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Public Safety Minister Dominic LeBlanc declined to comment on a story that said the government was struggling to find someone to lead the inquiry.Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press

Public Safety Minister Dominic LeBlanc said Tuesday his government is nearing the “final stages” of the negotiations and internal planning needed to launch a public inquiry into foreign interference in Canada and he expects to make an announcement shortly.

Mr. LeBlanc told reporters he has spoken twice with Supreme Court Chief Justice Richard Wagner to get his advice on striking the inquiry, but said he wouldn’t comment publicly on “sensitive discussions, in some cases with sitting judges.”

The government began talks with the opposition parties in June, with the goal of unanimously agreeing to the terms of reference for an inquiry and the person who would lead it.

The Conservatives said Tuesday that the Liberals have proposed some more candidates to lead the inquiry.

“The government has provided some additional potential names, which the opposition parties are currently reviewing,” said Sebastian Skamski, director of media relations for the Opposition Leader’s Office.

“Ultimately Justin Trudeau is the only one who can call a public inquiry. It is incumbent on him to get an agreement for a commissioner.”

Mr. LeBlanc acknowledged that the process to set up an inquiry has taken longer than expected.

“We’re not done yet. We’ve made a lot of progress and we are very close,” Mr. LeBlanc said in French, adding that the different political parties have for all intents and purposes agreed to how the inquiry will be structured and managed.

“We are getting to the final stages,” he said, adding that it is a sensitive and difficult topic to navigate.

Mr. LeBlanc spoke with reporters in Charlottetown, as federal cabinet ministers were beginning the second day of their three-day retreat in PEI. Ministers are gathering to chart an agenda for the fall sitting of Parliament, with the private talks expected to focus heavily on cost of living and housing affordability.

Mr. LeBlanc declined to comment on a National Post story published two weeks ago that said the government was struggling to find someone to lead the inquiry.

On Monday Prime Minister Justin Trudeau denied that was the case.

Mr. LeBlanc said there is a formal protocol in place to ensure that judicial independence is maintained while the government looks for a commissioner for the inquiry.

NDP House Leader Peter Julian said in a statement Tuesday he is “confident that we will have a public inquiry by the end of the summer.”

“The NDP continues to do the necessary work to deliver accountability for Canadians and to defend our democratic process,” Mr. Julian said.

The governing Liberals initially resisted launching an inquiry this spring despite three votes calling for one in the House of Commons by opposition parties, who hold the majority of seats. Instead, Mr. Trudeau had tapped former governor-general David Johnston to investigate Chinese government interference in the 2019 and 2021 election campaigns.

But Mr. Johnston abruptly announced his resignation in June, citing a “highly partisan atmosphere.” This followed revelations that a crisis communications firm, Navigator, hired by Mr. Johnston to help with his probe, had previously worked for MP Han Dong, whose conduct was part of the investigation.

In the spring, opposition parties adopted a motion calling for Mr. Johnston’s resignation, saying in their majority decision that he was unfit for the job because of his long-standing friendship with the Trudeau family and his connection to the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation.

A public inquiry would follow months of reporting on Chinese foreign interference, including revelations reported in The Globe and Mail that Beijing targeted Conservative foreign affairs critic Michael Chong and his relatives in Hong Kong – attempted intimidation that the MP was not told about. The disclosure of this meddling prompted the Canadian government to expel Chinese diplomat Zhao Wei in May.

On Monday Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre accused the government of stalling on an inquiry. Mr. LeBlanc told reporters that the government won’t act prematurely on such a sensitive matter, noting that the process has to roll out in a way that reassures Canadians.

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