National Legislative Update – February 24, 2023

Chinese Election Updates and Federal News

Chinese Election Interference Debate Heats Up

This week saw a war of words between various Liberal Party members and various Conservatives, as well as the Prime Minister regarding the reports of Chinese Election interference in the 2021 federal election.

Last week, the Globe and Mail gained access to a CSIS document reporting that China had interfered extensively in the 2021 federal election with the goal of another Liberal minority government. The documents, which appear to have remained classified, detail a “national machine” working towards the goal of another Liberal minority, but also notably, the defeat of several specific Conservative candidates deemed to be hostile to Chinese interests. The Prime Minister was quoted as saying that he is confident CSIS will hunt down those responsible for leaking the secret and top-secret documents.

Interference included discreetly paying members of the Chinese community to volunteer for campaigns, large cash donations donated to campaigns, and fear and disinformation campaigns spanning several different subjects. One, in particular, included the claim that a Conservative government would ban Chinese students from attending school in Canada, and that in order to ensure a good education for their children, voters should support the Liberal party. These were mostly conducted through cultural groups with ties to the Chinese Communist Party, but also by Chinese consular officials.

The documents also cite a handful of specific races that they believe were swayed by Chinese efforts. Of particular note was incumbent Conservative MP Kenny Chiu running in Steveston-Richmond East in British Columbia. Over half of his riding is Chinese, and Mr. Chiu was the target of an extremely coordinated and sophisticated disinformation campaign, documented while it was ongoing. Mr. Chiu was born in Hong Kong, and at the time of the election, had been pushing forward a bill that would identify and label foreign agents meddling in Canadian elections. The new documents from CSIS include quotes from Chinese consulate officials bragging about his defeat.

The Globe and Mail notes that the Security and Intelligence Threats to Elections (SITE) Task Force has never issued any public warnings about foreign interference in either the 2019 or 2021 elections. When asked, the Prime Minister stated that the task force had found no meddling in either election.

In the House this week, the issue was front of mind, with the procedures committee (PROC) being recalled and its mandate extended to examine these revelations. Conservative MP Michael Cooper, on the committee, accused the Prime Minister of turning a blind eye to the interference, as it appears to have benefited his party. Liberal MP Jennifer O’Connell responded by accusing the Conservatives of using “Trump-like” tactics by questioning the integrity of Canada’s elections, sparking outrage. The committee meeting descended into near chaos, until the chair, Liberal MP Chagger, suspended the meeting, after which the sides came to an agreement which would remove the Prime Minister’s chief of staff from the witness list in exchange for hearings moving forward.

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