Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Sunday that he was never informed that a candidate in the 2019 federal election might have been affected by Chinese government funding.
The Global News report earlier this month cited unnamed sources who alleged that Trudeau was told last January that China was trying to meddle in Canadian politics, including by funding at least 11 candidates in the 2019 federal election.
The Liberals have been criticized in the House of Commons by opposition MPs demanding to know who the candidates are and what Canada is doing about the intervention.
None of the MPs who responded, including Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland, offered a substantive response beyond insisting that Canadian elections were free and fair. None of them denied having information about the Chinese-funded candidates.
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But during his remarks at the closing of a Francophonie summit in Tunis on Sunday, Trudeau said the government had not publicly identified the candidates because it did not know who they were. He said he only learned of this specific allegation from the media.
“Let’s be clear, I have no information, nor have I been informed, about federal candidates receiving money from China,” Trudeau said.
He later confirmed that he was “regularly briefed by our intelligence and security officials” and that none of them gave him information about the applicants’ access to the funds.
On November 14, the Liberals backed a Conservative motion in a House of Commons committee to expand an ongoing study of foreign interference to include a news report that Trudeau and other ministers had been briefed on the Chinese government’s efforts to “actively influence 2019”. election. »
Foreign Interference Investigation Committee
The proposal does not specifically mention funding for the candidates, but it does point to the news report mentioning it.
Liberals say they supported the motion because the story raised questions for officials to answer in the committee. The proposal asks the government to submit “all relevant briefing notes” and other documents related to the case within the next two weeks.
“I have asked those responsible to review these media reports and provide all possible responses, that they can, to the parliamentary committee dealing with this matter,” Trudeau said Sunday.
Trudeau was speaking at the end of a 10-day overseas trip that included four international summits and Canada’s attempts to expand its influence and economic ties in Asia despite frosty relations with China.
The chill in relations between Canada and China was evident during the trip, particularly during the G20 summit in Bali where Trudeau said he spoke to President Xi Jinping on the sidelines about “interfering with our citizens.”
Che blasted Trudeau in front of the Canadian media, accusing him of wrongly leaking details of that conversation to the press. It is not unusual for the Trudeau government to provide reporters with key details on topics discussed between the prime minister and other foreign leaders, but Xi objected.
Trudeau told Xi that people believe in openness and transparency in Canada.
Trudeau would not confirm to the media whether he specifically discussed election interference with Xi, saying only that he raised interference in general.
On November 16 in Bali, he also said that a special committee has been set up ahead of the 2019 elections to monitor and analyze any possible interference.
“For the 2019 and 2021 elections, these experts were confident that elections in Canada were conducted in the right way and that Canadians can take comfort in that,” he said. “Their reporting is clear, so Canadians can and should be reassured that foreign interference is a problem in many ways, as we have seen around the world, but the integrity of Canadian elections has not been compromised.”