The House resumed consideration of the motion.
Mr. Speaker, it is great to rise today to speak to this motion. I want to say from the outset that I have the utmost respect for the member for . As a matter of fact, the member for Wellington—Halton Hills is the only Conservative member of the House, over the last eight years, whom I have had the pleasure of going out to dinner with alone to talk about issues that we are both passionate about. I have always regarded the member for Wellington—Halton Hills as one of the most progressive voices on the other side of the House. In fairness, the bar has been set pretty low, but nonetheless, I have always had the utmost respect for him.
I sincerely apologize for the manner in which this debate got kicked off this morning. I should have perhaps chosen my words a little more closely. I have since apologized for that, but I think it is very important to reflect on what we are actually experiencing here.
We see the Conservatives, routinely, day after day, get up and directly and indirectly accuse the of Canada of lying. They have said so many times in this debate alone that the Prime Minister of Canada and the government have known about this particular incident with the member for for two years. They are saying it now. They are heckling about it now.
Why I find this to be so incredibly amazing is that, on the one hand, we all believe the member for when he says he was not briefed on this specific matter, yet we will not afford that same luxury of belief to the member for , the Prime Minister of Canada, when he says the same thing. I cannot help but wonder where all the outrage is in the House when the Prime Minister of Canada says he did not know until Monday and, time after time, the Conservatives will get up and say, well, yes, he did know and he is lying to us.
That is the double standard around here that I am having such an incredible time wrapping my head around. I believe the member for . I will get to my previous comments, but I also believe the member for , because they are both honourable members who come before the House. I think anybody who comes in here and cries bloody foul over the idea that we have to trust every member at their word, as they are honourable, but then chooses who exactly they are going to accept that from is disingenuous at best.
I think it is important to go back and reflect. What I said earlier in this debate is that the member for , along with 47 other members of Parliament, in 2022 alone, although for him it may have been in 2021, received defensive briefings from CSIS. Of course, we do not know what the content of those briefings was. We do not know exactly what was said, but we do know generally speaking what a defensive briefing is.
A defensive briefing is basically CSIS coming to a member of Parliament and saying that it wants to give the heads-up that they are person of interest who should be watching out for certain things. They are given some tips on how to handle this and on the things they should be looking out for, and are asked to inform CSIS when things happen. We know the member for and 48 other members in 2022 alone received that particular briefing.
When the member for says that he did not learn about these specific threats, I believe that. All I am trying to say is that we have to understand that these particular briefings occur on an ongoing basis. To come to the conclusion that they are one-offs is not the reality, because the CSIS report indicated that in the 2022 report.
The other thing that I am having a very hard time with is the general assertion from the other side of the House that the government has done nothing as it relates to foreign interference. That is completely and utterly untrue.
I will read the second half of what I read earlier in a question, because I think it is the most important part. It is from a 2013 CSIS report, the same one as the 2022 version from CSIS, the public report. The , the member for Carleton, who at the time was the minister of democratic reform, received that briefing, which said:
As boundaries between foreign state and non-state actors become increasingly blurred, it is particularly challenging for intelligence services to differentiate between legitimate and illegitimate activities. Foreign interference in Canadian society—as a residual aspect of global or regional political and social conflicts, or divergent strategic and economic objectives—will continue in the coming years.
The member for , when he was minister of democratic reform, received this briefing in 2013 and did absolutely nothing about it. For the two more years the Conservatives remained in government, they did not act on this. As a matter of fact, shortly after we came along in 2015, we brought in a bill to tighten up the rules around funding with respect to foreign interference. Do members know who voted against it? It was the Conservatives. The Conservatives voted against Bill , a bill that would specifically strengthen our ability to control foreign interference.
We have done a whole host of things in addition to that.
We established NSICOP, the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians. There are Liberal, Bloc and NDP members, as well as Conservative members when they choose to show up and not boycott the committee, who sit on this committee. They are sworn to secrecy and receive the most sensitive information, not only for this country but indeed for our allies around the world. They have the political oversight and accountability to assess information and make recommendations to CSIS and the government on how to act on it. By the way, it is a credible tool that the United Kingdom and other Westminster parliamentary systems have, and we adopted it.
What else did we do? We brought in a special advisory panel that is activated during the writ process of an election, while everybody in this House and other candidates are running around the country trying to sell themselves and their political parties as the best choice. We do not have the time or capacity in those circumstances to act as a caretaker to watch over our democracy at that most important time, the time when an election is happening. That committee is made up of experts who are charged with reacting in real time to what is happening. It is something the Conservatives have criticized as being an almost useless tool. These people are watching our elections in real time to make sure they are not being interfered with by foreign state or non-state actors.
The Conservatives have come here and said we have done nothing, when the record clearly shows they knew about this from CSIS in 2013 and did nothing about it for two years. We came along in 2015 and have implemented policies and legislation time after time since then to strengthen our ability to control foreign interference as it relates to our democracy. It is completely unfair for the Conservatives to be making their assertions and they should know better.
I will now get to the motion we are talking about today. I will be honest with members. Of the four asks in this motion, there are three I do not see a problem with.
One is to create a foreign agent registry, similar to those in Australia and the United States. We announced months ago that this is already in process; it is already happening.
I will get to the public inquiry in a second.
Another one is to close down the police stations run by the People's Republic of China and operating in Canada. Of course, the RCMP is going to be seized with that and will do everything it can there. There is only one respected police authority in each jurisdiction in this country: the RCMP federally; the provincial police, where applicable, or the RCMP as charged by the provincial governments; and the local police. Those are the only police authorities the government or any member of Parliament, regardless of the rhetoric, will ever accept, and we of course will do whatever necessary to ensure that illegal police stations and operations like these are shut down immediately.
Of course, the motion would expel all of the People's Republic of China's diplomats responsible for and involved in the affronts to Canadian democracy. As indicated today by the , she is absolutely willing to do that where it is deemed necessary. There is obviously a process in place to do that. She has already summoned the ambassador of China regarding this issue, so I do not have an issue with that either. I think, as appropriate, that absolutely has to happen.
The part I have a problem with, which I feel is the most political, is the call for the public inquiry. I will be honest. I am on the PROC committee, and when this first came before the committee, I thought to myself that it made sense. A public inquiry would shine sunlight on this issue. Why would we not do that?
Unfortunately, this is not what we heard from the experts who came before the committee, whether it was those from CSIS, the national security experts, or the head of the RCMP. Everybody told us that we were dealing with extremely classified information. There was no way we could release that information to the public, and not just because of the effect it would have domestically. Can members imagine how our Five Eyes partners would feel if they realized we were sharing this sensitive information? We would be the laughing stock of the international community. They could never trust us with that information. We would be ostracized from the international community if we were to try to release that information.
It became very clear to those who were sitting on the committee, and those who were interested in hearing the expert advice, that a public inquiry is not the place for this sensitive information to be discussed. Rather, we were told it should be discussed in NSICOP, which is the parliamentarian committee that is established for this.
What I found to be the most interesting out of all of that, when this discussion was happening, was that the member for , the Leader of the Opposition, was told by the media that the government offered to give him a briefing, but he would have to be sworn into secrecy. He was asked if he would be willing to take that briefing. He said he did not want to know the information if he could not go talk about it. All that matters to the member for Carleton, the Leader of the Opposition, is to grandstand and get out there to politicize every single issue he can get his hands on.
As such, the member for is not interested in receiving highly classified information, even if it is for the betterment of the country. He is not interested in that because it would serve absolutely zero political gain for him. That, I think, is what Canadians should be reflecting on.
As I come to the conclusion of my speech, I want to say that there is great opportunity here for the House to work together. I understand there is a difference of opinion, when it comes to the public inquiry. I am going to respect whatever David Johnston, the former governor general, recommends to the . The Prime Minister already said that we would accept his advice. If David Johnston says a public inquiry is the best way to go, we will do that.
However, I find it very troubling that members, primarily Conservatives, are railing against a former governor general who is so highly respected throughout this country. They talk about him as though he is a Liberal insider or something. He was a governor general who was appointed by Stephen Harper. The Conservatives should think about that.
They will stop at nothing. They are on a crusade to take down absolutely everybody, as long as it gives them a tiny bit of political gain. They would take an ounce of political gain at the expense of ruining somebody's reputation, if the opportunity presents itself to them, and they do it time after time after time.
We have an opportunity to work together to do something about foreign interference. I respect the debate between a public inquiry versus an inquiry that is not public. It is a debate that I respect. It is an issue I have found myself on both sides of, at times, and I hope we can have meaningful debates about how we can genuinely affect the security of our democracy. It is absolutely imperative. It is not something we should be playing politics with.
I will take responsibility for the way this debate started off today. I feel as though I contributed to that manner, and I apologize for that, but I really hope that, when this settles down, we can all focus on what is really important, and that is protecting the democracy we all hold so dearly.