Rosenberg: Officials split on when to report interference allegations

Ottawa –

A man who wrote a report recommending a lower threshold for notifying Canadians of foreign interference in elections says there is no consensus on what that threshold should be.

A report by former civil servant Morris Rosenberg released on Tuesday examined the work of a panel created by the Key Election Case Open Protocol during the 2021 election. The Commission was tasked with monitoring interference in elections and was instructed to inform the Canadian public of any incident or series of incidents that threatened the ability to hold free and fair elections.

Rosenberg made several recommendations for better informing Canadians about what the Commission considered to be causes for concern and urged further research on whether to inform the public of threats that do not meet its high standards. I got

“I think this is a lack of consensus on whether the party wants to maintain its high standards,” Rosenberg said in an interview Wednesday.

Following recent media reports detailing alleged Chinese interference in the 2019 and 2021 elections, the level of disclosure security officials provide regarding election interference has come under greater scrutiny.

The Globe and Mail, citing classified CSIS records, said China would ensure a Liberal minority victory in the 2021 elections, and Conservative politicians considered unfriendly to Beijing. reportedly made an effort to defeat the

The Globe newspaper quoted a spy service as saying Beijing likes Canadian political parties to fight each other, lowering the risk of them implementing policies against China. I told you.

The newspaper also said Chinese diplomats were behind undeclared cash donations to the campaign, forcing business owners to hire Chinese students and assign them as campaign volunteers, according to CSIS. rice field.

The Global News report, citing unnamed sources, said CSIS urged Liberal Party officials to withdraw Han Dong’s nomination for the 2019 election in Toronto, but Trudeau endorsed his candidacy. claims.

Don, who won the liberal candidacy in 2019 and 2021, said his nomination and campaign teams had found no indication of fraud or compliance issues regarding his candidacy or election.

Rosenberg’s report noted that unelected officials on the panel face difficult decisions about whether to inform the public about their alleged interference, as the announcement itself could affect the election. .

“There are concerns that it could affect people’s perception of whether the election is fair and alienate voters.”

When the Open Protocol on Serious Election Events was drawn up in 2019, then-Democratic Party Minister Carina Gould told a parliamentary committee that the threshold for informing the public was “very high, allowing for free elections.” It is limited to addressing exceptional circumstances that may compromise our ability to do so.” and fair elections. “

But in light of recent media leaks, opposition lawmakers are calling for greater transparency.

Conservative Party leader Pierre Poirivre said Thursday: “Canadian citizens must be made aware if there is foreign interference. I need to know,” he said.

At a House of Commons committee meeting on Thursday, the Conservative Party and Brock Quebec helped pass an NDP motion calling for the launch of a “national public inquiry into allegations of foreign interference in Canada’s democratic system.”

Liberal members of the committee voted against the motion.

The commission also heard testimony from the National Security Advisor and the head of the Canadian spy agency, both of whom had security concerns about sharing sensitive information in public, so the investigation was closed. He suggested that it was not the best place to do so.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters on Friday he knew Canadians wanted reassurance from independent experts.

“They want to make sure that all the right questions are being posed to our intelligence and security services in a rigorous manner to ensure they do everything possible,” he said. said.

However, Prime Minister Trudeau dismissed the idea of ​​conducting an official investigation, saying a system was already in place to investigate foreign interference.

Rosenberg’s report also noted the growing challenge of domestic actors interfering in elections, sometimes on behalf of other countries, and warned of a changing electoral threat landscape. bottom.

“It is often difficult to determine whether cases were coordinated with the use of agents who were acting on behalf of foreign governments or the honest views of Canadians,” Rosenberg said.

Security officials have warned of this earlier.

“China will, among other countries, target elected officials at all levels of government to promote its national interests and encourage individuals to speak and act on behalf of the CCP. At a House committee meeting on November 9, Michelle Tessier, deputy director for operations at CSIS, said:

Election interference can also target specific constituencies or diaspora communities, Rosenberg said, raising the question of who to notify if only a subset of voters are affected.

“It probably won’t affect the entire election, but it could lead to voters being misinformed or being intimidated into not voting in that election.”

This report by the Canadian Press was first published on March 3, 2023.

— using Mickey Djuric’s files

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