Liberal candidates ‘appeared willing’ to engage with foreign interference to their benefit

Foreign Interference Commissioner Marie Josée Hogue wrote that interference eroded public trust in Canadian democracy but did not alter the election outcome in 2019 and 2021. She highlighted Don Valley North and Steveston–Richmond East as ridings of notable concern.

Liberal candidates ‘appeared willing’ to engage with foreign interference to their benefit
The Canadian Press / Adrian Wyld
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The Poilievre Conservatives believe the China inquiry’s initial report confirms that Beijing interfered in Canada’s democracy.

“The Commissioner confirmed that ‘interference occurred in the last two general elections,’ that it impacted those elections and ’the right of Canadians to have their electoral processes and democratic institutions free from covert influence,'” said the statement, quoting excerpts from the report.

“In looking more closely at examples of Beijing’s interference, the Commissioner also confirmed that foreign interference ‘diminished the ability of some voters to cast an informed vote,’” it reads.

Foreign Interference Commissioner Marie Josée Hogue wrote that interference eroded public trust in Canadian democracy but did not alter the election outcome in 2019 and 2021.

“Foreign interference in 2019 and 2021 undermined the right of voters to have an electoral ecosystem free from coercion or covert influence,” she wrote, calling China the “most persistent and sophisticated foreign interference threat to Canada.”

Justice Hogue highlighted Don Valley North and Steveston–Richmond East as ridings of notable concern.

Evidence suggested Dong’s campaign bused foreign students from New Oriental International College Academy — outside the riding — where they were alleged to have voted under duress from China’s Toronto Consulate.

Ted Lojko, MP Dong’s then-campaign manager, described the Don Valley North meeting as “chaotic” that election and said he expected Dong to lose. 

“Given that Don Valley North was considered a ‘safe’ Liberal seat, if foreign interference did impact the nomination race this would likely not have affected which party held the riding,” wrote Justice Hogue. “It would however have affected who was elected to Parliament.”

The riding association did not keep a detailed record of the vote, which Dong narrowly secured. Several hundred people voted, claimed manager Lojko.

Liberal MP Parm Bains, who was named a beneficiary of Chinese election meddling Monday, told the Commons that foreign interference “was not successful.” He did not discuss events in his own riding, formerly represented by Conservative MP Kenny Chiu, reported Blacklock’s Reporter.

“Although attempts to interfere in recent elections were not successful, we need to be increasingly vigilant about the intentions of hostile nations and make sure our security intelligence agreements with foreign states work to protect Canadians,” said Bains. “As Abraham Lincoln once said, ‘The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present.’ We must adapt our thinking.”

Numerous internal memos disclosed by the Foreign Interference Commission said the riding was a specific target of Chinese agents, who wanted Bains to defeat the incumbent over his support for a foreign agent registry. MP Bains won by 3,477 votes.

During the 2021 election, the interim report notes that MP Chiu attempted to counter the false narratives circulated against him. “His messaging was not picked up or circulated by Chinese-language outlets,” it reads.

“There is a reasonable possibility that the false narratives could have impacted the results in this riding, but I cannot go further,” wrote Justice Hogue about the interference campaign against MP Chiu.

Additionally, she could not definitively say whether China interfered in the Don Valley North nomination. “The nomination was ‘very close’ and it is not possible to determine the number of students who were on the buses or how they ultimately voted,” wrote Justice Hogue.

However, she clarified the evidence of foreign interference in the riding “makes clear the extent to which nomination contests can be gateways for foreign states who wish to interfere in our democratic processes.”

The report says Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was told of these irregularities, but decided to review the matter after the election, saying he didn’t feel the intelligence reports were “sufficiently credible.”

“In his in camera [private] testimony before me, Mr. Trudeau noted that un-endorsing Mr. Dong would have direct electoral consequences as the [Liberal Party] expected to win [Don Valley North]. It would also have a devastating impact on Mr. Dong personally,” Justice Hogue wrote.

Citing this part of the report, the Poilievre Conservatives said Trudeau's decisions “were driven by Liberal political interests.”

The Conservatives also acknowledged “the Commissioner … could not rule out [interference] at the riding level.”

“For the sake of our democracy, the Trudeau Government cannot continue to dismiss and minimize the interference that did occur,” reads their statement.

The inquiry’s final report is expected by late December. The next phase will partly focus on the rules governing nomination contests.

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