PM faces fresh allegations he was briefed on Beijing's plans to fund candidates
Questions about whether the Prime Minister's Office was briefed on alleged Chinese interference in the 2019 election dominated question period again on Wednesday — with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau calling suggestions that he isn't loyal to Canada "despicable."
Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre tried multiple times Wednesday to get the prime minister to respond to allegations that he and his national security adviser were warned that Chinese government officials were funnelling money to Canadian political candidates — despite their claims to the contrary.
According to reporting by Global News, the Privy Council Office prepared a report for the Trudeau government warning that Chinese officials in Toronto had disbursed money to a "covert network tasked to interfere in Canada's 2019 election."
"A large clandestine transfer of funds earmarked for the federal election from the PRC Consulate in Toronto was transferred to an elected provincial government official via a staff member of a 2019 federal candidate," the report says, according to Global.
Global reported similar allegations back in November — that the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) briefed Trudeau in January 2022 on Chinese efforts to interfere in that election. The interference reportedly included the Chinese government sending money to at least 11 candidates.
"We have no information on any federal candidates receiving money from China. That is still the case," Trudeau said in the House of Commons Wednesday.
WATCH: Conservatives question Trudeau on reports he was warned of Chinese election interference:
Trudeau dodges questions about election interference warning
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau dodged questions on Wednesday about whether he was briefed in 2019 about China trying to interfere in Canada’s election.
Poilievre asked all the questions directed at the prime minister Wednesday. He pressed Trudeau to state which staffers received briefings and "how much his party got in illegal donations funnelled from Beijing."
"He's not interested in protecting the safety of the people serving this country. He's interested in protecting the Liberal Party of Canada," said Poilievre.
The day before, the Conservative leader suggested to reporters that security officials have been leaking allegations about election interference to the media because they "must be very worried about how the prime minister is working against the interests of his own country and his own people."
"And so they are so concerned about how the prime minister is acting against Canada's interest and in favour of a foreign dictatorship's interests, that they are actually releasing this information publicly," he said Tuesday.
Trudeau said it was "despicable" for an MP to question the loyalty of another member of Parliament.
"To suggest that anyone in this house isn't devoted to serving Canadians, and keeping those who serve Canada in dangerous positions safe, is quite disgusting," he said Wednesday during a rowdy exchange with the opposition.
The Conservative leader responded that "no drama lesson" would distract him from his questions and, again, pushed for more information about the alleged funding.
"I've asked it multiple times. I find it incredible that he can't stand up and answer with a zero," Poilievre said.
Trudeau then suggested Poilievre was trying to backtrack "from his heinous and disgusting accusations of disloyalty to Canada."
The testy question period followed weeks of questions about China's interference in the past two elections and what the federal government knew about it.
A panel of civil servants set up to monitor for foreign meddling during the last two elections said that while they did observe attempts at interference, it did not reach a level that would have threatened the integrity of the results.
Speaking to reporters earlier in the day, Trudeau deflected specific queries while acknowledging Canadians have unanswered questions about China's role in the past two elections.
WATCH: Trudeau questioned about foreign interference claims
'What did you know?' PM faces more questions about election interference
On his way into a caucus meeting, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau explained the creation of the special rapporteur looking into election interference when reporters pressed him for more answers on his knowledge of the situation.
He suggested a recently announced special rapporteur and two intelligence agencies are better placed to look into what kind of information was shared with whom.
"To be quite honest, I know that no matter what I say, Canadians continue to have questions about what we did and what we didn't," he told reporters on Parliament Hill Wednesday.
"It is of concern to people that China continues to try to interfere, and other countries are interfering in our democratic processes."
Trudeau's national security and intelligence adviser, Jody Thomas, told a committee in December she saw no evidence that any candidates in the 2019 federal election were influenced by money from the Chinese government.
"The news stories that you have read about interference are just that — news stories," Thomas said.
"I'll just say it — we've not seen money going to 11 candidates, period."
On Wednesday, Trudeau said a recently announced special rapporteur will "dig deeply into everything anyone knew at any point."
He has also tasked two intelligence watchdogs — the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians (NSICOP) and the National Security and Intelligence Review Agency (NSIRA) — to look into the allegations and how the intelligence agencies responded.
He said they "have access to all top-secret documents, all briefings that might have been made or could have been made, or were not made from CSIS."
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said Trudeau's responses to questions on this topic have been lacking.
"The prime minister is signalling that he's not taking this seriously and is somewhat being dismissive and also in his action is seeming like there's more and more to hide. All of this is not helping Canadians have confidence in their electoral system, and it's why we need to have a public inquiry," he said before question period
"Let's figure out what we can do to prevent this and reinforce our election system."
Trudeau has said a special rapporteur could recommend a public inquiry.
A spokesperson for the People's Republic of China denies the claim that it interfered in Canada's elections.
"China always opposes interference in other countries' internal affairs. We have no interest in and will not interfere in Canada's internal affairs," Mao Ning, spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told a media briefing Wednesday.
"It's absurd that some in Canada are making an issue about China based on disinformation and lies."
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