Former governor-general David Johnston says China’s interference in Canadian politics is an “increasing threat to our democratic system” but ruled out a public inquiry on the matter, saying intelligence on Beijing’s activities is highly classified and could never be openly discussed with Canadians.
In a 55-page report tabled Tuesday, Mr. Johnston said he uncovered no proof that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau ignored intelligence briefings on Chinese influence operations in the 2019 and 2021 elections, or warnings of attempts by Beijing to intimidate Conservative foreign affairs critic Michael Chong.
“I have not found examples of ministers, the Prime Minister or their offices knowingly ignoring intelligence, advice or recommendations on foreign interference or being driven by partisan considerations in dealing with these issues,” he wrote.
The Johnston report did not dispute a series of reports from The Globe and Mail on Chinese foreign influence in Canada, including Beijing’s targeting of Mr. Chong and China’s efforts to influence the 2021 election.
Ottawa Bureau Chief Robert Fife and Senior Parliamentary Report Steven Chase report here on Mr. Johnston’s report.
There’s a Globe and Mail explainer here on foreign interference and China’s suspected influence in Canada.
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TRUSTED-TRAVELLER PROGRAM REVAMP ANNOUNCED - The federal government is rolling out a revamp of its trusted-traveller program to help clear clogged airports as the summer travel season kicks off. Story here.
LEGAULT CAUTIONED MNAS AGAINST DISCLOSING `DISSENT’ : RADIO-CANADA - Members of Quebec’s Coalition Avenir Québec government were in deep disagreement over cancelling of a third-link highway tunnel project, but Premier François Legault asked his MNAs not to voice their “dissent.” Story here from CBC. Meanwhile, Quebec’s high-profile education minister has been in the headlines lately for all the wrong reasons, as The Montreal Gazette reports here.
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OVERWHELMING CONFIDENCE FOR BQ LEADER - Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet scored 97.25 per cent in a confidence vote at his party’s national convention last weekend. Story here.
THIS AND THAT
TODAY IN THE COMMONS – The House of Commons is now on a break until May 29. It is the last recess before the final stretch of sittings ahead of the summer break, currently scheduled for June 23. The Senate is also on a week-long break.
MINISTERS ON THE ROAD - With the House of Commons on a break, ministers are fanning out across Canada. Transport Minister Omar Alghabra, at Pearson International Airport, announced improvements to security screening for eligible travellers at Canada’s largest airports. Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos, in Sudbury, Ont., announced funding support for official languages. Immigration Minister Sean Fraser, in New Glasgow, N.S., announced support for a community wellness and social enterprise initiative. Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly, in Vancouver, delivered a speech on Canada’s Opportunities in the Indo-Pacific to the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade. Seniors Minister Kamal Khera and Northern Development Minister Dan Vandal, in Winnipeg, announced federal investments in community-based projects across the country under the New Horizons for Seniors Program. Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Mark Miller, at the Sioux Valley Dakota in Manitoba, made an announcement on infrastructure investments. International Development Minister Mary Ng, in Vancouver, delivered remarks at a Chinatown Solidarity Conference, and announced support for the Chinese Canadian Museum. Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez, in Montreal, made a funding announcement on the Skills for Success program. International Development Minister Harjit Sajjan departed Sunday for a visit to Ethiopia, Egypt and Chad. Official Languages Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor, in Cornwall, PEI, announced federal support for tourism businesses.
U.S. VISIT BY PARLIAMENTARY BLACK CAUCUS - Ontario Senator Rosemary Moodie and Ontario MP Michael Coteau, co-chairs of the Parliamentary Black Caucus, announced Tuesday that a delegation of caucus members are travelling to Washington from Tuesday to Thursday to meet with the Congressional Black Caucus. In addition to the co chairs, the Canadian delegation will include Ontario senators Sharon Burey and Bernadette Clement as well as Quebec MP Greg Fergus, parliamentary secretary to the prime minister, Quebec senators Amina Gerba and Marie-Françoise Mégie and Ontario NDP MP Matthew Green. The 60-year-old U.S. Congressional Black Caucus includes 58 Congress members. The Canadian caucus, established in 2016, is a non-partisan group.
POILIEVRE MEETS LEGAULT - Federal Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre was scheduled to meet, in Quebec City, with Premier François Legault. Ewan Sauves, a spokesperson for Mr. Legault, said topics at the meeting include the economy, energy transition, French and immigration. It’s Mr. Poilievre’s first meeting with Mr. Legault since the Ottawa MP because party leader last September.
PRIME MINISTER'S DAY
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau held private meetings. He was also scheduled to hold a media availability on Parliament Hill.
Federal Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre, in Quebec City, held a news conference. He was also scheduled to meet with Premier François Legault, according to the premier’s office. Mr. Poilievre also held an evening meet-and-greet event with supporters.
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, in Nanaimo, B.C. hosted a roundtable with seniors on the cost of living, then held a news conference to respond to the report from rapporteur David Johnston, and visited the Nanaimo campus of Vancouver Island University. He also attended a meet-and-greet event with supporters.
No schedules provided for other party leaders.
On Tuesday’s edition of The Globe and Mail podcast, Report on Business Reporter Joe Castaldo explains the federal government’s plan to regulate AI for consumers and data protection, and how this proposed legislation compares to others worldwide. The Decibel is here.
OPINION - FOREIGN INTERFERENCE
Andrew Coyne (The Globe and Mail) on how we got here: China’s unrelenting influence campaign, the Liberals’ mishandling and the questions that remain: “Looking back, we should have known. No, strike that, we knew; everybody knew. However much China might have liberalized its economy, whatever material gains it might have made, it was always clear that the Communist Party of China was the same brutal gang of thugs it always was. The Berlin Wall fell in 1989 because Mikhail Gorbachev would not approve shooting the protesters. That same year, at Tiananmen Square, China went in another direction.”
Erin O’Toole (Substack) on what happened when he met with David Johnston for the rapporteur’s report: “With this in mind, you might understand how disappointed I was to learn halfway through my meeting that Johnston’s report was already undergoing French translation. I was flabbergasted and realized that nothing I was going to provide to the Special Rapporteur was going to impact his work. I was left with the clear impression that my meeting was nothing more than a box checking exercise.”
The Globe and Mail Editorial Board on how to get tougher on bail without violating the Charter of Rights: “The sad truth is that the real bail issue in Canada right now, the one not making the headlines, is that too often the courts are in fact not erring on the side of presumption of innocence, and are rubber-stamping onerous bail conditions that criminalize poor and marginalized people. Parliament needs to address the fact that far too many Canadians accused of non-violent crimes are being held in remand. We’ll look at ways to address that issue in another editorial this week.”
Eric Reguly (The Globe and Mail) on the ugly downsides of Canada’s costly obsession with electric vehicles: “Canada’s government is enchanted – obsessed even – with the idea of building batteries for electric vehicles on home soil. Already, Volkswagen is soaking up about $14-billion in public subsidies to build a battery factory in Southwestern Ontario, and Stellantis, owner of Jeep and Fiat, and LG Energy Solution are demanding equal treatment for their joint venture. The mission to make Canada (well, Ontario) part of the global EV supply chain was inevitable and, from a purely industrial point of view, makes some sense, even though the per-employee job creation bill may emerge as the most expensive in Canadian history. But on so many other levels, the decision to lunge into the EV supply chain lies somewhere between irresponsible and crazed; it locks us into an ever-expanding car culture for generations when we should be downgrading the car as a transportation tool, as some European cities are doing.”
Laura Cameron and Angela Carter (Contributed to The Globe and Mail) on how the federal government should not waste their $15-billion Canada Growth Fund on carbon capture for oil: “The $15-billion Canada Growth Fund, emphasized in the 2023 federal budget and aimed at accelerating decarbonization, is a landmark opportunity to align substantial climate action with a thriving national economy. Achieving this potential rests in the hands of the Public Sector Pension Investment Board (PSP), responsible for independently managing the fund’s active investment strategy to boost Canada’s clean economy and attract global capital to it.”
John Vaillant (Contributed to The Globe and Mail) on how we built a volcano and then threw Alberta in: “We weren’t a week into May before 30,000 people had been evacuated because of dozens of fast-moving wildfires in Alberta. Structure losses were mounting, and politicians were trotting out words like “unprecedented.” Unprecedented? Where were they in 2017, when British Columbia had its worst fire season on record and generated four simultaneous pyrocumulonimbus thunderstorms? Where were they in 2016, when Fort McMurray burned – for days – along with 6,000 square kilometres of forest? What about 2011, when Slave Lake lost its town hall, library, radio station and 500 houses in a few hours? No, the current fire situation is not unprecedented, and calling it the “new normal” is offensive. There’s nothing “normal” about it. Do I sound angry? I have a right to be, and so do you.”
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