The member of Parliament for St. Albert-Edmonton says delays starting a public inquiry into election interference may mean Canadians won’t learn about the extent of any foreign meddling before the next federal election.
The federal government last Wednesday announced the appointment of Justice Marie-Josée Hogue to lead the inquiry into foreign election interference, but MP Michael Cooper said the move should have come much earlier.
“It’s good that there will be a public inquiry, and I am satisfied by the terms of reference and have confidence in Justice Hogue, but it comes after seven months of inexcusable delay,” he said.
Opposition parties asked Liberals to investigate interference earlier this year when media reported on classified documents that accused China’s government of interfering in the 2019 and 2021 federal elections.
Instead of launching a public inquiry, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau appointed former governor general David Johnston as a special rapporteur. Johnston recommended against a public inquiry, angering opposition parties who questioned his impartiality. He resigned in June, citing a climate of political controversy.
“What we saw up until last week’s announcement was Justin Trudeau and the Liberals making every effort to hide and cover up the truth about Beijing’s interference,” Cooper said. “We know Justin Trudeau had been repeatedly briefed about these issues and took no meaningful action. He was, frankly, content to allow Beijing’s interference because it benefited the Liberal party.”
Hogue will deliver a final report on the matter at the end of next year. Cooper believes the delayed inquiry could prevent Canadians from learning the full truth about election interference before the next national election, although there is currently no indication that the next election will happen before October 2025.
The inquiry will also investigate interference by Russia, Iran and India.
Cooper said he agrees Canada should take activities by all hostile states seriously, but the biggest threat to our democracy comes from Beijing’s communist regime.
Trudeau said last week at a press conference in Singapore that he would “willingly and with very much enthusiasm” testify before the public inquiry.
-------No comment on controversial resolutions
Last week’s Conservative convention in Quebec City saw the party’s grassroots pass a series of controversial resolutions.
Delegates from across the country voted to prohibit gender-affirming health care for transgender youth under 18, stop transgender women from using women’s washrooms and entering women’s sports, end preferential hiring of minorities for federally funded jobs, and end "forced political, cultural or ideological training of any kind," such as workplace diversity training.
Cooper said he does not want to comment on specific resolutions from the convention.
“I need to sit down with the leader, our caucus and others involved in putting together a national platform to carefully consider all of the resolutions,” he said.
“Pierre Poilievre in his speech laid out a comprehensive vision that was centred around restoring powerful paycheques by lowering taxes and making life more affordable by ending inflationary deficits and scrapping the carbon tax … The platform that will be developed will be centred around those issues.”
Poilievre does not have to adopt the grassroots resolutions for his platform.
Kristopher Wells, associate professor and the Canada Research Chair for the Public Understanding of Sexual and Gender Minority Youth at MacEwan University, said the resolutions put transgender people in the crosshairs of hate.
Regardless of whether they become part of Poilievre’s platform, the policies threaten the existence and humanity of transgender people, he said.
“I think our members of parliament recognize that these policies are not only discriminatory, they’re unconstitutional and a clear violation of human rights in Canada,” he said. “It’s disheartening that Pierre Poilievre and our local members of parliament are not disavowing these policy resolutions for what they are and the damage they do.
“I would say no comment is a comment — when it comes to human rights, if you’re silent, that silence speaks loudly.”