C’mon already, this is getting beyond ridiculous.
Prime Minister, there is too much weight behind the worry that Chinese diplomats and their proxies intervened in our last two federal election campaigns.
Our national security service says so. Your own former right-hand aide is calling for an inquiry, as is the former head of Elections Canada. Who else do we need?
Your denials of the problem and refusals to stage an independent examination of it can’t be the final word, because the appearance at first glance is that your party benefited from the intervention – that it was your Conservative opponents that China tried to undermine.
You aren’t a disinterested, objective, unconflicted actor in this, so you can’t be taken seriously when you say we should have “total confidence” in the election outcomes. As long as you’re the final word, we won’t.
You can say the 2019 and 2021 elections “were determined by Canadians and Canadians alone at the voting booth,” thanks to some clever wordsmithing; Canadians were the ones in the booth voting, I suppose. But that pivots from the central assertion that there was foreign intervention in the framework of electioneering and in the information during the campaigns that preceded the votes.
Those distortions in the process appear to have included cash donations to avoid paperwork, collaboration with businesses that hired people to then volunteer on campaigns, even refunds to donors to make up the difference between their contributions and what they’d get back on their taxes.
In Richmond, Conservative Kenny Chiu lost his seat as an MP in 2021 after he says online disinformation was spread by Chinese agents. Given British Columbia’s extensive relationship with China – nearly one-third of our trade is with it – an inquiry is of even greater value.
Left alone, the situation hurts everything: the integrity of the democratic process, the reputation of China, the political fortunes of your political opponents, the credibility of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), and yes, you, and for that matter, all of us.
Prime Minister, rather than accuse your opponents of Trump-like stolen-election mania, rather than express more concern about leaks to media from CSIS and other authorities than about the content of those leaks, rather than have your team complain about the cost involved in an inquiry, you ought to be standing up for Canada.
Flawed as it might be in its transparency, given how secretive some of the testimony would need to be, an inquiry even with some shortcomings would be better than this hold-your-breath-until-you’re-blue refusal.
Without investigation and revelation, the findings in Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) documents reported by The Globe and Mail and earlier information provided to Global News cast a cloud over our second-largest trading partner. It gives rise to anti-China sentiment and suspicion that a proper inquiry could well absolve – and if not, then lead to serious electoral reforms, a foreign-agent registry and a recalibration of our Canada-China relationship.
An inquiry would demonstrate that it is possible to value that relationship yet review it regularly to establish sensible guardrails on it. This is, after all, what Canada eventually did with its monumentally delayed decision on impeding the involvement in our 5G technology by the Chinese telecom giant Huawei.
At the moment, our country’s official position on electoral conduct by China’s diplomats and proxies seems too clever by half. It is a crisis management response that only deepens the crisis, with self-interested assurances and a tepid mandate imposed on the Commons committee study of the 2019 and 2021 elections that have rendered us a weak partner among our allies in the so-named Five Eyes consortium.
Prime Minister, you showed such commitment in your early days as an emerging international figure with ambitions to make Canada a stronger player on the world stage. But your first steps on China never anticipated the autocrat that Xi Jinping would become. Canada continued to act as if China hadn’t evolved from its turn-of-the-century policies favouring a market economy and western economic. Your external concerns today are more about the fate of the planet than the immediate problems of the countries comprising it, so lacklustre have been our foreign policies. An unwillingness to sanction a study of the conditions in Canada concerning democratic interference suggests we place our subservient economic relationship with China ahead of everything else. It is time for a healthy reconsideration of the position, something that an inquiry could propel.
Prime Minister, it is worth wondering: Were the allegations that Liberals were targeted, and not Conservatives, would we be hearing a different tune?
Kirk LaPointe is publisher and executive editor of Business in Vancouver and vice-president, editorial, of Glacier Media.