Poilievre Says He Will Work With NDP, Bloc to Set Terms for Potential Foreign Interference Inquiry

Poilievre Says He Will Work With NDP, Bloc to Set Terms for Potential Foreign Interference Inquiry
Conservative Party Leader Pierre Poilievre speaks to reporters in the foyer of the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on June 11, 2023. (The Canadian Press/Spencer Colby)
Isaac Teo

Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre says he will work with the opposition parties to set the terms of reference for a possible inquiry on foreign interference, including whoever may lead it.

“I will work with our opposition colleagues to make sure that the person who fills that role is independent and unbiased in doing a thorough and public investigation,” Poilievre said at a Parliament Hill press conference on June 11.

The Tory leader stressed that the person leading the potential public inquiry would have no links to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

“We want to make sure there are no ties to the Trudeau family. No relationship to the Beijing finance Trudeau foundation. No other compromising relationships with a foreign dictatorship, any foreign dictatorship for that matter. And someone who has a track record of non-partisanship and neutrality,” he said.

“We’re working on that right now.”

On June 10, Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc said the Liberal government is willing to hold a public inquiry on allegations that China meddled in the 2019 and 2021 federal elections.

But the minister said opposition parties need to help the government by providing a list of people who could lead the potential inquiry, along with suggested terms of reference, a timeline, and ideas on the best way to protect top-secret, classified information under existing security laws.

LeBlanc’s announcement came less than 24 hours after David Johnston resigned from his role as special rapporteur on foreign interference because of what he called the “highly partisan atmosphere” around his appointment.

‘Tight Timelines’

Johnston’s appointment was strongly criticized by all opposition parties. Among the concerns cited were his past ties to the Trudeau family and the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation, as well as his own dealings with Beijing.

Trudeau appointed Johnston to the role on March 15 amid media reports based on intelligence leaks of rampant interference by Beijing in Canada, including in federal elections. Trudeau, who had refused repeated requests by opposition parties to hold an independent inquiry into the issue, said he would hold one if Johnston concludes one is required.

In his first report on May 23, Johnston concluded that a public inquiry is not needed, saying public hearings would be more effective.

This recommendation intensified criticism by the opposition, culminating with the parties passing a motion in the House of Commons on May 31 asking Johnston to step down.

Johnston initially rejected the motion, saying his mandate was from the government, not Parliament. Trudeau said he stood by Johnston’s appointment.

However, Johnston’s June 9 letter said his “leadership has had the opposite effect” thus far. Three days before his resignation, he appeared before the Commons Procedure and House Affairs committee where he faced questions from opposition MPs, and confirmed he did not review all intelligence before releasing his first report.

Asked whether he was concerned that a potential public inquiry could take years to conclude, Poilievre said Trudeau needs to call one “right away.”

“We need to have terms of reference that have tight timelines, to have the hearings occur as quickly as possible and get all the truth on the table before the next election happens,” he said.

“The last thing we need is for the truth to continue to be hidden in the next election, so there’s no accountability, but worse yet there could once again be foreign interference in the next election.”

Omid Ghoreishi and The Canadian Press contributed to this report.