The News Rundown
- While other things have happened in Canada this week, we would be remiss to not discuss the ongoing investigations into the level of Chinese influence in Canadian elections.
- This week it's been found that China’s diplomatic mission in Vancouver has actively interfered in the city’s politics, using proxies in diaspora community organizations and grooming politicians to run in last fall’s municipal election, according to Canada’s spy agency CSIS.
- A Jan. 10, 2022, Canadian Security and Intelligence Service report outlines how China’s then-consul-general, Tong Xiaoling, discussed mentoring – or as the report quoted her, “grooming” – Chinese-Canadian municipal politicians for higher office to advance Beijing’s interests. Tong sought to elect pro-Beijing politicians to city council in the October, 2022, municipal election in which incumbent mayor Kennedy Stewart lost to Ken Sim by margin of nearly 37,000 votes.
- The Chinese government wanted Stewart, a former NDP MP, to lose the election, which he did, as near the end of his term he had become deeply unpopular with the electorate. Instead, Vancouver elected its first Chinese-Canadian mayor, the more business-minded Sim.
- Some Chinese-language media denounced Mr. Stewart as a “Cold War mayor” and accused him of “spreading conspiracy theories to divide the Chinese community.” People who are ethnically Chinese make up a fifth of the Metro Vancouver population, but views on immigration, China’s role in the world and how Ottawa should relate to Beijing are widely divergent across a community that spans a range of generations and places of origin.
- The CSIS documents explain how in mid-November, 2021, Ms. Tong talked about orchestrating the Chinese diaspora to help elect a new mayor and a favoured city councillor.
- “With regards to the 2022 City of Vancouver mayoral election, CG Tong stated that they need to do all they could to increase the ethnic voting percentage. They needed to get all eligible voters to come out and elect a specific Chinese-Canadian candidate. CG Tong emphasized this work was necessary, as the candidate will rely on those votes. In parallel, CG Tong indicated they needed someone within the Vancouver City Council.”
- The document was marked secret and shared with senior officials at Global Affairs, Public Safety, Communications Security Establishment, National Defence, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada and the Privy Council Office, which reports directly to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
- Tong passed information on this individual to someone who she hoped “could become acquainted with them” and assess if they were worth “grooming,” the document said. The aim was to discover if the individual was a “good sapling to cultivate.”
- “CG Tong saw great promise,” in this individual, saying she hoped they “could join a political party that had a long-term strategy regarding their policy towards the PRC,” CSIS reported, referring to the People’s Republic of China.
- While the report doesn't name names, we can connect the dots. Mayor Sim was elected alongside Lenny Zhou in Sim's party ABC Vancouver who came to Canada from Beijing as a graduate student. Zhou has said he ran for council in part out of concern over what he called a rise in racism. In January, he made headlines by speaking in Mandarin in the Vancouver council chamber.
- Louis Huang, a former Shanghai pediatrician who moved to Vancouver in 2002 and an outspoken critic of China, recalls Mr. Zhou coming to a meeting of the Alliance of the Guard of Canadian Values roughly half a decade ago. He was at the time “absolutely in support of the Chinese government,” Mr. Huang said, who believes no other country has been “so comprehensively” influenced by China.
- For his part, Zhou said he has no recollection of attending that meeting. After last year’s election, he tweeted in support of oppressed groups in China, including Uyghurs, Tibetans and those harmed by the country’s zero-COVID policy. Zhou said: “I am a Canadian citizen. Canada is my country, it has been my home for almost 20 years. This is the country where I have built my life and I’m raising my family. I am a strong believer in free speech and democracy.”
- ABC Vancouver’s campaign received donations from past, present and future leaders of an organization that describes itself as an ally of China’s government. Elections BC disclosures show a $1,500 donation from Wei Renmin, the South Surrey resident who was executive chair of the Canadian Alliance of Chinese Associations (CACA) from 2020 to 2022.
- One of his predecessors, Miaofei Pan, and his successor, Kady Xue Xiaomei, donated $1,250 and $600, respectively, to Ken Sim’s winning bid to replace Kennedy Stewart as mayor of Vancouver. Pan famously hosted Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for a private fundraiser at one of his mansions in 2016.
- Vancouver Mayor Ken Sim denounced what he said were "insinuations" made in a news article alleging Canada's spy agency found evidence of China's Vancouver consulate interfering in last year's municipal election.
- Sim said: "I'll just say it: if I was a Caucasian male, we're not having this conversation. If there's proof of foreign interference in our election, I want to know about it because I'm a Canadian … but right now there are a bunch of insinuations."
- In his answers to questions from reporters on Thursday, Sim was most animated when it came to the question of whether any potential interference resulted in him winning.
- Sim, referencing the fact that he announced he would run again for mayor shortly after losing to Stewart the first time in 2018, said: "We worked our butts off. We worked for four years. I look at the history of our city, and I thought we came a long way. And it's very clear we have a long way to go."
- British Columbia Premier David Eby says he's "very troubled'' by allegations of interference by China's government 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 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'' from the Canadian Security Intelligence Service but 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.
- Speaking in Ontario Friday morning, Prime Minister 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.
- Trudeau said: "I think we have to be very very careful when little bits and pieces of uncorroborated, unverified information get put out. 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."
- Meanwhile, Stewart says he wants the allegations of foreign interference in Vancouver's municipal election to be taken seriously, although he doesn't believe it's why he lost. He said: "I lost by a ton. 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 in Canada, particularly at a local level.
- So when it comes down to it, it's clear that Chinese government officials clearly have a direction that they want things to go in Canada, and they have certainly tried to influence elections, through Chinese language media, networking of officials, and donations. How much of this really impacts Canadian life? Only a true independent public inquiry can find out.
- Alberta makes news this week being the first province to require body cameras.
- We would be remiss if we didn’t mention at the start of this story the horrific police shooting where Const. Travis Jordan and Const. Brett Ryan were killed by a 16 year old suspect at a domestic disturbance call. We offer our sympathies and condolences to those involved and the entire policing community.
- Alberta will be the first province to mandate this for its police officers.
- Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Services Mike Ellis said, “The demand for transparency has never been more clear. he desire for policing services to be committed to ensuring that they are worthy of the trust that we put in them to protect the public is high.”
- The government sees this as a way to increase transparency in policing and that is incredibly important in the climate we live in today. We’ll get to why this is important later.
- The government also sees this as a way to speed up court cases in that it will collect better evidence and improve the approach the police use to resolve complex complaints.
- This policy will not affect jurisdictions policed by the RCMP and it would be up to the federal government to implement their own policy.
- There is no present timeline to when the devices would be deployed but the government expects to hear back from their working group in 3-4 months on the project and that will clarify implementation details.
- The criticism on this policy from the NDP has been one based around the unknown costs of the project and that they see it as the UCP announcing something without doing anything.
- Calgary police have adopted the cameras and last year a report said that use of force incidents were down by 11% after the devices were brought in.
- The cameras in Calgary also halved the time it takes to investigate complaints about officer conduct.
- And their outreach, surprisingly or unsurprisingly, found that 95% of residents in Calgary support police using cameras.
- The “Systemic Racism in Policing in Canada” report to the standing committee on public safety and national security in 2020 heard from some witnesses that said they felt body cameras could improve police accountability.
- Vice-Chief Terry Teegee was a proponent of increasing body camera use while others suggested that their use is mixed at best with some studies supporting camera use and others arguing against.
- When it comes to systemic racism internal accountability has been always on the table and is seen as a problem in the national RCMP police force.
- The report also suggested that police officers need to be held accountable but middle management also needs to be held accountable when there are claims of harassment and discrimination.
- The hope is that cameras could help remedy these situations.
- Everything that happens within the Alberta government from now until election day must be viewed as a peg in the board to be re-elected.
- This policy is interesting because it is something that you could see being part of a broader anti-racism social policy that the NDP would put forward.
- The NDP has talked about a plan to address racial inequity in the province and the connection to social advocacy groups like Black Lives Matter can’t be understated.
- Anytime there is a police shooting in the US, Black Lives Matter and the issue of police violence make their way into Canada even if it’s not as prevalent here as it is in the US.
- This while being good policy puts in place a firewall for the UCP where if the topic of police or institutional racism comes up between now and the election there is a policy to springboard off of for the UCP.
- With the right framing this policy effectively takes any idea of the UCP being a racist party off the table should any fake news pieces crop up or candidates fail their vetting process.
- In summary we learnt three things this week.
- The UCP should not be written off as a party that can contest Edmonton.
- This is good policy and it is a big deal that Alberta will be the first province to require the cameras.
- Third, the media was almost absent on what this policy meant for the coming election. That’s why we’re here.
- The mainstream media in Canada seems hyper focused on the government distracting us from the foreign influence story by changing the channel with their special rapporteur appointment, as we started discussing last week. As a result, there has been little coverage on other, more immediate problems that Canadians are facing right now, namely housing, healthcare, and the economy. To find any coverage on that right now, it is imperative to look towards sources outside of the mainstream to get a full picture of what's really going on in Canada right now.
- Both Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Opposition Leader Pierre Poilievre released housing strategies this week that absolutely got ignored this week over the continuing battle to get an independent investigation into the China file. The only major source that had devoted even a little bit of time to each was Global News, who only posted videos with a short 1 paragraph caption on each, not something you'd expect from the media in Canada. Why were they so intent on ignoring such a major story?
- First off, let's look at Poilievre's plan, which he announcing late this week as he toured Vancouver and Victoria, areas with some of the largest problems when it comes to housing prices. Namely, he wants to link the number of dollars that a given city received from the federal government for infrastructure to the number of new homes it builds. The more homes, the more money. Those city councils that block building permits or allow choking NIMBYism to stifle growth would see clawbacks to the amount of infrastructure funding they will get.
- Poilievre's announcement took place near the Broadway Street subway expansion in Vancouver, which has faced significant opposition from local NIMBYs and City Councillors for, among other things, trying to build more homes around transit stations. His plan would incentivize cities for building densified dwellings around transit stations, allowing the people that live there the capability to not have to own a car and be able to just use the train or bus to get to where they need to go.
- For Poilievre the plan is simple: Get cities to build more homes. In his words: “We have more places in Canada where there is no one, than places where there is anyone. But Justin Trudeau’s refusal to confront big city gatekeepers has resulted in Canada having the fewest homes per capita in the G7. Under the Liberals, the down payment needed to buy a house has doubled. In Vancouver, it’s tripled. Big cities, like Vancouver and Toronto, are the world’s 3rd and 10th most unaffordable cities in the world.”
- To help accomplish this, he also wants to sell off 15 percent of the federal government’s 37,000 buildings and require these buildings to be turned into affordable housing: “It’s time to bring homes people can afford, by removing government gatekeepers to free up land and speed up building permits.”
- Not to be left out, Prime Minister Trudeau then made his own announcement of the official launch of the Housing Accelerator Fund (HAF), a $4B initiative to help bolster housing supply across Canada.
- The incentive, outlined in the Federal Government’s 2022 budget, will provide funding for local governments to fast track the creation of 100K new middle class homes across Canada by 2024-2025. Trudeau said: “Canada has the fastest growing population in the G7, but our housing supply hasn’t kept up with demand. The Housing Accelerator Fund will help local governments cut red tape and backlogs, build the housing we need, and give more people in Canada a safe and affordable place to call home.”
- To access funding, municipal and Indigenous governments are required to submit an action plan that details their commitment to a housing supply growth target, outlines the specific initiatives they will undertake in order to increase housing supply and speed up approvals, and aligns with the Liberal Party's priorities of creating dense, affordable, inclusive, and diverse communities.
- Eligible initiatives include fixing outdated permitting systems, introducing zoning reforms to build more density, and incentivizing development close to public transit. Funding will be provided both upfront to support implementation as well as upon the delivery of results.
- So both plans ultimately have the same goal, with one being the carrot, and the other being the stick, so to speak. Even a group of members of the Liberal party note that both plans tackle a dire issue similarly.
- The Toronto New Liberals, an officially non-partisan group consisting mostly of younger members of the Ontario Liberal Party, and comprises the Toronto chapter of the Center for New Liberalism, were criticized on Twitter by trolls for posting photos almost back to back of them attending the OLP AGM in Hamilton, then of an unplanned meeting with Poilievre in a cafe in Hamilton on the same weekend.
- Alex Sonichev, a member of the TNL, said: “I personally might not have a lot of things to share with Pierre. But I think it’s good sometimes to reach across the aisle…especially on issues that we can agree on. My friends thought it was a good idea to chat with Pierre because his housing policy is not that bad.”
- The Center for New Liberalism is a self-described public policy organization “dedicated to forging a new path for liberalism in the age of populism.” With an international focus, the Toronto chapter is one of many across North America. The Center’s principles include a firm belief in a market economy, albeit with a strong social safety net, and promoting expanded commuter transit alongside deregulated housing policy and relaxed land-use restrictions. With an already strained housing supply, punishingly high rental costs, and a government intent on bringing in 500,000 new immigrants per year by 2025, housing is the main focus of the TNL.
- So with both parties having such similar plans, and with the problem taking the forefront of so many people's plans for the future, we have to ask, why is the media not covering it more? The failure of the mainstream media to tackle the issues that Canadians are facing, instead reaching for clickbait outrage journalism is despicable and needs to end.
- In our continuing coverage of the chinese communist party’s influence in Canada this week we learnt the name of the Special Rapporteur. Justin Trudeau has named former Governor General David Johnston as the Special Rapporteur.
- The press release released by the PMO said, "Canadians need to have confidence in our electoral system, and in our democracy. As Independent Special Rapporteur, David Johnston brings integrity and a wealth of experience and skills, and I am confident that he will conduct an impartial review to ensure all necessary steps are being taken to keep our democracy safe and uphold and strengthen confidence in it.”
- The scope that David Johnston is responsible for is to look for foreign interference in the last two federal elections and make recommendations.
- But as we learnt in BC this week, it goes beyond the 2019 and 2021 federal races.
- NDP leader Jagmeet Singh commended the pick of David Johnston using the words “trustworthy”, “integrity”, and “non-partisan.” He is still calling for a public inquiry on the matter.
- The Conservatives took a different approach tying Johnston to the Trudeau foundation. In particular, they see a conflict of interest because the Pierre Elliot Trudeau Foundation received $200,000 in donations from the chinese communist party.
- This stance is prevalent throughout the Conservative party including leader Pierre Poilievre who said, “What is truly ‘horrific partisanship’ is Trudeau covering up the election help he got from Beijing—and then appointing a ‘family friend’ and member of the Beijing-funded Trudeau Foundation to ‘rapporteur’ about it.”
- The reality though is different. David Johnston was appointed Governor General in 2010 after the 2008 constitutional crisis when the Governor General’s role came into focus after the initial shocks of the 2008 financial crisis when the polka-dot coalition threatened to topple a freshly elected government.
- It was not known in 2010 whether Harper would continue to govern with a minority, that led to the choice of David Johnston who himself is a constitutional and legal expert. He was a perfect fit for that role.
- David Johnston’s term was renewed in 2015 and he stayed on until 2017 to potentially navigate the results of the expected hung parliament after the 2015 election.
- He also led the inquiry into the Airbus scandal that dealt with allegations regarding secret payments paid to members of the government in exchange for Air Canada (then a crown corporation) purchasing Airbus aircrafts. This happened in the 1980s under Brian Mulroney’s leadership.
- The Conservatives have even gone as far as saying Johnston is “another establishment Liberal.”
- As Governor General David Johnston exercised his role better than either of Trudeau’s appointees to the role have and we only say that because current Governor General Mary Simon has not been tested with any sharp constitutional challenges yet and Julie Payette was borderline fired from the job.
- This story comes in a week in which we learn about influence in the Vancouver mayoral election of last year and the CSIS whistleblower penned an opinion piece in the Globe and Mail.
- The appointment of David Johnston should have been a quick checkmark on the piece of paper and back to business for the Conservatives.
- But instead the topic of discussion has shifted about what Trudeau knew and when to whether or not David Johnston is a good pick.
- That’s precisely why David Johnston was chosen, to turn the channel away from him because the Prime Minister knew that Johnston’s connections to the Trudeau foundation would be too irresistible for the opposition to talk about.
- The problem is not David Johnston and won’t be unless for some reason it comes out he was chosen in a corrupt manner.
- The issue is that the channel was largely turned away from the question of a public inquiry this week and no one in the country, media or opposition has noticed this.
Quote of the Week
“With regards to the 2022 City of Vancouver mayoral election, CG Tong stated that they need to do all they could to increase the ethnic voting percentage. They needed to get all eligible voters to come out and elect a specific Chinese-Canadian candidate. CG Tong emphasized this work was necessary, as the candidate will rely on those votes. In parallel, CG Tong indicated they needed someone within the Vancouver City Council.” - A leaked CSIS report discussing Chinese influence in Vancouver’s 2022 election.
Word of the Week
Horrific - a situation grossly offensive to decency or morality
How to Find Us
Episode Title: Inquiring Influence
Teaser: China reportedly influenced Vancouver’s 2022 election, Alberta mandates police body cameras, and Poilievre and Trudeau have similar housing strategies. Also, David Johnston is named the special rapporteur.
Recorded Date: March 18, 2023
Release Date: March 19, 2023
Edit Notes: None
Podcast Summary Notes