Liberals, opposition House leaders meeting Friday to discuss foreign interference inquiry | CBC News


House leaders for the main federal opposition parties are set to meet this evening with the Liberals to resume discussions on calling a public inquiry into foreign interference, Liberal and NDP officials tell CBC News.

According to a report by Radio-Canada, the negotiations over the framework and mandate of a public inquiry are close to completion and the meeting — set for 5:30 pm ET — will be about fine-tuning areas of agreement.

Radio-Canada reports the parties still haven’t settled on someone to lead he process and the Conservatives have not yet submitted their list of proposed candidates.

An NDP official — who spoke on the condition they not be named due to the sensitivity of the talks — told CBC News that since the House of Commons rose for the summer, the discussions between the parties have been less productive.

The unnamed official accused Conservatives and Liberals of being more focused on scoring political points than getting answers.

The official said the NDP wants the discussion to be treated like a labour negotiation focused on finding a resolution, rather than a political brawl between Liberals and Conservatives.

A Liberal official (who also spoke on the condition they not be named) said that Canadians should not expect a major news announcement out of today’s talks.

House leaders are expected to attend. Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc will dial in from Japan, where he is attending meetings. The House leaders will update party leaders on the state of the talks once the meeting is over, the Liberal official said.

The Chinese government has been accused of attempting to influence the results of the 2019 and 2021 federal elections and of meddling in Canada’s affairs. In May, Canada expelled Chinese diplomat Zhao Wei after an intelligence report accused him of trying to target the family of Conservative MP Michael Chong, who has been critical of China’s treatment of its Uyghur Muslim minority.

The Liberals resisted repeated opposition calls for a public inquiry into foreign interference and instead appointed former governor general David Johnston as special rapporteur to advise on the matter and decide if an inquiry was warranted.

His initial report on May 23 advised against an inquiry. Outraged opposition parties accused Johnston of being too close to the Liberals. On June 9, Johnston announced he would resign his position at the end of that month, citing a “highly partisan atmosphere” surrounding his work.

All parties agree that the 2019 and 2021 federal election results were not compromised. But opposition MPs say a public inquiry into foreign interference is the only way to maintain Canadians’ confidence in the electoral system.

The first report from David Johnston, Independent Special Rapporteur on Foreign Interference, is shown as he appears as a witness at the Procedure and House Affairs Committee in Ottawa on Tuesday, June 6, 2023.
David Johnston appears as a witness before the procedure and House affairs committee in Ottawa on Tuesday, June 6, 2023. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

Discussions between the parties on the details of such an inquiry have so far failed to deliver an agreement.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre traded shots this week over who was to blame for the failure to come to an agreement on an inquiry.

Speaking in Quebec on Wednesday, Trudeau said that because the process under Johnston descended into partisan bickering, all parties need to agree on “the kind of process to be put in place and on the person who will be heading it.”

“We will not be able to move forward with any seriousness if … the Conservative Party once again refuses to participate in, or accept, the process we put forward,” he said.

Poilievre fired back Thursday, issuing a statement saying that while the parties were supposed to meet this week to confirm the final wording of the agreement, the Liberals have not been answering emails or phone calls.

“Conservatives are sitting next to our phones waiting for the prime minister’s decision,” he said in the statement. “Lying, delaying and blaming others won’t change that. He and only he has the power to call an inquiry. Let him do it today.”

The Liberal official said that LeBlanc had been scheduled to visit Japan to discuss infrastructure for almost a year.

The official said LeBlanc is committed to the talks and will be getting up at 6:30 a.m. Japan time to participate.


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