(OTTAWA) The Liberal Party of Canada is unlikely to be able to share security concerns over foreign interference with its candidates in the election, says the national director of the federal Liberals.
Azam Ishmael says this is because national security officials would only share this information with party officials who have specific clearances that local candidates and campaign workers do not.
Mr. Ishmael is among the political operatives who testified Monday before the House of Commons procedure committee, which is investigating the issue of alleged foreign interference in the last two Canadian elections.
Jeremy Broadhurst, senior adviser to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the party’s campaign manager in the 2019 election, also appeared.
Their testimonies come as pressure on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his government has intensified amid a series of media reports which alleged, citing unnamed sources, that Beijing tried to influence the outcome of the last two federal elections.
Mr. Ishmael, who oversaw the party’s last campaign in 2021, warned committee members before beginning his testimony that he would be limited in what he could say about the information provided to him during briefings on the national security.
MPs nevertheless questioned Mr. Ishmael on the process for dealing with concerns about attempted foreign interference with respect to local candidates and campaigns.
For his part, Broadhurst said the party defers to intelligence agencies, but the decision to endorse or disqualify a candidate rests solely with the party and not with security officials.
But Mr. Ishmael nonetheless claimed that the Liberals have not “turned a blind eye” to allegations of foreign interference in the country’s elections.
The Conservative Party’s 2021 national campaign manager, Fred DeLorey, also appeared before the committee on Tuesday along with Hamish Marshall, who held the same position in 2019.
Mr. DeLorey began his testimony by reading a memo prepared for him after the 2021 election, which he says was written after the party saw that some results “were wrong.”
Asked earlier about Tory losses in Greater Toronto Area and Metro Vancouver ridings – the results the Conservatives say could have been affected by interference from Beijing – Mr Ishmael suggested that c was the result of the party’s position on gun control, a debate that erupted during the campaign.
The committee recently heard from Mr. Trudeau’s longtime chief of staff, Katie Telford, who repeatedly told MPs that national security provisions prevented her from releasing details of briefings on interference.