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Tory MP Received ‘Threatening Text Message’ From Chinese Consulate Ahead of 2021 Election, House Committee Hears

A Conservative MP was threatened by the Chinese consulate in Toronto ahead of the 2021 federal election, a House committee heard.

At a Procedure and House Committee (PROC) hearing on April 14, Conservative MP Michael Cooper put that question to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s chief of staff Katie Telford, who was testifying in relation to recent media reports of Chinese interference in the past two federal elections.

“Ten weeks before the 2021 election, Bob Saroya, the then-member of parliament for Markham–Unionville, received a cryptic and threatening text message from Beijing’s consul general in Toronto, suggesting that he would no longer be a member of parliament after the 2021 election. Were you, the prime minister, or anyone in the PMO [Prime Minister’s Office] briefed or otherwise have knowledge about that text message?” Cooper asked.

Telford declined to answer the question.

“I can’t speak to that information,” she said. “Because as I said before, as frustrating as it is for both or all of us, is I can’t get into confirming, let alone denying information, and going beyond the bounds of the security heads, who were here [at the PROC] before me.”

The issue of Chinese interference came under scrutiny following reports by Global News and the Globe and Mail on intelligence documents and national security sources alleging interference from the Chinese consulate in the 2019 and 2021 federal elections.

Saroya was first elected to the Ontario riding of Markham–Unionville in 2015 and was reelected in 2019 with close to 49 percent of the vote. Liberal MP Paul Chiang took over the riding in 2021 with that same percentage of vote, whereas Saroya’s dropped to about 42 percent.

When Cooper further asked if Telford has any knowledge of Chinese interference in the 2021 election in the riding of Markham–Unionville, Telford said, “Broadly speaking, yes, I have been briefed on attempted interference and influence during the last elections,” but declined to say specifically where the interference took place.

Global News also reported that intelligence officials warned Trudeau ahead of the 2021 federal election that “a small number of MPs reported they feared for their families and their reputations and believed they were being targeted in operations to hurt their election chances.” Global News said Saroya wasn’t directly identified in a 2021 special report from the Privy Council Office, which it cited in its reporting of the 2019 election interference, but his case “fit the description” of those MPs who feared for their safety.

The Chinese consulate in Toronto denied the allegation of election interference following media reports on the issue.

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