B.C. premier wants CSIS briefing on alleged Chinese meddling in Vancouver election

B.C. premier wants CSIS briefing on alleged Chinese meddling in Vancouver election
B.C. premier wants CSIS briefing on alleged Chinese meddling in Vancouver election

British Columbia Premier David Eby says he’s “very troubled” by allegations of Chinese interference in Vancouver’s municipal elections last year and he’s asked Canada’s intelligence agency for a briefing.

Eby says Canadians deserve a “thorough and independent investigation” into the claims reported in the Globe and Mail newspaper this week that China’s consulate in Vancouver meddled in the municipal polls by using diaspora community groups and grooming certain candidates.

The premier says he’s asked for a “full briefing” by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service but he hasn’t received it yet.

The newspaper report cites CSIS documents, but Eby says he’s not in a position to comment on their credibility.

The report prompted Vancouver Mayor Ken Sim to say on Thursday that he was disgusted by its “insinuations,” and he wouldn’t be part of the conversation if he was white.

Eby said the majority of tools to fight international interference are in federal hands, but he needs to know if there’s any way for B.C. to “close any gaps” that the province may have available to it.

WATCH | Justin Trudeau defends Vancouver election results

Justin Trudeau defends Vancouver election results after allegations of Chinese interference

The prime minister said while it’s important to take the possibility of foreign meddling in local elections seriously, it doesn’t mean Canadians should automatically lose trust in their leaders and institutions.

He said that, for example, Elections B.C. has already brought forward recommendations to combat misinformation.

“We’re always looking for ways to make sure our elections are free and fair,” Eby said at a news conference in Prince Rupert.

This Globe and Mail story says the CSIS documents do not name the consulate’s favoured mayoral and council contenders, but it wanted the incumbent Kennedy Stewart to lose.

Sim, Vancouver’s first Canadian mayor of Chinese descent, defeated Stewart by more than 36,000 votes.

Prime Minister defends Vancouver results

Speaking in Ontario Friday morning, Prime Minster Justin Trudeau said while it’s important to take allegations of foreign interference seriously it doesn’t mean Canadians should automatically doubt the legitimacy of elected leaders and institutions.

“I think we have to be very very careful when little bits and pieces of uncorroborated, unverified information, get put out,” he said.

“The impact on individuals who choose to step forward and serve their communities, like Ken Sim, being attacked by allegations that are incomplete and leaked that he can’t even really respond to is sort of an underscoring of the delicacy of these issues and how they need to be treated with real seriousness.”

Trudeau is himself embroiled in questions regarding what he and his staff knew about alleged foreign interference in federal elections.

Citing classified CSIS sources, multiple media reports have alleged that China tried to ensure the Liberals won the 2021 election.Those reports also said Beijing worked to defeat Conservative candidates who were critical of China by interfering in the last two federal elections.

Speaking in Vancouver, federal Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre said the CSIS leaks are proof Trudeau has lost the confidence of the Canadian intelligence community.

The Conservatives have sponsored a motion calling on Trudeau’s chief of staff Katie Telford to testify at a House of Commons committee investigating the alleged interference.

“The prime minister’s chief of staff was intimately involved in his leadership campaign and in all of his federal election campaigns,” said Poilievre. “It’s time for her to come forward and honestly testify about what happened, what was Beijing’s role in supporting Justin Trudeau and how do we prevent this kind of interference from ever happening again in Canada.”

‘I lost by a ton,’ former mayor says

Meanwhile, Stewart says he want the allegations of foreign interference in Vancouver’s municipal election to be taken seriously, although he doesn’t believe it’s why he lost.

“I lost by a ton,” he told  CBC’s As It Happens . “I lost by 30,000 votes so… if this was happening, it’s not what caused me to lose.”

But, he said, he is still “deeply concerned” about reports of attempted interference with democracies in Canada, particularly at a local level.

Watch | Stewart discusses CSIS warnings

CSIS said ‘nobody’ was paying attention to Beijing’s alleged election meddling: former Vancouver mayor

“They said, ‘We’ve been sending reports up the chain and nobody’s paying any attention,'” said former Vancouver mayor Kennedy Stewart regarding his 2022 meeting with CSIS officials about alleged Beijing-backed meddling in the municipal election.

“It does look that the Chinese government may see municipalities as a weak link in Canada’s democratic chain, when it comes to oversight, which I would completely agree with,” he said.

Stewart called for more work to be done on increasing oversight of candidates, election spending and voting at the municipal level. 

“I don’t know why we don’t care more about this,” he said.

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