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Public Safety Minister Warns that Party Nomination Rules Pose a Vulnerability to Foreign Interference

Following concerns raised by the Foreign Interference Commission about the potential exploitation of Liberal Party nomination rules by foreign entities, Public Safety Minister Dominic LeBlanc acknowledged that nomination contests do present a “vulnerability.”

Mr. LeBlanc made these remarks on May 3, shortly after the commission released its interim report.

While investigating the 2019 Liberal Party nomination contest in Don Valley North, which pointed to interference from Beijing, Commissioner Marie-Josée Hogue highlighted how these contests can serve as entry points for foreign nations seeking to disrupt the democratic process.

When questioned by journalists about this revelation, Mr. LeBlanc expressed his confidence in the Liberal Party and its nomination contest rules. He acknowledged that the commission might offer additional suggestions in its final report, but stressed that the party continuously reviews and strengthens its rules.

Moreover, Mr. LeBlanc emphasized that it is not just his party that needs to be vigilant against threats to an open nomination contest.

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When pressed by reporters, the minister recognized that the vulnerability extends to anyone seeking to interfere, particularly malicious foreign states.

The Epoch Times contacted the Liberal Party for a statement but did not receive a response at the time of publication.

The current party rules permit individuals aged over 14 residing in the riding to participate in nomination contests, potentially allowing non-Canadians to influence the outcome of elections. Liberal Party members only need to “ordinarily live in Canada.”
In contrast, the Conservative Party allows individuals aged 14 and older to become members, but restricts membership to citizens or permanent residents.
While providing testimony at the foreign interference inquiry on April 2, Liberal Party National Director Azam Ishmael defended the membership rules, emphasizing inclusivity and openness.

Addressing a query from a counsel for Tory MP Michael Chong about the eligibility of individuals who do not intend to remain in Canada, Mr. Ishmael underscored the party’s welcoming approach to new members, regardless of future plans, to ensure an inclusive process.

Nomination Contest ‘Irregularities’

The rules governing the Liberal Party’s 2019 nomination contest in Don Valley North (DVN) have faced scrutiny, particularly after Commissioner Hogue’s report pointed to potential irregularities linked to individuals associated with the People’s Republic of China.

The report indicates that false identification documents were provided to international Chinese students living outside the riding to influence the outcome of the contest. There were suggestions that these students were pressured by the Chinese consulate in Toronto to vote in favor of Mr. Dong.

Despite winning the disputed contest and subsequently being elected to the House of Commons, Mr. Dong denied awareness of any irregularities until later admitting knowledge of the international students’ support.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was briefed on the intelligence but chose to retain Mr. Dong as the Liberal candidate, citing electoral repercussions for the party in the DVN riding.

In March 2023, Mr. Dong left the Liberal Party following allegations that he advised the Chinese consulate on keeping Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor in Chinese custody to avoid benefits for the Conservative opposition. These individuals were detained in relation to the U.S. extradition request and arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wangzhou in Canada.

Mr. Dong, now an Independent, has filed a defamation lawsuit against Global News. An intelligence summary of his conversation with the Chinese consul general, which formed the basis of Global’s report, was disclosed to the inquiry.

Requests for comment from The Epoch Times have gone unanswered by Mr. Dong.

Commissioner Hogue noted in her report that while it is not within her scope to determine the events of the 2019 DVN contest, the evidence points to lax eligibility criteria and inadequate control measures in nomination contests, particularly within the Liberal Party.

She emphasized the need for a thorough examination of nomination contests and their susceptibility to foreign interference as the commission proceeds with its mandate’s second phase.

The commission’s initial phase focused on foreign interference in the 2019 and 2021 elections, with the upcoming phase investigating information flow within government, public communication, and the government’s response to threats.

According to the interim report, the commission will also review the existing rules, or lack thereof, governing nomination contests.

On May 3, following the report’s release, the Liberal government introduced a new bill targeting foreign interference across different levels.

Bill C-70, titled “An Act respecting countering foreign interference,” proposes measures such as establishing a foreign influence registry, amending the CSIS Act to access public datasets, and creating additional foreign interference-related offenses.

While Liberal ministers have not committed to revising party nomination rules, Procurement Minister Jean-Yves Duclos asserted on May 7 that the nomination contests are transparent and strictly enforced. He suggested that any further changes would be subject to colleagues’ evaluation.

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