(OTTAWA) Liberals are bending under pressure: Chief of staff Katie Telford will go to committee to answer questions about foreign interference in the 2019 and 2021 elections, it was announced Tuesday. At the same time, the office of Justin Trudeau unveiled the mandate of the special rapporteur on foreign interference, David Johnston. He will decide by May 23 whether a public inquiry is necessary.
“Although there are serious constraints on what can be said in public on sensitive intelligence matters, in an effort to make Parliament work, Ms Telford has agreed to appear before the Committee on Procedure and Business of the House as part of its study,” Justin Trudeau’s office said in a statement.
The issue of the appearance of the Prime Minister’s collaborator is the subject of a standoff in committee. The Liberals there have been disrupting proceedings for more than 20 hours (non-consecutive), using delaying tactics to block it. These maneuvers fueled suspicions of a cover-up operation. “It must be really serious [if we refuse to send him there]”, commented several Conservative MPs.
The work of the paralyzed committee resumed late Tuesday morning.
Prior to the release of the statement on Katie Telford’s appearance, the Prime Minister cut short the rumors that had been swirling on the Hill by ruling that the vote on the motion (one of the demands of which was that appearance) would not bind the confidence of the House. Yes, it’s an “important vote,” but “no, it won’t be a vote of confidence,” he said upon arriving at his cabinet meeting.
The Conservatives had spent much of Monday’s question period challenging the Liberal Party’s dancing partner, the New Democratic Party, to come on board with their motion, in order to tip the vote balance against the Liberals. .
The Bloc Québécois, which also wants to hear the testimony of Justin Trudeau’s close collaborator, had meanwhile demanded on Monday the revocation of the mandate entrusted to former Governor General David Johnston on foreign interference.
On this too, the Prime Minister has decided, his office revealing on Tuesday the details of the mandate of the independent special rapporteur whom he appointed just over a week ago – an appointment which has drawn its share of criticism due to closeness between the two men.
The former Governor General will have until May 23 to recommend “the establishment of any additional mechanisms or transparent processes that he deems necessary […], such as a formal public inquiry”, it was confirmed by way of press release.
He will “provide periodic reports to the Prime Minister, which will also be shared with opposition leaders and the public”, and “he will have full access to all relevant files and documents, whether classified or not”, we add.
He is expected to have completed his review by October 31, 2023.
Justin Trudeau’s decision to rely on David Johnston to determine whether to launch a public inquiry into foreign interference in the 2019 and 2021 elections has been denounced by all opposition parties in Ottawa .
The Conservatives and the Bloc believe that the dice are loaded.
“Justin Trudeau has appointed a ‘family friend’, an old cabin neighbor and member of the Beijing-funded [Pierre Elliott] Trudeau Foundation, ‘independent’ reporter on Beijing’s interference. Let’s be realistic. Trudeau must end his cover-up,” urged Conservative Party leader Pierre Poilievre.
The Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation is not funded by Beijing.
But the charity has been embroiled in controversy recently, and had to repay a Chinese billionaire’s $200,000 donation after The Globe and Mail reported that the contribution had been made against Beijing’s promise to reimburse.
The story undermined the credibility of a report on the interference prepared by Morris Rosenberg, who was the Foundation’s chief executive at the time of the donation. As rapporteur, it is not impossible to imagine that David Johnston will have to look into this matter.