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One former MP’s run for a Conservative riding nomination has sparked interest in the wake of the foreign interference inquiry, as the candidate has had positive and negative run-ins with the Chinese Communist Party.  

Former Conservative MP Bob Saroya announced that he will be running for the Conservative nomination for Markham—Unionville on Friday. 

“With gratitude for the opportunity to serve Markham—Unionville as MP from 2015 to 2021, I reflect on the initiatives we’ve undertaken. I’ve championed safer streets, fought against racism, and protected our health in crises,” wrote Saroya in a social media post.

“As I seek the nomination once again, it is with that same commitment to continue the hard work for all of #MarkhamUnionville.”

Saroya, as MP, took an eight-day trip to China in 2017, paid for by the foreign affairs arm of the Chinese Communist Party, as reported by the Globe and Mail at the time. 

China’s International Liaison Department is designed to woo those with political power overseas, helping Beijing to gain influence internationally.  

At the time of Saroya’s trip, then-Conservative leader Andrew Scheer publicly opposed the Liberals’ desire to sign a free-trade deal with China, believing Canada should instead be investing in more “like-minded democracies.”

This prompted a concerted effort from Beijing to gain influence over Conservative politicians. 

Saroya claimed that the visit involved nothing more than China trying to make inroads with Scheer, aiming to schedule a meeting between him and then Chinese ambassador to Canada Lu Shaye, so that he could deliver a congratulatory letter to Scheer from China’s foreign minister, Wang Yi. 

“So they sent a letter to the Chinese ambassador. They were trying to deliver the letter to Andrew Scheer, but nothing more than this,” said Saroya at the time.

Saroya initially told reporters his trip was paid for by the Bethune Medical Foundation but the Conservatives later confirmed this was inaccurate as the Chinese communist party’s international liaison department funded most of it, with the Bethune foundation covering only a part.

Saroya’s trip included meetings with top Chinese communist officials, including Guo Yezhou, the vice-minister of foreign affairs for the international department of the Communist party’s central committee. 

“When I was in China I did meet with some of these people. There was nothing special discussed,” Saroya told critics at the time. according to the Globe and Mail.  

He later regaled his trip on the Chinese social-networking app WeChat.

“Even though my voters had mentioned this to me again and again, when I actually stood in front of these wonders of the world, I was still shocked and felt proud of the splendid culture created by Chinese people,” wrote Saroya, referring to visits to the Great Wall and Beijing’s Forbidden City. 

While Saroya’s communist-sponsored travels raise eyebrows, he has also been a target of the Chinese regime.

“I have seen some reports of travel to China for Mr. Saroya, but I’m also aware of credible reports that Chinese officials attacked Mr. Saroya in the 2021 election,” Sam Cooper, journalist with The Bureau, told True North. 

Saroya’s nomination campaign comes as new details about Beijing’s influence on Canadian politics emerge through the public inquiry into foreign interference.

The only thing to come out of the inquiry with some degree of certainty is that the Chinese Communist Party is indeed meddling in Canada’s democratic processes. 

However, other reports claim that Saroya had been the target of attacks from Beijing as well, further complicating the story.

“I think the evidence is now clear across Canada that the PRC will seek to either attack or support election candidates at all levels of governments in efforts to bring Canada’s policies into Beijing’s orbit, and I think ultimately in efforts to divide us from our most important partner, the United States,” said Cooper. 

“So whether in Mr. Saroya’s case or that of any candidate across Canada, I think that parties should be asking questions about whether foreign governments including China but also Iran, India and others, have tried to support or oppose them.” 

Saroya and the Conservative party did not respond to requests for comment from True North.