As recently released CSIS documents reveal, the CCP went to great lengths to influence the outcome of Canada’s two latest federal elections. While the major revelation makes top headlines across the country, the Prime Minister continues to play it off as a non-issue. Photo credit: Reuters/Jason Lee
The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) covertly influenced Canada’s 2019 and 2021 federal general elections in order to re-elect a Liberal government. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau does not want Canadians to know about the Chinese operations in Canada. These are the two threads that are woven through the never-ending-story of intrigue, scandal, and false narratives. It is a serious matter. The details being exposed about the CCP’s support for the Trudeau Liberals involve the integrity of our country’s democratic process.
Last Friday, the Globe and Mail published a full front page story by veteran parliamentary reporters Robert Fife and Steven Chase about a clandestine operation run by the CCP to unduly interfere in the outcome of the country’s national election. The news story begins: “China employed a sophisticated strategy to disrupt Canada’s democracy in the 2021 federal election campaign as Chinese diplomats and their proxies backed the re-election of Justin Trudeau’s Liberals – but only to another minority government – and worked to defeat Conservative politicians considered to be unfriendly to Beijing.”
For days the Globe and Mail ran a series of articles outlining a number of disturbing facts obtained from top-secret Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) documents leaked to the paper. The CCP’s foreign interference during the 2021 election included undeclared cash contributions to candidates, misinformation about Conservative foreign policy, having businesses hire international students to volunteer full-time for Liberal candidates, and providing cash refunds to donors for the portion of their donation not covered by the federal tax credit.
CSIS was tracking a “sophisticated political strategy” employed by the CCP that would ensure the re-election of a Liberal government and the defeat of Conservative politicians who were critical of Beijing, its human rights abuses and its threats to global safety and security.
In their news articles, Fife and Chase also reported that the CCP is executing a strategic plan to target Canadian legislators, government officials and business leaders, as well as academic and research and development institutions. CCP tactics include espionage, blackmail, bribery and sexual seduction. These activities are documented in the CSIS reports, which the Globe and Mail reports have been shared with Canada’s Five Eyes intelligence allies – U.S., Britain, Australia and New Zealand – and intelligence services in France and Germany.
PM Trudeau’s immediate response to the Globe and Mail’s front page stories was to ignore the substance of the revelations, and he expressed concern over CSIS’s leaked reports. Trudeau insomuch as said “move along, there is nothing to see here” while stating, “It’s certainly a sign that security within CSIS needs to be reviewed. And I’m expecting CSIS to take the issue very seriously.”
In direct contrast, Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre praised the “courageous whistleblowers” in CSIS for exposing what has long been suspected: the sustained “covering up [of] the interference of the authoritarian regime in Beijing.”
Poilievre went on to say, “Justin Trudeau knew about this interference and he covered it up because he benefited from it. He is perfectly happy to let a foreign authoritarian government interfere in our elections as long as they’re helping him.”
For years Trudeau and his ministers have downplayed suggestions of foreign interference in Canada’s elections. In the past few months, Trudeau has denied possible interference or nefarious activities by the CCP. In the House of Commons, he repeatedly reassured Canadians about the country’s election integrity. In November, when pressed on the matter, Trudeau stated he had not been briefed on any irregularities in the 2019 and 2021 elections.
However, the latest news reports reveal the PM’s claims are less than forthright. Trudeau was provided a national security briefing by CSIS in November 2022 in which he was told about the China Consulate targeting 11 candidates in the 2019 federal election to impact the outcome of those races.
Also, Privy Council Office documents which have surfaced reveal that intelligence officials provided briefings in February 2020 on potential election interference and improper funding of candidates in the 2019 federal election.
Global News reporter Sam Cooper has also come forward with evidence of a 2017 memo prepared for the PM that specifically warns of CCP’s influence on Canadian officials and institutions. The PMO memo was written by the office of National Security and Intelligence Advisor, at the request of the PM’s chief of staff Katie Telford, and provided to Privy Council Office clerk Michael Wernick.
The weightiness of the Fife and Chase articles and the evidence being exposed in the last few days has not permitted the PM to sidestep the issue in his usual Teflon-manner. Numerous editorials have underlined what is being brought into question: the integrity of Canada’s democratic electoral process.
- The Globe and Mail’s lead editorial this week was “Stand up to China, Mr. Trudeau,” stating the PM is “way off-base on this matter” and must “respond forcefully to CSIS’s findings” in order “to protect the integrity of this country’s elections from Chinese interference – and will open the door to further meddling.”
- Charles Burton, senior fellow at the Macdonald-Laurier Institute opined “These sorts of activities, co-ordinated by a hostile power, absolutely should not be tolerated… If this interference goes unchecked and there are no criminal or diplomatic consequences, though, it will obviously embolden China to do much more of it.”
- David Krayden in The Western Standard called on the PM to resign and posed these questions, “What did Trudeau know and when did he know it? Why does China so badly want to keep him in power?… why did the Public Order Emergency Commission decide to release its report last Friday instead of this week as planned? Was it designed to provide cover for the Chinese interference story the government clearly knew was coming?”
- The Postmedia News editorial “Trudeau ignores China Syndrome” framed the issue this way: “The allegation is that China worked to defeat Conservatives and ensure a Liberal government. Now the head of that Liberal government is telling Canadians to not worry. Without transparency, there can be no trust and Trudeau looks like he’s hiding something on this file.”
In Ottawa, MPs on the Commons Procedure and House Affairs committee have been reviewing the allegations that China interfered in the 2019 election campaign. Last week the MPs voted to expand their hearings to include the latest news of the 2021 election campaign. At the committee, Canada’s former ambassador to China David Mulroney gave MPs a succinct explanation of the dangers of the CCP approach: “It is increasingly sophisticated in its intimidation of elected officials who dare to speak the truth to Canadians. Beijing’s objective is a degree of influence – in our democracy, our economy, our foreign policy and even in daily life in some of our communities – beyond the ambitions of any other country.”
Though Parliament is recessed for two weeks, this is a news story that remains in news headlines. This week PM Trudeau has been dogged by questions about his failure to respond to the threats posed by the CCP election interference. With the CSIS intelligence now public, editorials calling for transparency, and MPs reviewing the CCP activities in the 2019 and 2021 elections, perhaps – just perhaps – Canadians will get satisfactory answers.
Next week: Possible quid pro quos with Trudeau’s Faustian bargain
Chris George is an advocate, government relations advisor, and writer/copy editor. As president of a public relations firm established in 1994, Chris provides discreet counsel, tactical advice and management skills to CEOs/Presidents, Boards of Directors and senior executive teams in executing public and government relations campaigns and managing issues. Prior to this PR/GR career, Chris spent seven years on Parliament Hill on staffs of Cabinet Ministers and MPs. He has served in senior campaign positions for electoral and advocacy campaigns at every level of government. Today, Chris resides in Almonte, Ontario where he and his wife manage www.cgacommunications.com. Contact Chris at firstname.lastname@example.org.