The issue of foreign interference in elections was examined in a Commons committee on Dec. 13, with Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs Dominic Leblanc addressing China’s role in Canadian society at large.
“The Chinese government regularly attempts to interfere in various aspects of Canadian society, elections would not be excluded from some of their efforts to interfere,” Leblanc told the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs.
He added that experts from the security apparatus tracking these threats “have confirmed that none of these attempts to interfere have constituted in any way something that would have had an adverse effect on the election results and the election outcomes.”
Leblanc was responding to a question from Conservative MP Michael Cooper on whether or not Beijing had interfered in the 2019 and 2021 elections.
Cooper also asked Leblanc whether he had been briefed about that interference and said that he and other ministers did as part of their routine responsibilities.
“I have participated in some of these discussions. It’s not frequent, but certainly it’s something that I would be updated on by security and intelligence officials in the government,” Leblanc said, who would not elaborate on details to protect national security information.
Cooper then quoted from a Daily Foreign Intelligence Brief document from the Privy Council Office (PCO) dated February 2020 and submitted to the committee, which mentions there had been an “active foreign interference network” linked to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) around the 2019 elections.
Leblanc said he wasn’t familiar with that specific report, but said he took at “face value” what Cooper had quoted.
Cooper also mentioned CSIS documents discussing the targeting of politicians and riding associations by foreign interference and asked Leblanc to identify them.
“Just because Mr. Cooper wants to participate in some theatrics that are not responsible for Canadian democracy doesn’t mean he’s going to get an answer that doesn’t exist,” Leblanc said.
Cooper’s question ties back to recent allegations published by Global News that the Trudeau government was briefed on the CCP funding of 11 candidates during the 2019 elections.
Leblanc, along with Minister of Foreign Affairs Mélanie Joly who was testifying as well, said they had not seen the list of candidates.
Joly told the committee she had no information with regards to foreign interference in recent elections.
“I think you’ve heard the prime minister about this, which [is that] he has no information to that regard neither,” she said.
Joly also said National Security and Intelligence Adviser Jody Thomas had “specifically before all of you stated that ‘We have not seeing money going to eleven candidates, period.’ So that would be my answer too.”
Thomas said this to the Commons national defence committee on Dec. 8.
“The news stories that you have read about interference are just that: news stories,” she said.
“I don’t have this supposed list of 11 candidates,” Leblanc said as well.
But Leblanc did not dispute having been briefed on the matter by security officials, only that no names had been provided, which could be intended to not jeopardize investigations or sources of intelligence.
“I have seen that in the media, in my discussions with security officials, people didn’t produce lists of these names,” he said.
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