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NDP MP Rachel Blaney told the committee that she’s not content with Johnston’s report, as her party continues to push for a public inquiry.
“For me, the focus has always been how serious this is and how important it is for Canadians to trust their institutions,” Blaney said.
“It’s disappointing that we’re here, and really outlines the reality that Canadians need to see a process that is transparent, clear and they can have trust in. This process is not feeling (like) that.”
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh is asking the prime minister to allow more members of his party to briefed on foreign interference attempts, after the leaders of the Conservatives and Bloc Québécois declined to obtain the required security clearance.
Singh says in a letter addressed to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau today that he wants those two spots given to members of his team who would accompany him in the briefings.
Singh is also asking Trudeau for a briefing on how much he can and cannot say after reviewing the intelligence, and for assurance that his ability to criticize the Liberal government won’t be constrained.
Johnston said that a formal public inquiry would not work to investigate issues of alleged foreign interference in the 2019 and 2021 federal elections because much of the classified information he has reviewed would need to remain secret.
He said in his report that making that information public would run the risk of breaching the trust of Canada’s security allies and endangering intelligence sources.
Opposition parties have continued calling for a public inquiry in the wake of that report, but Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he is abiding by Johnston’s recommendation not to hold one.