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Interference Inquiry Reveals Federal Government Never Warned of Beijing’s Targeting of Specific Ridings, Party Representatives Claim

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Representatives of major political parties with security clearance to access sensitive information regarding election interference in Canada’s 2021 federal election have stated that they were not briefed about the Chinese regime targeting specific ridings.

In a July 2021 briefing prepared for cleared party representatives by the Security and Intelligence Threats to Elections (SITE) Task Force, it was stated that “The People’s Republic of China (PRC) will be the primary threat actor in an upcoming federal election.” The task force, made up of members from departments and agencies with security mandates, warns about potential interference from the Chinese regime.

This briefing was presented to representatives from the Liberal Party, Conservative Party, and NDP during a hearing on April 2 at the foreign interference inquiry. The document highlighted that due to tensions in the bi-lateral relationship and PRC activity targeting Canada’s Parliament and certain MPs, interference in specific ridings might be seen to support or oppose candidates based on their stance towards China.

When questioned by commission counsel Kate McGrann, the party representatives confirmed that they had not seen this information before and were not aware of it. Liberal national campaign director Azam Ishmael stated that they had not seen the document.

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Walied Soliman, who co-ran the national campaign for the Conservatives during the election, expressed concern that if they had known about Beijing’s intentions, they could have taken measures to monitor and address potential interference. NDP’s former national director Anne McGrath also noted that the information in the briefing was more specific than what they typically received.

During the hearing, the party representatives indicated that their interactions with the SITE Task Force provided them with information that was not significantly different from what they could find in public sources. Despite having Secret security clearance, they felt that the briefings did not offer additional valuable insights.

‘Lack of Respect for the Process’

After the 2021 federal election, the Conservative Party raised concerns to the SITE Task Force about potential interference in multiple ridings. A Privy Council Office (PCO) document presented during the hearing summarized the CPC’s suspicions of outside influence from the Chinese community in certain electoral ridings.

Mr. Soliman contested aspects of the PCO memo, emphasizing that the party had not explicitly accused foreign interference and refuting claims that the CPC was dissatisfied with the election outcome. He criticized the lack of follow-up by the task force on the Tories’ allegations.

The ongoing public inquiry is currently exploring interference in the 2019 and 2021 federal elections, with a future focus on the federal government’s handling of the threat of foreign interference.

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