Poilievre Conservatives condemn NDP-Liberal ‘cover-up’ of Winnipeg lab scandal

Conservative MPs hammered Trudeau's government in Question Period Wednesday for a May 16 Liberal-NDP vote to shut down a committee tasked with studying the national security breach involving two Chinese scientists who transferred deadly pathogens to the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

Poilievre Conservatives condemn NDP-Liberal ‘cover-up’ of Winnipeg lab scandal
The Canadian Press / John Woods
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The Poilievre Tories remain on the attack over the NDP-Liberal “cover-up coalition” for filibustering a committee study on the Winnipeg lab scandal.

Conservative MPs hammered Trudeau's government in Question Period Wednesday for a May 16 Liberal-NDP vote to shut down a committee tasked with studying the national security breach involving two Chinese scientists who transferred deadly pathogens to the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

Dr. Xiangguo Qiu and Keding Cheng, worked at the biosafety level-4 National Microbiology Lab (NML) in Winnipeg for several years until their dismissal in January 2021.

WIV went on to hire Dr. Qiu—the only “Chinese” scientist with access to a level-4 facility outside China.

Before hearing from the first witness, NDP MP Matthew Green raised a point of order, accusing committee chair and Tory MP John Brassard of calling the meeting without consulting members first.

“I find that to be an authoritarian use of your position and highly problematic,” said MP Green, who had the backing of Liberal MPs on the committee.

“I find the way that this committee has been called completely bizarre,” added Liberal MP Lisa Hepfner.

Green also accused the chair of inviting witnesses without approval from Liberal and NDP MPs. Information Commissioner Caroline Maynard, who MP Brassard invited to testify, is not on the original witness list.

Her office is responsible for examining allegations that the government is not respecting the Access to Information Act.

“The ad hoc committee concluded that the prime minister went to unprecedented lengths to hide the Winnipeg lab documents to protect his government from political embarrassment,” Conservative MP Michael Cooper told MPs on Wednesday. 

The committee looked into the Trudeau Liberals denying access to documents related to NML security breaches.

However, an ethics motion to study the matter was blocked by Liberal and NDP MPs in March. The committee on Canada-China relations also studied the matter in recent weeks.

“In other words, a cover-up,” said MP Cooper, “and the cover-up continues.”

Commissioner Maynard testified May 16 to receiving 14 complaints on access to the Winnipeg lab documents. “My experience is that there’s a lot more that can be done with respect to transparency,” she said.

After hearing testimony from the Information commissioner, Liberal MP Darren Fisher successfully requested an adjournment of the meeting. “This isn’t how a well-functioning committee should work,” he said.

Conservative MP Michael Barrett accused the “cover-up coalition” of “blocking hearings” and “silencing the officials.” 

Declassified CSIS records show Dr. Qiu lied about applications with a Chinese talent program, which paid foreign scientists under the table for military application of Western civilian research.

Dr. Qiu had 44 collaborative projects with Chinese scientists while tenured, some of which included military researchers.

The couple maintained undisclosed communication with the People’s Liberation Army. Evidence showed Dr. Qiu held an account at a Beijing bank.

Lab managers knew of collaborations with foreign scientists and acknowledged that relations soured by the end of their tenure. 

A special parliamentary investigation into the firing of the scientists learned the feds withheld information to shield themselves from national scrutiny.

“What are they hiding,” asked MP Cooper. Health Minister Mark Holland pivoted to attack the Official Opposition.

“The honourable member would be aware that his party was against any of the mechanisms that brought these documents to light,” said Holland. “I was the House leader at the time that made sure we had an ad hoc process to properly vet secure documents.”

Minister Holland claimed the full, unredacted documents into the Winnipeg lab scandal are available for Canadians to view.

The federal government resisted orders for three years from 2021 to produce related documents. The House of Commons also took the former speaker to court to avoid producing the documents.

After being reviewed by an ad hoc group of parliamentarians and neutral arbiters last November, the federal government declassified some documents for MPs to view.

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