Liberal MPs continued with their plan to block the testimony of the prime minister’s chief of staff before a House of Commons committee on March 14, speaking in turn for a whole day to avoid voting on a motion supported by all opposition parties.
Conservatives, Bloc Québécois, and NDP MPs form a majority on the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs (PROC) and are attempting to hear from Katie Telford on Chinese regime foreign interference.
As Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s chief of staff, opposition MPs believe Telford can shine some light on what the government knew about the interference and in what time frame.
Liberals relayed anecdotes, read from documents, and attacked the credibility of the national security leaks during their filibuster.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister Greg Fergus took much of his time to compare the current situation with the case of Maher Ahar, warning about the dangers of “unverified” and “uncorroborated” intelligence.
Ahar, a dual Canadian and Syrian citizen, was suspected of being linked to Al Qaeda and was detained by the United States during a flight layover and then sent to Syria where he was tortured. A commission of inquiry cleared Ahar, and the Canadian government settled with him for $10.5 million in 2007.
“When you start taking intelligence and treat it as if it’s fact, [it] can be extremely, extremely dangerous,” said Liberal MP Anita Vandenbeld.
A previous Epoch Times analysis of the national security leaks shows that many of them are based on assessed intelligence documents presented in memos to top officials. Others relate to a collection of documents or stem from investigations using multiple means of collection.
Liberals also say the committee should respect the principle of ministerial accountability which in general protects political staff from appearing before committees.
Conservative Party Leader Pierre Poilievre defended this principle during the Harper years, but Telford has also been called to testify in the past on the WE Charity scandal.
“It really begs the question, what does this prime minister have to hide?” said Conservative MP Michael Cooper, who brought forward the current and previous motions to have Telford testify.
“I just want to observe that it being 1:05 [p.m.] it’s been now more than 14 hours, over four days, that the Liberal MPs on this committee have been filibustering, droning on for hours and hours and hours.”
The PROC began its previously suspended meeting in the morning and was still running as of publication at 6:30 p.m. EST.
Previous motions to have Telford testify brought forward by Cooper were defeated by the Liberals with the help of the NPD, but the latter dropped such support after more national security leaks surfaced in the media.
Some of the allegations reported include that as early as 2017, Telford had requested an assessment on interference by the Chinese Communist Party to the National Security Intelligence Advisor.
“[T]here is a substantial body of evidence that Chinese officials are actively pursuing a strategy of engagement to influence Canadian officials in ways that can compromise the security of Canada and the integrity of Canadian institutions,” said the memo, reviewed by Global News.
The outlet also reported that the Canadian Security Intelligence Service had warned Trudeau’s team that a Liberal candidate was part of a Chinese interference network, but the candidate who is now a sitting MP was still allowed to run.
All opposition parties are requesting a public inquiry, but the prime minister has instead said he would appoint a special rapporteur on the issue of foreign interference.