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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is defending David Johnston’s appointment as special rapporteur on China’s interference in Canadian elections, saying Conservative critics are engaging in “horrific partisan attacks” against someone of extraordinary integrity.

“If everyone needed a really clear indication that partisanship is more important to Conservatives than actual facts and reality, their completely unfounded attacks on David Johnston are exactly that,” Mr. Trudeau told a news conference Friday in Guelph, Ont.

Asked if he considered a possible conflict of interest in appointing Mr. Johnston, a member of the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation and the former governor-general, the Prime Minister said Canadians are worried about the integrity of their government.

“I am really hoping that the nomination of Mr. Johnston is going to be able to bring down the temperature on this issue, and demonstrate, as David has done throughout his entire life, that a level of seriousness and expertise and responsibility applied to a very, very important issue is the right path for Canadians and for our country.”

The foundation, which supports mentorship programs for aspiring scholars and leaders, has figured prominently in the Tories’ allegations about links between Mr. Trudeau and China.

Meanwhile, in Vancouver, federal Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre continued his calls for an independent public inquiry into the issue of foreign interference, and said the Prime Minister has put Mr. Johnston in a “terrible situation” by naming him to the assignment.

“That was Justin Trudeau’s error in judgment. All of this points to him covering up the truth because he’s afraid that Canadians will find how he failed to stand up for their interests and instead stood up for his own.”

In a tweet on Thursday, Mr. Poilievre criticized the appointment, citing funding from China for the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation that Mr. Johnston has been involved in.

“Justin Trudeau has named a ‘family friend’, old neighbour from the cottage, and member of the Beijing-funded Trudeau foundation, to be the ‘independent’ rapporteur on Beijing’s interference. Get real. Trudeau must end his cover-up. Call a public inquiry,” Mr. Poilievre wrote.

The Bloc Quebecois has also raised concerns about Mr. Johnston’s appointment. Story here.

In a statement to The Canadian Press, Mr. Johnston described attempts to undermine the country’s democracy as “serious matters.”

He said he was “privileged” to have accepted the appointment as special rapporteur and was finalizing the details around his role.

“I will work with officials to finalize the mandate, which will be made public promptly, to look into foreign interference in the last two federal general elections,” he said, “and make appropriate recommendations on how to further protect our democracy and uphold Canadians’ confidence in it.”

This is the daily Politics Briefing newsletter, written by Ian Bailey. It is available exclusively to our digital subscribers. If you're reading this on the web, subscribers can sign up for the Politics newsletter and more than 20 others on our newsletter sign-up page. Have any feedback? Let us know what you think.


SIM OUTRAGED OVER INTELLIGENCE REPORTS – Vancouver Mayor Ken Sim expressed outrage after the disclosure of Canadian intelligence reports that revealed China’s consul-general worked to interfere in the election Mr. Sim won last year. Story here.

OTTAWA TO EXTEND POST-GRADUATION WORK PERMITS FOR FOREIGN NATIONALS – The federal government will allow thousands of foreign nationals with recently expired or expiring post-graduation work permits to extend their stays in Canada by up to 18 months, a relief for temporary residents who faced the possibility of leaving the country. Story here.

RCMP GETS INTERIM COMMISSIONER – The federal government announced Friday that Mike Duheme will be the interim commissioner of the RCMP until a replacement is found for Brenda Lucki. Story here.

HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION DISCRIMINATED AGAINST WORKERS: GOVERNMENT AGENCY – A federal government agency has found discrimination against workers within a Canadian institution specifically designed to root it out. Story here.

RCMP SAYS LESSONS LEARNED FROM POLICING FREEDOM CONVOY – After policing the so-called freedom convoy, the RCMP came away with lessons learned, newly released documents show – including the need to better prepare for the potential targeting of emergency phone lines. Story here.

SUSPECT IN EDMONTON POLICE SHOOTING AGED 16 – The suspect in the fatal shooting of two Edmonton police officers was 16 years old and also shot and wounded his mother. The officers were responding to a domestic dispute call on Thursday morning when they were shot outside an apartment suite, police say. Story here.

ONTARIO NDP WINS HAMILTON BY-ELECTION -Ontario NDP candidate Sarah Jama has won a provincial by-election in Hamilton Centre, the riding held for many years by former party leader Andrea Horwath. Story here.


ON A BREAK – Both Parliament and the Senate are on breaks, with the House of Commons sitting again on March 20 and Senate sitting again on March. 21.

MINISTERS ON THE ROAD – Transport Minister Omar Alghabra, in Surrey, B.C., announced about $23-million in funding to Global Agriculture Trans-Loading Inc. for a project to expand rail capacity in Surrey. Immigration Minister Sean Fraser, in Etobicoke, Ont., made an announcement regarding post-graduation work permits. Rural Economic Development Minister Gudie Hutchings, in Meadow Lake, Sask., made an announcement about improving connectivity in rural Saskatchewan. Northern Affairs Minister Dan Vandal, also minister for Prairies Economic Development Canada, in Edmonton, with Tourism Minister Randy Boissonnault announced federal support for a new Edmonton initiative to strengthen the domestic production of critical medicines.


Friday’s edition of The Globe and Mail podcast features Globe’s sports reporter, Rachel Brady and Decibel producer Sherrill Sutherland lacing up their skates and joining a youth Canadian Blind Hockey program to hear from parents, players and coaches. The Decibel is here.


Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, in Guelph, Ont., held private meetings, made a housing announcement with Housing Minister Ahmed Hussen, and took media questions.


Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre, in Vancouver, held a news conference.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, in Toronto, visited the First Portuguese Canadian Cultural Centre to engage with the local Portuguese community.

No schedules available for other party leaders.

NEWSLETTER BOOKS – As Alberta’s provincial election looms this May, Blue Storm: The Rise and Fall of Jason Kenney dives deep into the state of politics in the province.

The new book from University of Calgary Press features 21 essays by a roster of academics, journalists and political watchers revolving around the 2019 Alberta election that saw the United Conservative Party led by Mr. Kenney, win government as well as their first years in power.

Topics include Alberta climate policy, health care, polls in the 2019 Alberta election, and the symbology of the blue Dodge Ram pickup truck Mr. Kenney used as a political tool. After narrowly winning a leadership vote in May, 2022, Mr. Kenney announced his exit and has been replaced by Danielle Smith.

Blue Storm was edited by political scientists Duane Bratt, Richard Sutherland and the late David Taras, a communications studies professor and Ralph Klein chair in Media Studies at Mount Royal University in Calgary. Storm follows Orange Chinook: Politics in the New Alberta, a similar 2019 book about the Alberta NDP winning government in 2015. The book is dedicated to Mr. Taras, whom Mr. Bratt and Mr. Sutherland describe as the driving force behind the project. Mr. Taras died in June, 2022.

Mr. Sutherland, an associate policy studies professor at Mount Royal University, answered questions by e-mail about the project.

Why was it important to pull together the Blue Storm project, and what were the key things you and the team thought the finished book should include?

The previous volume, Orange Chinook had documented the 2015 election, the surprising result of an NDP provincial government, after 44 years of Progressive Conservative rule. David, Duane, and I felt it was important to look at the United Conservative Party as another new development in Alberta politics, not just the resumption of Progressive Conservative rule. The creation of the UCP was premised on the destruction of the previous party, as well as the Wildrose Party, and its policies have, at times, marked a break, not only with the NDP, but previous Progressive Conservative governments.

The UCP set out to be a disruptive force, and we wanted to highlight that (hence the ‘storm’ in the title). Extreme weather also characterized the internal history of the UCP – its creation, electoral success and internal turmoil over five years, which resulted in a turbulent end to the political career of Jason Kenney, who went from being amongst the most powerful figures in Canadian politics to retirement.

The party’s first years in power also coincided with another storm, the COVID pandemic. We felt it was vital to document its wide impact on Alberta politics and policy, including on areas that we had missed in the first volume, including, among others, policing, education, and a more focused discussion of health care.

What do you think Canadians, outside Alberta, can learn about this year’s Alberta election from the book?

Many Canadians may still be under the impression that Alberta is still, essentially, a one-party province (44 years of the same party in power will get you that reputation), but things have changed. For the first time in many years, the leading parties contesting the election have both been in government recently, and both have realistic shot at winning. The NDP’s victory in 2015 saw the nonconservative vote cohere around one party in a way it had not previously. Although they lost in 2019, the NDP continued to hold a significant number of seats in the legislature. We now have a two-party dynamic. No matter who wins the coming election (and it looks quite close at the moment), the UCP and NDP will likely be well-represented, and hold almost all the seats between them.

How is the history covered in Blue Storm going to affect the 2023 Alberta election?

To understand Danielle Smith’s government, it’s necessary to understand the UCP’s policies under Kenney. It’s also vital to know the party’s origins and some of its internal dynamics. The UCP was Jason Kenney’s creation, bringing together Alberta’s two main right-of-centre parties. Although he was able to successfully unite them and win election, important fault lines remained, and these became increasingly difficult to manage. The COVID pandemic proved particularly difficult in this regard, with deeply divided viewpoints inside the party over how best to handle it.

The faction that brought down Jason Kenney is largely the same one that supported Smith in the subsequent leadership race, and they will cause trouble for her also, should she depart too far from their positions. The UCP campaign will have to find a balance between this wing of the party and mainstream opinion in Alberta, especially in Calgary, which is emerging as the battleground for the coming election.

What can you tell me about the contributions of Mr. Taras to this project? How does the book fit into his distinguished record as a scholar?

David Taras was the guiding force behind both the Orange Chinook and Blue Storm. The books were both his ideas, and the process for making a cohesive and collaborative book was his creation. David was closely involved in the planning of Blue Storm, in terms of its themes and the selection of contributors, and the range and calibre of contributors is a testament to the regard in which he was held – people wanted to work with him. With both volumes, we set out to create a book that would be accessible and meaningful, not only to scholars, but also to the wider public. Blue Storm was one of David Taras’s last projects, and we are honoured to dedicate the book to his memory. We hope that the book is a significant part of David’s legacy – as a first-rate scholar and cherished colleague, as well as a leading public intellectual


The Globe and Mail Editorial Board on why David Johnston is an honourable man, and the wrong choice to lead Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s foreign interference probe: “We’ll give Prime Minister Justin Trudeau this much: Of all the family friends who are governing members of the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation that he could have named as his special rapporteur, David Johnston is by far the best qualified. On Wednesday, Mr. Trudeau said Mr. Johnston, a former governor-general, will be his hand-picked point person in an ad hoc probe into foreign election interference.”

Campbell Clark (The Globe and Mail) on the need for a big, broad inquiry now on China’s election interference: “Mr. Johnston cannot seriously consider his task to be making a recommendation on whether there should or should not be a full inquiry. That has to be a given now. He can only be making recommendations on how broad that inquiry should be – and it has to be broad – or how to fit the requirement of protecting the secrecy of intelligence gathering with the necessity of telling the public what the heck is going on.”

Andrew Coyne (The Globe and Mail) on how David Johnston is a man of high integrity, but we should be in high dudgeon about him as rapporteur: “For his supporters then to exclaim, in tones of wounded dignity, “how dare you attack Mr. Johnston’s integrity,” is transparent deflection. Nobody is attacking his integrity, least of all me. That’s not the point. You can be the most upright, high-minded person in the world, and still have a hard time separating your prior good impression of a person from the possibly contradictory facts a rapporteur might be required to assess.”

J. Kelly Nestruck (The Globe and Mail) on whether Bill C-11 can save his son from sounding like Peppa Pig and Bluey: “Can Bill C-11, the proposed federal online streaming act, save my son from the nefarious influence of Peppa Pig and Bluey? That British cartoon pig and Australian anthropomorphic animated dog – and the very popular and bingeable short shows they star in – have definitely been leading my three-year-old Canadian son astray. Linguistically, I mean. Well, mostly linguistically. I am also a little concerned that the fact my preschooler says “satnav” instead of GPS might cause him problems asking for physical directions around the neighbourhood in the future, too.”

Allan Rock and Warda Shazadi Meighen (The Globe and Mail) on why it took so long for Ottawa to finally allow Canadian aid to reach Afghanistan: “In short, the blanket prohibition in our Criminal Code against providing humanitarian assistance in countries such as Afghanistan where terrorist groups form the government has long needed to be modified. Last week, the government acted to address this need by tabling in Parliament Bill C-41. If enacted, the legislation would amend the Criminal Code to permit the Minister of Public Safety to authorize eligible persons and entities to engage in certain humanitarian activities, such as providing aid for food, shelter and immigration services, including resettlement and safe passage. The provision would apply not just in Afghanistan but also in any country where a listed terrorist group is in charge. These changes are essential.”

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