Beijing Tried to Run Candidate Against BC Mayor Critical of CCP

Beijing Tried to Run Candidate Against BC Mayor Critical of CCP
The Chinese Consulate in Vancouver on Oct. 1, 2022. (Melodie Von/NTD)
Andrew Chen

Brad West, mayor of Port Coquitlam, B.C., says he was informed by Canada’s intelligence agency in 2022 that it was aware of efforts by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to recruit a candidate to run against him in that year’s municipal election.

Following his victory in the 2018 municipal election, Mr. West, a fierce critic of the Chinese regime’s human rights violations and hostage diplomacy, was re-elected mayor in 2022. In an interview with The Epoch Times on Aug. 23, he said the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) had approached him in September 2022 to alert him of being a target of the Chinese regime.

Mr. West said his trusted sources within the Chinese community had also shown him WeChat messages in which “individuals associated with the Chinese Communist Party” had tried to recruit a candidate to run against him as mayor. Such efforts were “an attempt to neutralize me and to defeat me, and to stop my political representation of the people,” he said.

Mr. West declined to disclose the identities of his sources, citing concerns for their safety, but said that those WeChat messages have been documented and shared with CSIS. He expressed confidence that CSIS is taking the matter “seriously” and continues to investigate, though he is unsure about the extent of the investigation. The matter was first reported by investigative journalist Sam Cooper in his substack newsletter, The Bureau.

Mr. West said he was “particularly concerned” about CSIS’s warning of Beijing’s attempt to prevent his potential progress to higher political office.

“I think from their perspective, they saw the municipal election as an opportunity to take out someone who has been vocal against their efforts and to potentially stop me from furthering my political career,” Mr. West said.

Port Coquitlam Mayor Brad West. (City of Port Coquitlam)
Port Coquitlam Mayor Brad West. (City of Port Coquitlam)

He said he wasn’t surprised that he has become a target of the CCP, citing the regime’s increased efforts to exert influence overseas. In his view, this is “undermining our democratic systems.” He highlighted that CCP officials and those working on their behalf have tried to launch misinformation campaigns to misrepresent his comments as being “anti-Chinese people.”

“I support the Chinese people and have had a great relationship with members of the Chinese Canadian community, because nobody has suffered more under the Chinese Communist Party than the Chinese people, members of the Hong Kong community, Taiwanese, Falun Gong, Uyghur,” he said.

Despite being targeted, Mr. West persists in speaking out against the CCP’s human rights violations targeting those groups and others. He has also voiced concerns about China’s involvement in fentanyl production, which he blames for causing significant harm in British Columbia.

Consulate Funding

This wasn’t the first time CSIS had approached Mr. West to alert him of being a target of the Chinese regime. In January 2020, the intelligence agency warned him that he was “very much on the radar of the government of China” for exposing its funding to the Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM).
Since 2012, the UBCM had allowed China to sponsor its annual convention, which attracts over 1,000 elected officials, including mayors and city councillors from across British Columbia. For the 2019 convention, China provided $6,000, which gave the consulate the sponsorship benefit of hosting a reception at the convention. This provided officials from China the opportunity to build connections with Canadian politicians who chose to attend the sponsored event.

Mr. West said he learned about the Chinese reception, which he described as a “cash-for-access arrangement,” from the UBCM conference schedule. It was “completely inappropriate and in fact wrong,” he said, especially given that Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor had been arbitrarily detained by Chinese authorities just months earlier, in December 2018.

After a protest led by Mr. West against the sponsorship made national headlines, the UBCM decided to retain the Chinese sponsored event that year but appointed a panel to review the financing of its annual convention. Then, later in 2019, the UBCM voted to end foreign sponsorship of receptions for future conferences.

Mr. West said his activism drew the attention of the CCP, citing CSIS, which cautioned him about this in January 2020.

“I was approached by CSIS and was told that I was very much on the radar of the government of China because of my actions,” Mr. West said. “And my actions in exposing their arrangement had deeply angered officials in the Chinese Communist Party, and that they were embarrassed by the fact that this had become public.”

Then-Chinese consul-general in Vancouver Tong Xiaoling refuted allegations about the Chinese Consulate’s funding to the UBCM convention, describing them as “smearing” and “baseless,” according to reports posted on WeChat.

Canada’s Inaction ‘Appalling’

Mr. West isn’t the only Canadian politician who has been targeted for criticizing the CCP. Recent media reports citing CSIS sources show that the regime has also threatened Conservative MP Michael Chong and NDP MP Jenny Kwan, at the federal level, for their criticism of the communist regime.
The intelligence agency has briefed both MPs on being Beijing’s targets following media reports about the threats. But Mr. West noted that lack of a parallel mechanism to provide intelligence briefings to other levels of government is a significant concern, given the broad focus of Chinese operations in Canada that affect Canada’s political landscape on multiple dimensions. He also voiced concerns about the extension of these activities into sectors such as media, academia, and business.

When asked how Canada can effectively counter these interference activities and protect the safety and security of its citizens, Mr. West emphasized the need to establish a foreign agent registry. Such a database mechanism would help to ensure transparency and accountability from people who advocate on behalf of foreign governments, and help protect communities that are often targeted by foreign interference attempts.

Pointing to similar mechanisms established in allied countries, such as the United States and Australia, Mr. West said it is “appalling” that Canada has yet to enact legislation to create such a registry.

Additionally, he called on the federal government to bolster laws related to foreign interference and to adopt a firm stance when addressing such activity. He specifically recommended that the government investigate all potential methods through which the CCP infiltrates and conceals its influence within Canadian society.

“Canadians are incredibly concerned about this issue,” he said.

He added that he believes Canadians are appalled the government has done so little to respond to the issue, “because what’s at stake is very foundational to our democracy, and the confidence and trust that our citizens need to be able to have in their government and their elected officials.”