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QUESTION PERIOD — Global Affairs

Foreign Interference

May 7, 2024

Hon. Donald Neil Plett (Leader of the Opposition)

Leader, last year at about this time the Prime Minister told us a secret study by the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians, or NSICOP, was the best place to investigate what he knew about Beijing’s interference in our democracy. He made up a Special Rapporteur to delay calling a public inquiry and used a man’s good name as a shield. That farce produced a report that was nothing but a cover-up. Senator Gold, this is not just me saying that. This is The Globe and Mail saying this.

Justice Hogue’s initial report says the Prime Minister told her removing his candidate in Don Valley North in the 2019 election would have direct electoral consequences, as the Liberal Party expected to win that riding. He knew and didn’t act for partisan reasons. Isn’t that right, Senator Gold? He’s not worth the Canadian democracy, is he?

Hon. Marc Gold (Government Representative in the Senate) [ + ]

The answer to your question is in the negative, senator. Thank you for the questions nonetheless.

Protecting the security of our country from foreign interference ought to be a non-partisan issue. I think the interim report of Justice Hogue has shone a spotlight on some of the issues. Indeed, she has underlined that the extent of foreign interference — though it may not have affected the results of the previous elections — has had a negative impact on the public faith in the integrity of our system. That’s something that we all are and should be concerned about.

We look forward to the continuing work that she has undertaken and to the recommendations and further analysis that will appear when she does issue her final report.

Well, we certainly agree it should be a non‑partisan issue. Justice Hogue says there were strong indicators of Beijing’s interference against former Conservative MP Kenny Chiu during the 2021 election. She said there was a reasonable possibility it impacted the result in the riding, which was the defeat of Mr. Chiu and the election of a Liberal. Last year, the Prime Minister’s made-up rapporteur dismissed all of this.

Who told Canadians the truth, Justice Hogue or the rapporteur?

Senator Gold [ + ]

Senator, I take exception, as I have in the past, to the way in which you describe an eminent Canadian who did his best to serve this country.

The fact remains that the interim report confirms what we already knew and what your former leader, Mr. O’Toole, to his credit, spoke about at length in Parliament. Again, this report is welcome. We await with interest the final report.

Hon. Leo Housakos [ + ]

Senator Gold, the fact remains my bill for a foreign agent registry has been on the Order Paper since February 2022. It’s the same bill that had been introduced in the previous Parliament by then-MP Kenny Chiu. It’s a straightforward bill, a bill that your government has allowed to languish for many years. The only person to speak to it has been Senator Richards. Apparently, it was of no interest to Trudeau-appointed senators, any more than it was of any interest to the Trudeau government.

Now, in an effort to distract from Justice Hogue’s findings that your government did nothing to combat foreign interference when it benefited the Liberal Party, all of a sudden you have the urge to move forward with the registry as part of your convoluted bill.

Senator Gold, my bill is straightforward when it comes to a registry. You could have moved it forward. You could have introduced it as a government bill after Mr. Chiu lost his seat as a result of interference from Beijing.

Why did it take so long to put this piece of the puzzle on the table and get it done?

Senator Gold [ + ]

Thank you for your question and for your ongoing advocacy on this matter.

As I mentioned in this chamber on several occasions in the past, the government was considering seriously the idea of a foreign registry, and it has now come forward with legislation.

The foreign influence transparency registry will be overseen by an independent foreign influence transparency commissioner, who will promote transparency from people who advocate on behalf of a foreign principal, including a foreign state or state‑owned business, and provide for accountability from those who would do so in non-transparent ways.

Under this framework, individuals or entities who enter into an arrangement with a foreign principal and undertake activities to influence a government or political process in Canada would be required to publicly register these activities.

This was the product of consultation and input, and reflects the government’s considered judgment.

Senator Housakos [ + ]

Senator Gold, it has been over five years. There was a registry bill in the House of Commons and this institution, the Senate. You have ignored it.

Senator Gold, Justice Hogue revealed that Justin Trudeau testified to her that the reason he didn’t do anything about Beijing’s meddling in Han Dong’s riding is because he didn’t want to lose that riding. The Prime Minister said that. He admitted putting his own electoral interests ahead of the interests of Canadians. Senator Gold, why did Justin Trudeau put his political fortunes and his thirst to stay in power above our national security and above the integrity of our elections?

Senator Gold [ + ]

That is not an accurate characterization of what happened. I admire your ability to read minds and impute intentions. The government has come forward with serious legislation that will strike the right balance between protecting our national security and our constitutional values. It will do so in a way that is constitutional and without a “notwithstanding” clause.

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