Will Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s chief of staff be called to testify on foreign election interference?
That question will be at the heart of an anticipated House of Commons debate Monday with Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre sponsoring a motion that calls on Katie Telford to publicly address the matter.
The motion, which is scheduled to be tabled around noon ET, calls on Telford, Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland and several others to testify before the House ethics committee. The Conservatives have attempted to have Telford appear before the House affairs committee, but filibustering by Liberal MPs has prevented a vote.
“The prime minister’s chief of staff was intimately involved in his leadership campaign and in all of his federal election campaigns,” Poilievre told reporters in Vancouver Friday.
“She knows all the secrets. It’s time for her to come forward and honestly testify about what happened: what was Beijing’s role in supporting Justin Trudeau?”
The debate on the Conservative motion is likely to happen Monday with a vote expected after daily question period on Tuesday.
All three opposition parties believe Telford has valuable information about when Trudeau was briefed on alleged Chinese election interference in the 2019 and 2021 general elections. Both Global News and The Globe and Mail have reported on those allegations, citing unnamed national security sources.
Those sources say Beijing’s communist government actively sought to influence or interfere in the elections. Trudeau has said Canadians can be assured that the integrity of both elections was not compromised.
Regardless, the Conservatives, the Bloc Québécois and the NDP have all called for an independent public inquiry to assess the allegations.
Trudeau hasn’t yet agreed to launch an inquiry, instead tasking former governor general David Johnston as his special rapporteur to, among other things, advise him as to whether a public inquiry should be held.
In the meantime, the House affairs committee and ethics committee are both in the midst of their own inquiries into the issue of election interference. Trudeau has also tasked the National Security and Intelligence Review Agency and the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians with probing foreign interference in the last two elections.
Conservatives believe Liberals will try similar stalling tactics at ethics when it is time to vote on Telford’s testimony, but a party’s opposition day motion in the House of Commons cannot be avoided.
The Conservatives believe the BQ and NDP will support their opposition day motion and, if those other parties do indeed support the Conservative motion, Trudeau will be forced either to obey the wishes of the House and allow Telford to testify or to ignore the vote.
Ignoring the wishes of a House of Commons vote could bring on additional political peril for the minority government, including the possibility that contempt proceedings against the government could be initiated.
Trudeau refused to say Friday if he would make an attempt by the Conservatives to Telford to testify on foreign election interference a matter of confidence.
If he did, it would put the spotlight on the strength of the NDP-Liberal deal, in which the NDP promised last year to vote with the government on any confidence matter through to June 2025, so long as the Liberals uphold their end of the deal, most of which involves meeting NDP demands on providing universal dental care, universal pharmacare, improved housing and other issues.
The supply-and-confidence agreement, as it is called, says nothing about inquiries into foreign election interference.
If Trudeau designates the Telford motion as a confidence matter, it would heighten the stakes for the NDP, which would have to decide whether to side with the government and defeat the motion calling Telford to testify, or risk toppling the government and possibly precipitating a general election.
— with files from Global News’ David Akin
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