ontario news watch

Singh won’t break pact with Liberals despite concern PM isn’t protecting democracy

OTTAWA — Federal New Democrat Leader Jagmeet Singh is not willing to break ranks with the minority Liberal government, even after criticizing the prime minister for failing to protect Canada’s democracy.

Singh said the evidence from a recent spy watchdog report shows Justin Trudeau is willing to accept some level of foreign interference, which weakens democracy and undermines the confidence of Canadians.

He made those comments Thursday after reviewing a national security committee’s unredacted report that said a number of MPs have knowingly provided help to foreign governments — information Trudeau has had for months.

“He may disagree with that intelligence, but I believe he has not taken the steps he should have to deal with this,” Singh said. “He has sent the message that he is willing to accept some level of foreign interference.”

If Singh really has concerns Trudeau is failing to protect democracy, he must pull his support from the Liberals and let them face Canadians in an election, a spokesperson for the Opposition Conservatives charged.

But Singh signalled his party will not walk away from the confidence-and-supply deal that is keeping the minority government in power.

“The suggestion that an election is a solution to election interference is, I think, a fallacy,” Singh said.

Several investigations have found that foreign interference did not threaten Canada’s ability to have free and fair elections in 2019 and 2021. That includes the interim report from a commission of inquiry that is currently examining allegations of foreign interference in the two votes.

Still, the intelligence community views Canada as a permissive environment for foreign actors to pursue their strategic interests.

The New Democrats will continue to use existing tools available to parliamentarians to find solutions to combat foreign interference, Singh said, but he did not specify what will be done.

The Liberal government has undertaken various measures to protect Canada’s democracy from foreign interference, the National Security Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians found in its report last week.

But it concluded that those measures haven’t been effective enough, and there is a persistent disconnect between the gravity of the threat in Canada and the efforts to counter it.

The committee said it believes that gap is why foreign governments — such as those of China and India — continue to view Canadian elections and institutions as easy targets to advance their agenda.

Singh was the second opposition party leader to view an unredacted version of the report, after the Green Party’s Elizabeth May. The head of the Bloc Québécois said he would seek a briefing, while Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre has declined to pursue the required security clearance.

A wide-ranging government bill on foreign interference is before the Senate after passing in the House of Commons this week.

The legislation would introduce new criminal provisions against deceptive or surreptitious acts, establish a foreign influence transparency registry and allow for the sharing of sensitive information with businesses and others beyond government.

The government said it hopes the bill will pass before Parliament’s summer break.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 14, 2024.

Mickey Djuric, The Canadian Press