At the very least, the House of Commons affairs committee must investigate attempts by Chinese communist actors to cost Conservative votes in the 2021 campaign, former Conservative leader Erin O’Toole told the Commons.

And rightly so.

“My parliamentary caucus and myself were the target,” said O’Toole following a secret briefing with the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS).

“My parliamentary caucus and myself were the target of a sophisticated misinformation and voter suppression campaign orchestrated by the People’s Republic of China.”

This puts added public pressure on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to call the public inquiry he insists is not needed, and who is backed by former governor general David Johnston, the Trudeau-appointed special rapporteur into communist China’s interference and manipulations in recent Canadian elections.

Johnston’s main publicly stated reason to quash the need for a public inquiry appears to be the huge amount of classified information that must be protected from public eyes.

According to O’Toole, China provided money, workers and negative propaganda in a coordinated effort to defeat O’Toole and the Conservatives in the 2021 election.

“The first category of threat is related to foreign funding, specifically, the payment of funds by the Chinese Communist Party through the United Front Work Department (UFWD) to create specific products of misinformation about me as a member of Parliament and as leader of the Conservative Party of Canada,” O’Toole told the House.

He also said that the UFWD supplied human resources, providing workers to campaign against him, with some employed by this Beijing-directed group and others who were just aligned.

“They were organized and directed by a foreign state to amplify misinformation efforts,” O’Toole said.

“Unfortunately we’re seeing that countries, state actors from around the world, whether it’s China or others, are continuing to play aggressive games with our institutions, with our democracies,” Trudeau said when asked Monday.

“I also believe my privileges as a member and officer of Parliament were infringed by the government’s unwillingness or inability to act on the intelligence related to foreign interference,” O’Toole said.

“The briefing confirmed to me what I had long suspected – that my party, several of my caucus colleagues and myself were the target of a sophisticated misinformation and voter suppression campaign orchestrated by the People’s Republic of China before and during the 2021 general election.”

The issue of foreign interference in Canadian elections — chiefly from the Chinese government — has dominated federal political discussions for months. After media reports citing leaked documents by Global News and the Globe and Mail, Trudeau appointed former governor general David Johnston as a “special rapporteur” on foreign interference.

The opposition New Democrats, who have propped up the minority Liberal government, is now calling on Johnston to resign after he recommended against a public inquiry into foreign interference – a decision that has faced intense scrutiny and criticism since he announced it last week.

It began after months of media reporting, primarily Global News and the Globe and Mail relying on national security sources and leaked documents, revealed that Conservative MP Michael Chong’s family was targeted by Chinese officials upset about the Ontario MPs support for a motion to recognize China’s treatment of the Uyghur minority as genocide.

But targeting the leader of the Conservative — at that time, a potential prime minister — is another kettle of fish.

“The Communist government’s ideal outcome is to have its critics pull their punches and turn a blind eye. It is to create, at the end of the day, a chilling effect on public policy and a chilling effect on parliamentary debate,” O’Toole said.

“This novel and expanding situation of foreign interference in our politics, seeking to silence the debates of this Parliament, must be met and our parliamentary democracy must be defended.”


  • Mark Bonokoski

    Mark Bonokoski is a member of the Canadian News Hall of Fame and has been published by a number of outlets – including the Toronto Sun, Maclean’s and Readers’ Digest.