According to national security sources, Liberal MP Han Dong, who is at the centre of Chinese influence allegations, privately advised a senior Chinese diplomat not to free Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor in February 2021.
Both sources said Dong allegedly suggested to Han Tao, China's consul general in Toronto, that releasing the two Michaels would benefit the Conservatives in the polls.
Despite China accusing them of espionage at the time, their jailing is perceived as retribution for Canada's detention of Meng Wanzhou, the Huawei executive facing extradition to the US.
Dong also allegedly recommended that Beijing show some progress in the Kovrig and Spavor cases, according to the sources, to help the ruling Liberal Party, who faced public pushback over China's inhumane treatment of the two Michaels then.
Dong confirmed that he discussed it with Consul General Han but denied he advised Beijing to delay releasing Kovrig and Spavor from prison.
"I raised the status of Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig and called for their immediate release," he wrote.
"At every opportunity before they returned home, I demanded their release to Canada without delay. Any suggestions otherwise are false and are attempts to mislead you and your readers and slander me."
The Prime Minister's Office claims they only became aware of the two-year-old conversation following the inquiry by Global News.
On electoral interference, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau previously refused to give straight answers to questions on the topic. Instead, he implied the line of questioning was racist.
Dong allegedly received assistance from the Chinese consulate in 2019 when he successfully ran for the party's nomination in Don Valley North.
When asked about the Toronto Liberal and potential foreign influence, Trudeau said: "One of the things we've seen, unfortunately, over the past years is a rise in anti-Asian racism linked to the pandemic and concerns being raised or arisen around people's loyalties."
Global News named Dong a "witting affiliate in China's election interference networks" on February 24.
They said CSIS surveilled Dong as early as June 2019, months before his election to Parliament, and named him in a CSIS memo distributed through the Prime Minister's Office.
Media reports indicate that the Chinese consulate used seniors and Chinese international students to vote for Dong in the nomination contest other Liberal candidates fiercely contested.
Don Valley North is a consistently Liberal riding with a significant Chinese diaspora population.
Dong secured his seat in the 2019 and 2021 federal elections with over half the tallied vote.
The prime minister faced intensifying pressure to explain whether the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) warned his office about their concerns with Dong, who allegedly received support from the Chinese consulate in Toronto during his election bid.
Still, Trudeau defended Dong, calling him a valuable government member.
"Han Dong is an outstanding team member, and suggestions that he is somehow not loyal to Canada should not be entertained," he said.
Trudeau also denied that CSIS warned the government about Dong's candidacy, responding they do not dictate who can run in an election.
"It is not up to unelected security officials to dictate to political parties who can or cannot run," he said.