Conservatives continue to question the 2021 federal election results amid new reports of Chinese interference, prompting a Liberal MP to accuse them of employing "Trump-type tactics."
During Parliament's two-week break, Ottawa recalled MPs to consider extending their mandate to cover leaked, top-secret Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) documents examining the previous election.
MPs on the House of Commons Procedure and House Affairs (PROC) committee had already looked into election interference allegations from the 2019 election. Supposedly, Beijing supported 11 candidates — most of them Liberals — in the Greater Toronto Area.
On Tuesday, the PROC committee expanded its efforts to include the 2021 election. They recalled several cabinet ministers and officials to testify to the leaked documents, which instigated a cutthroat meeting in Parliament between the governing and opposition parties.
Conservative MP Michael Cooper accused the Trudeau Liberals of downplaying the allegations and failing to take "meaningful action" to protect Canada's democracy from external influence.
"The fact that the overall result of an election was not compromised does not negate the fact that there are serious issues of interference that may have had an impact on the outcome of the election in certain ridings," said Cooper.
CSIS uncovered Friday that Beijing actively worked to defeat "unfriendly" Conservative MPs and secure a minority Liberal government in 2021. According to the top-secret report, the federal spy agency identified that China used disinformation campaigns, undeclared cash donations and international students to volunteer for preferred Liberal candidates.
However, the National Post could not independently verify the authenticity of the leaked documents.
Nevertheless, the Alberta MP claimed that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau appeared "content to turn a blind eye to this interference" because it benefited him and his party.
Liberal MP Jennifer O'Connell snapped at Copper, stating: "It's dangerous for Canadians to go down this road."
"We've seen our neighbours to the south and what happens when you start demonizing democratic institutions and undermining their legitimacy," said O'Connell.
Trudeau downplayed the report Friday, stating Beijing's attempted interference is "not a new phenomenon," given the PROC committee is looking into similar allegations from the 2019 federal election.
He added: "[This is] something that countries [worldwide] have been grappling with for a long time, and Canada is no exception."
On Tuesday, O'Connell added that members have "time and time again" tabled reports about foreign interference in Parliament. She cited excerpts from the National Security and Intelligence Committee report tabled in March 2020 to prove her point.
"This was tabled nearly three years ago. And the Conservatives are saying that it's only since recent media reports they feel that any of this information has come to light," she said.
Cooper desired access to all relevant documents, briefing notes, emails and records of conversations containing information on foreign state actors interfering in the 2019 and 2021 elections, including the classified documents obtained by The Globe and Mail.
O'Connell accused the Conservatives of being "reckless" in wanting to consult confidential documents in a supposedly non-secure manner.
Cooper unveiled the committee received redacted documents as proof Ottawa downplayed the severity of the leaked CSIS report.
The NDP accused the Conservatives of "filibustering" the committee, whereas Liberal MP Ryan Turnbull opposed Cooper's "use of props" to prove his point.
Bardish Chagger, Liberal committee chair, almost lost control of the meeting as
Conservative MP Michael Barrett then hinted that Liberal committee chair Bardish Chagger played "dirty tricks" by not following the rules and wanting to end the debate and force a vote.
After further discussion, the Liberal-NDP coalition said the prime minister's chief of staff, Katie Telford, did not need to testify. They also unanimously scrapped the section asking for classified documents.
Chagger ultimately suspended the meeting for a later date for cooler heads to prevail.