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No intelligence briefing held on candidates’ Chinese funding: Trudeau

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Sunday he had never been told that candidates in the 2019 federal election may have been swayed by Chinese government funding.

A Global News report earlier this month cited unnamed sources who claimed Trudeau had been tipped off last January that China was trying to interfere in Canadian politics, including by funding at least 11 federal election candidates. of 2019.

The Liberals have been hammered in the House of Commons by opposition MPs demanding to know who the candidates are and what Canada is doing about the interference.

None of the MPs who responded, including Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland, provided a substantive response beyond insisting that elections in Canada were free and fair. None of them either denied having information about Chinese-funded candidates.

But during remarks at the end of the Francophonie summit in Tunisia on Sunday, Trudeau said the government had not publicly identified the candidates because it did not know who they were. He said he only learned of this specific allegation from the media.

“Let’s be clear, I have no information and I have not been informed of any federal candidates receiving money from China,” Trudeau said.

He went on to point out that he was “regularly briefed by our intelligence and security officials” and that none had ever provided him with information about applicants receiving money.

On Nov. 14, the Liberals backed a motion put forward by the Conservatives before a House of Commons committee to expand an ongoing study into foreign interference to include the news report that Trudeau and other ministers were briefed of the Chinese government’s efforts to “actively influence the 2019 crisis”. election.”

The motion does not specifically mention candidate funding, but refers to the news report that did.

The Liberals say they supported the motion because the story raised questions that officials should answer at committee. The motion calls on the government to provide “all relevant briefing notes” and other documents related to the matter within the next two weeks.

“I have asked officials to review these media reports and provide all possible responses, whatever they can, to the parliamentary committee looking into this matter,” Trudeau said Sunday.

Trudeau was speaking at the end of a 10-day trip abroad that included four international summits and Canada’s attempts to expand its influence and economic ties in Asia despite a frosty relationship with China.

The cooling of relations between Canada and China was evident during the trip, particularly during the G20 summit in Bali, where Trudeau said he spoke to President Xi Jinping on the sidelines about “interference in our citizens “.

Xi slammed Trudeau in front of Canadian media, accusing him of wrongly leaking details of that conversation to the press. It is not unusual for the Trudeau government to provide reporters with basic details of topics discussed between the prime minister and other foreign leaders, but Xi disputed this.

Trudeau told Xi that people believe in openness and transparency in Canada.

Trudeau did not confirm to the media whether he specifically discussed election interference with Xi, saying only that he raised interference in general.

On November 16 in Bali, he also said that a special commission had been created ahead of the 2019 elections to monitor and analyze any possible interference.

“For the 2019 and 2021 elections, these experts were confident that the election in Canada was conducted in the right way and that Canadians can take comfort in that,” he said. “Their reports are clear. So Canadians can and should be reassured that yes, foreign interference is a problem in different ways, as we have seen around the world, but the integrity of elections in Canada has not been compromised.

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on November 20, 2022.

Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press

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