Like The Hub?
Join our community.
Join

Harry Rakowski: Canadians deserve an uncompromising investigation into Chinese interference

Commentary

The recent controversy about the role of Chinese interference in Canadian elections is not just a political crisis, but also a direct threat to the integrity of our elections. This should be of great concern to members of all political parties, regardless of the fact that the election outcome was likely not altered—this time. The CSIS whistleblower who leaked the story did so with the great risk of criminal prosecution. The leaker wrote an unsigned opinion piece in the Globe and Mail explaining that they took the personal risk because it was outweighed by the greater risk to Canada and the lack of action to both disclose and deal with Chinese interference. If it sounds a lot like Deep Throat, the whistleblower of the Watergate cover-up, it is with good reason.

It is worth remembering that the Watergate scandal and Richard Nixon’s resignation were more about lying to Congress about his complicity in the cover-up than the stealing of confidential documents.

All three major opposition parties have asked for a formal inquiry to understand the full nature of the threat and to be informed about what the government knew, when they knew it, and what they did about it. While opposition parties always want to show up the government for political reasons, even liberal columnists have favoured an inquiry to truly understand the scope of interference and its consequences.

It is yet to be proven that the government and the prime minister have lied about what they knew and when they knew it. It is troubling then, if they have nothing to hide, that Katie Telford, the prime minister’s chief of staff, was prevented from testifying to a parliamentary committee by an extended filibuster. She will now be allowed to appear only after the NDP indicated that they would vote for a Conservative motion compelling her to do so.

It is presumed that though she may stickhandle some questions, she has the integrity to tell the truth. The fact that the government was willing to take a good deal of public criticism on this issue and even risk an election raises the likelihood that there are much more painful truths that are being hidden.

The response of the Liberal government is to deny any wrongdoing or the need for an open inquiry. Instead, they appointed an eminent Canadian, a highly respected former governor general, David Johnson, as a “special rapporteur” who will investigate the allegations and make his recommendations for next steps that the government has promised to accept.

The fallout has been swift and political. David Johnston is highly qualified, intelligent, exceptionally ethical, and understands China and politics. Is he somewhat conflicted by his connections to the Pierre Trudeau Foundation and the government sponsorship of his Rideau Hall Foundation? Yes he is; however, if Justin Trudeau expects any benefit of the doubt because of this relationship or any perceived “friendship”, he will be sorely mistaken.

Politics and optics may yet prevent the appointment and if it doesn’t, the government would be well advised to have no restrictions on the scope of the investigation, or access to witnesses, whatever the political risk. It also has to guarantee that the full report from any rapporteur with all the recommendations is fully public, whatever the findings. Trudeau has given Johnson until May 23 to decide whether a formal public inquiry is necessary and until the end of October to otherwise provide his report.

The political mudslinging that accuses His Excellency David Johnston of being a biased Liberal tool comes from those who failed to attend any ethics lectures on Parliament Hill themselves. I suspect that David Johnston accepted the position because he was asked to help inform Canadians about an issue essential to national security and he thought he could equitably unravel what happened and what needs to be done.

A rapporteur’s role historically is to provide reports after reviewing facts and evidence. It is a role uncommon in politics. A dissembler is much more common in politics. It is someone who dissembles rather than tells the truth. It is a variation of straight-out lying in that you pretend to tell the truth while disguising your intentions behind a false appearance.

It remains to be seen whether a special rapporteur will find a politician who shades the truth, or a dissembler who hides the truth and will pay the price.

Opinion: Organized labour’s unlikely new alliance could shift Canada’s political landscape

Commentary

It’s time to confront and break down the barriers between conservatives and organized labour and foster closer cooperation and the adoption of public policies based on shared values and interests.

We conservatives are strongly pro-free market and pro-wealth creation. Markets will only work well and deliver widespread prosperity if they have the support of strong community institutions. Among them are labour unions which provide workers with power in the labour market and representation in the workplace. They afford solidarity, mutual aid, bargaining power, and workplace representation, all of which can benefit workers, their families, and communities—both economically and socially. Especially for conservatives, who understand better than anyone the importance of institutions, unions are worth defending. 

Unfortunately, the labour movement has faded toward irrelevance and alienated many of its members with an excessive focus on identity politics and social justice activism. On the other side, conservative hostility to organized labour remains stubborn, rooted in political and historic rather than differences in principle. Many conservatives are simply triggered by language like “solidarity,” “mutual aid,” and “bargaining power.” How many times have we heard, “why bother reaching out to unions, they hate us implacably?”

In their exhaustive study, “Canada’s New Working Class,” authors Sean Speer, Sosina Bezu, and Renze Naute say, “If the working class was a singular voting bloc, it would have won the popular vote in the 2019 and 2021 federal elections.” The greatest challenge facing many conservative parties in Canada, especially the Conservative Party of Canada, is a stagnant, inefficiently distributed voter base. Finding and motivating new conservative voters—especially in battleground ridings and regions—is a strategic imperative. Working-class Canadians, with shared values and alienated by the frivolity of progressive politics, are a natural source of new conservative voters. 

The political pay-off for the conservatives in overcoming their aversions and forging bonds with the labour movement is immense, supported by research and obvious anecdotal evidence, none greater than the most recent Ontario general election in which Premier Doug Ford and the Ontario PC Party received the endorsement of every major building and trade union. 

Premier Ford has shown us the way. At the forefront of Ford’s effort to build bridges with labour is Monte McNaughton, minister of labour, who has been at the helm of the PCs’ “Working for Workers” agenda including an increase to the minimum wage, an introduction of the “right to disconnect,” and efforts to ensure trades unions are overseen by a body that represents them through Skilled Trades Ontario.

McNaughton’s playbook is clearly based on the Jason Kenney outreach model that made the federal conservative party so successful with new Canadians during the early and middle years of the Harper government. This strategy recognizes that the workers represented by these unions demographically and attitudinally look a lot like conservative voters. The Ontario PCs have turned large numbers of potential voters into actual voters through targeted policy announcements and a significant amount of time spent talking directly to these voters and their leadership.

Small c-conservatives too often cede economic policymaking to our libertarian cousins. The “unions are bad” opinion that is pervasive in the conservative movement and parties is a great challenge. Overcoming it is the mission of the Common Good Project. It isn’t easy to change long-held opinion, but recent history proves it can be done through disciplined effort over the long term. The starting point is the recognition that conservatives and labour are aligned in their values and interests, especially the belief that everyone who wants to better their lives through hard work should be given a fair chance to do so.