(Ottawa) Justin Trudeau announces the creation of a position of special rapporteur on foreign interference, the opening of an investigation – in a closed committee – into this subject, and the official launch of consultations on the creation of register on foreign agents. There is still no question, therefore, of launching the public inquiry that the opposition parties are crying out for.
The Prime Minister gives the Committee of Parliamentarians on National Security and Intelligence, whose members he appoints, the mandate to study the issue. He made the announcement at a press conference in parliament on Monday afternoon.
The committee in question is currently chaired by Liberal David McGuinty, and is made up of three Liberals, two Conservatives, a Bloc member, a New Democrat and an independent senator. All have Top Secret security clearances and are all permanently sworn to secrecy.
Added to this measure is the creation of a special rapporteur position on foreign interference, and the launch of consultations surrounding the establishment of a register of foreign agents, similar to what is being done in United States or Australia.
Those who were hoping for a final decision from the Prime Minister regarding the opening of a public and independent inquiry into foreign interference in Canadian elections may therefore remain unsatisfied.
Liberals bombarded with questions
The Prime Minister was not at question period in the House earlier on Monday to come under heavy fire from opposition MPs.
After two weeks of parliamentary recess, and in the light of the revelations that hit the headlines while the elected officials were on their lands, foreign interference was unsurprisingly at the heart of the exchanges in the West Block.
“Whether the result of the last elections would have been the same is not the question. As soon as the integrity of the democratic process is threatened, it is the responsibility of all of us in this House to come to its defence,” thundered Bloc Québécois parliamentary leader Alain Therrien.
Before him, the leader of the Conservative Party, Pierre Poilievre, was already attacking, in a preventive manner, the announcement of Justin Trudeau.
“He has been aware for 10 years that Beijing is interfering in the elections to support him, through donations to the Foundation. [Pierre Elliott] Trudeau. Here he is going to announce something,” he quipped.
“We know he will probably try to sweep this under the rug by appointing an insider from the liberal establishment to lead a secret process that will never get to the truth,” continued the opposition leader.
He was referring to the appointment of Morris Rosenberg, former executive director of the Foundation, to write the report on the evaluation of Public Protocol in the event of a major election incident.
Released last week, the report concludes that there have been incidents of foreign interference in the electoral process, but not serious enough to warn the public, nor to influence the outcome of the 2021 election.
In an interview broadcast Sunday on CTV News, the author of the document said that the option of a public inquiry should “be on the table”, specifying that its scope should nevertheless be adequately identified.