The minority Liberal government will not make a Conservative motion calling on the prime minister’s chief of staff to testify on foreign election interference a matter of confidence, Justin Trudeau says.
For weeks, Conservatives have tried to get Katie Telford to appear as a witness at a parliamentary committee investigating foreign election interference. After failing to reach a vote on their motion, Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre tabled a motion in the House of Commons on Monday that calls on Telford and several other officials to appear as a witness at a different committee studying the same subject.
Conservatives say Telford has valuable information regarding when Trudeau was briefed on allegations of Chinese interference in Canadian elections and society, an issue that has been captured in ongoing reports published by Global News and The Globe and Mail.
A vote on the motion in the House of Commons is expected after question period on Tuesday afternoon.
“No, it’s not going to be a confidence motion. Obviously, it goes to how important the issue of foreign interference is, and I’m actually pleased to contrast the approach that we’ve taken,” Trudeau said.
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He added that the terms of reference for the special rapporteur position the government announced last week would be coming out on Tuesday. Former governor general David Johnston was named to the post, and will, among other things, assess whether a public inquiry into the allegations is needed. Trudeau has been under pressure to call one, but has passed off that decision to Johnston.
“People will see that there is an expert process that will dig in to this in a nonpartisan way, and people can contrast this with the kind of political circus that Mr. Poilievre is trying to generate.”
Conservatives argued Telford, who has been a top aide to Trudeau since before he became prime minister in 2015, can answer key questions about briefings on election interference Trudeau received and what actions — if any — he took in response.
The Conservatives and the Bloc Quebecois both seem prepared to vote in favour of the motion.
But the New Democrats, who are supporting the Liberals through a supply-and-confidence agreement, have not committed to doing the same — despite its members agreeing Telford must testify.
Instead, they tabled their own motion on Monday that seeks a broad public inquiry into foreign interference that looks beyond China to other alleged meddling by actors like Russia and Iran. Conservatives have rejected calls to expand the probe.
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Poilievre and other Conservative MPs on Monday challenged NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh on whether he will support their motion or continue to help the Liberals with their “cover-up.”
Speaking to reporters outside the House of Commons on Monday, Liberal House Leader Mark Holland wouldn’t rule out the possibility of turning the Conservative motion into a confidence vote. That would force the NDP to choose whether to throw out the supply-and-confidence agreement over compelling Telford’s testimony.
The agreement, reached in early March 2022, does address situations in which the government declares a confidence vote on other matters. It requires the Liberals to inform the NDP of a confidence vote as soon as possible, and the NDP to discuss with the Liberals how its MPs intend to vote before announcing so publicly, “to permit discussions” to take place.
The Liberal government has been under immense pressure to explain what it knew about foreign interference in the 2021 election after The Globe and Mail reported last month that intelligence sources said China attempted to interfere in that campaign to help the Liberals win another minority government.
That report came after months of revelations from Global News about allegations of Chinese interference in the 2019 election.
— with files from Sean Boynton
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