Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is committed to a full public inquiry into foreign interference — nearly six months since opposition parties first called for an independent investigation.
Though no timeline has been provided as to when, Trudeau said Monday they are working through the details with opposition parties, reported the National Post. He emphasized the need for a process that everyone will stand behind.
"We continue to work very closely with all opposition parties on making sure that the terms of reference, the person who will be leading it, and the work that is done, is in the best interests of all Canadians," said Trudeau, who hopes the outcome will avoid further "partisan toxicity."
Opposition MPs have repeatedly accused Trudeau's cabinet of deliberately stalling an inquiry endorsed by the Commons on March 2, March 23 and May 31.
"We want them to end the cover-up," Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre said on June 11. "Call a public inquiry."
On March 23, the Commons procedure and House affairs committee voted 172-149 in favour of an independent investigation. However, the non-binding nature of the motion did not compel the federal government to act.
Instead, Trudeau tasked former governor general David Johnston as special rapporteur to investigate the foreign interference issue and recommend whether an inquiry was necessary.
After Johnston abruptly resigned — following a contentious review on the necessity of an inquiry — calls for a public investigation have intensified.
On May 23, Johnston released his first report on foreign interference, concluding that a public review of classified intelligence "cannot be done." He resigned on June 9, citing a "highly partisan atmosphere" around his appointment and work.
At Johnston's recommendation, Trudeau invited opposition leaders to review the conclusions of the former governor general's report as part of a "necessary step in transparency and accountability."
Last month, he ordered Public Safety Minister Dominic LeBlanc to "work with opposition parties to look at next steps."
Blacklock's Reporter said the minister talked with opposition parties about foreign interference in late July. "I'm hoping to have conversations again [...], and I hope to have something important to announce with my colleagues as soon as possible."
"What exactly is the hold-up?" asked a reporter then. "I don't think there is a hold-up," replied LeBlanc. "It's a complicated undertaking […], but the good news is we've made enormous progress together."
Since Johnston's messy departure as special rapporteur, the federal government has yet to find a judge willing to assume the role of inquiry commissioner.
Over half a dozen former judges have already rejected the offer, anonymous sources with knowledge of the ordeal told the National Post. They indicated no interest in overseeing such a contentious political inquiry.
Poilievre contends the prime minister is holding up the public inquiry.
"We gave them names. We gave him a mandate, and we've been waiting ever since. The hold up is Justin Trudeau. Only Justin Trudeau has the authority to call a public inquiry; as leader of the opposition, I have no authority under the Inquiries Act," he said.
The Tory leader claimed the Liberal Party of Canada benefitted the most from Chinese interference in recent federal elections.
According to anonymous security sources, Chinese diplomats and their proxies worked to defeat Conservative politicians considered "hostile" towards Beijing during the 2019 and 2021 federal elections.
Johnston also admitted that China posed a "growing threat" to Canada for attempting to influence political candidates.
An October 2022 report by CSIS confirmed that China 'weaponized' an instant messaging service to target conservatives in 2021 and secure Trudeau a minority government.
According to The Bureau, the CSIS document validated concerns held by former Conservative leader Erin O'Toole and former MP Kenny Chiu, both alleged victims of Chinese 'disinformation.'
"The briefing from CSIS confirmed to me what I suspected for quite some time, that my parliamentary caucus and myself were the targets of a sophisticated misinformation and voter suppression campaign orchestrated by the People's Republic of China before and during the 2021 general election," he said.
Conservative MP Kenny Chiu lost in 2021 after receiving 4,400 fewer votes than in 2019. Nearly half translated into swing votes for his Liberal challengers.
The lame-duck MP claims his private member's bill to establish a foreign-agent registry provoked China's network in Canada to ensure he did not win in his re-election bid.
DisinfoWatch, a foreign disinformation monitoring watchdog, concurred that a coordinated campaign against the conservatives occurred through WeChat.