Elections Chief 'did nothing' when warned about 'irregularities' in Liberal-held riding

The foreign interference inquiry found suspicious activity at a 2019 nomination meeting for ex-Liberal MP Han Dong. The Liberal Party is withholding documents related to the MP's nomination, and Dong has yet to testify before Parliament about the allegations.

Elections Chief 'did nothing' when warned about 'irregularities' in Liberal-held riding
THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ethan Cairns and Facebook/ Han Dong
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Canada’s chief electoral officer did nothing after being warned of ‘irregularities’ concerning a Liberal held Toronto riding.

On Thursday, the inquiry into foreign interference disclosed reports of suspicious activity at a 2019 nomination meeting for Don Valley North then-Liberal MP Han Dong.

Daniel Sheppard, counsel for the Commission, disclosed the tip from the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) while questioning Chief Electoral Officer Stéphane Perrault, reported Blacklock’s Reporter.

“You were informed by the CSIS of one fact-specific matter, is that correct?” asked Counsel Sheppard. “That is correct,” replied Perrault.

“My understanding is you were informed by CSIS of a factual situation that could have involved foreign interference related to voting in the nomination contest in the riding of Don Valley North, Ontario. Is that correct?” asked Sheppard. “That is correct,” replied the chief electoral officer.

Nando de Luca, counsel for the Conservative Party, pressed for details to no avail.

“Am I correct [that] those concerns [are] related to the Liberal Party nomination contest?” asked de Luca. “I believe I am not authorized to speak beyond what is in this public statement,” replied Perrault.

Lawyers for Dong did not question the chief electoral officer on Thursday, as he did not name the member of Parliament in his testimony.

Dong has represented the riding since 2019 but resigned from Liberal caucus on March 22, 2023, to contest allegations he advised China's consul general against releasing two Canadian diplomats known as the "two Michaels."

The member of Parliament has denied any interference by Chinese agents in his 2019 nomination. 

However, David Johnston, Trudeau's hand picked special rapporteur on election interference, acknowledged “strange practices” at Dong’s nomination meeting.

“With respect to the nomination meeting, there clearly were strange practices, unusual practices going on,” testified Johnston last June 6 before the House Affairs Committee.

He suggested the irregularities took place at nomination meetings with the busing in of people and students, but could not verify the involvement of Chinese agents.

Last November 28, the Liberal Party refused to surrender “all documents” concerning then-Liberal MP Han Dong’s nomination after the House Affairs Committee rejected an investigation request.

Dong has yet to testify before a parliamentary committee on the matter, reported Blacklock’s Reporter

“I know the truth about my campaign,” he earlier told reporters. “I know the people that work on my campaign. I’ve worked with them for years.”

But the member of Parliament’s continued engagement with the Chinese Consulate in Toronto, Han Tao, became a notable concern for the special rapporteur.

Johnston’s First Report into election interference confirmed the “well-grounded suspicion” of further irregularities tied to Toronto’s Chinese Consul, whom Dong “maintains relationships.” 

In the same report, Johnston could not determine whether Chinese agents interfered in the 2019 and 2021 federal elections.

According to verified security sources, Dong privately advised a senior Chinese diplomat not to free the two Michaels -- Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor -- in February 2021. 

In an April 21 filing in Ontario Superior Court, the member of Parliament admitted to at least 12 phone calls with the Chinese Ambassador in Ottawa and Consul in Toronto. However, he did not explain the nature of those calls.

Intelligence officers surveilled Dong as early as June 2019, months before his election to Parliament. They also named him in a memo distributed to the Prime Minister's Office (PMO).

Johnston acknowledged that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau “was aware” of concerns in the nomination during his committee testimony. However, Trudeau refused to discuss alleged Chinese interference at the time Dong left caucus. 

"I want to make everyone understand fully: Han Dong is an outstanding team member, and suggestions that he is somehow not loyal to Canada should not be entertained," Trudeau said, implying that the line of questioning was racist.

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