Madam Speaker, I rise to speak to the motion put forward by my colleague, the member for Wellington—Halton Hills, on the Speaker's ruling and prima facie determination that the member's privileges were breached as a result of tactics of intimidation employed by a diplomat at Beijing's Toronto consulate.
This motion arises from a May 1 report in the Globe and Mail in which it was revealed that a July 20, 2021, CSIS intelligence assessment identified that a Beijing diplomat had sought to sanction and intimidate the family in Hong Kong of the member for Wellington—Halton Hills as retribution for the member bringing forward a motion in this House to call out the Beijing regime for its gross human rights violations in East Turkestan and to call those gross human rights violations out for what they are, and that is genocide.
It was an attempt by the Beijing regime to have a chill effect on a sitting member and to interfere in that member's ability to do his job and fulfill his duties as a member of Parliament to speak in this House, to put forward a motion, to stand in his place and to vote on that motion on the basis of principle on behalf of his constituents and on behalf of Canadians. This is about as serious as it gets.
For two years, the Liberals sat on that information. They sat on the fact that a Beijing diplomat was seeking to undermine our democracy by interfering with the ability of the member for Wellington—Halton Hills to perform his duties as a member of Parliament. Not only that, they sat on the fact that Beijing's Toronto consulate was also involved in other intimidation and interference activities affecting members of Parliament.
The Prime Minister claimed that he knew nothing about it and that he learned about it in the Globe and Mail. Last Wednesday, the Prime Minister tried to change the channel by blaming CSIS. He said, “CSIS made the determination that it wasn't something that needed to be raised to a higher level because it wasn't a significant enough concern.”
Then, on Thursday, the member for Wellington—Halton Hills was informed by the Prime Minister's national security adviser, Jody Thomas, that the Prime Minister's assertion was not true and that, in fact, the July CSIS intelligence assessment had been sent to the national security adviser of the PCO as well as to all of the relevant departments.
The Prime Minister's claim that he did not know anything about it just does not add up. It does not add up based upon what the Prime Minister's chief of staff told committee, namely that he is briefed regularly about national security matters, that he reads everything and that nothing is held back.
The Prime Minister's denial does not add up based on what CSIS told the committee, which is that CSIS definitely briefs the government when hostile foreign governments target politicians, and the Prime Minister's denial that he knew anything does not add up based upon what the Prime Minister's own national security adviser told the member for Wellington—Halton Hills. No one believes the Prime Minister when he says that he did not know. No one believes him, so he should just stop the charade and come clean that he covered it up for the Beijing regime.
Even though no one believes him, if I were to, for a minute, try to believe him, I would say that it is an equal indictment on the Prime Minister's complete lack of fitness to lead this country. This is a Prime Minister who is the leader of our country. He is responsible for the machinery of government. He is responsible for the broad organization and structure of government, and he has special responsibilities when it comes to national security.
For the Prime Minister to say he did not know is no excuse at all. It is an admission on the part of the Prime Minister that he does not care, is asleep at the switch and is not doing his job protecting the safety and security of Canadians, including sitting members of Parliament, from being intimidated from doing their jobs seriously in the face of an unprecedented campaign of interference by the Beijing regime. This is all taking place under the Prime Minister's watch.
Then the Prime Minister decided to change the channel instead of taking responsibility. In the last eight years, I cannot remember a time he has ever taken responsibility. He is never responsible. What did the Prime Minister do instead of acknowledging that, as the Prime Minister, he is responsible for the machinery of government and has special responsibilities for government? He then blamed the member for Wellington—Halton Hills.
The Prime Minister sent two of his parliamentary secretaries into the chamber on Thursday to falsely assert that the member for Wellington—Halton Hills had been briefed, knew his family was in harm's way, and knew so for two years, but did not tell his family or his colleagues. He essentially asserted that he was misleading Canadians now to make a big deal about what is certainly is a big deal.
It was while I was speaking to my motion, to kick off the debate calling for, among other things, a public inquiry into foreign interference and expelling the Beijing diplomat involved in this intimidation campaign, which the Liberals voted against today, that it happened. In the course of that debate, the member for Kingston and the Islands asserted that. I have to admit that I was floored by what I was hearing. I could not believe what he was saying.
Then the member for Winnipeg North doubled down on that misinformation to blame the member for Wellington—Halton Hills. In fairness, the member for Winnipeg North has stated that he did not have his facts straight, which is a start. He should apologize, but it is a start that he did not do the right thing that day. As well, the member for Kingston and the Islands has apologized, but not the Prime Minister. He has not shown some level of class, which the member for Winnipeg North and the member for Kingston and the Islands have demonstrated. No, he has not.
The Prime Minister has doubled down on his misinformation campaign. He directed those members to come into the House to spread misinformation. Then, the very next day, he continued to spread the misinformation and continued his attack on the member for Wellington—Halton Hills.
Here is what the Prime Minister said on Friday: “I was reassured to see that [the member for Wellington—Halton Hills] had received multiple briefings following the information collected by CSIS to ensure that he and his family were kept safe or would at least know what was going on in the extent that they needed to and they could be briefed.”
The Prime Minister knew on Friday that the member for Wellington—Halton Hills had been briefed once, but he had not been briefed about the particulars concerning Zhao Wei and the efforts to intimidate him by sanctioning his family because of how he had voted in the House. The Prime Minister was aware on Friday that the member for Wellington—Halton Hills had received a briefing of a general nature that had nothing to do with the matter. However, in the face of that, we have a Prime Minister who was spreading this misinformation on Friday. Why would the Prime Minister do that?
Is that a Prime Minister who is genuinely concerned about the well-being of the family of the member for Wellington—Halton Hills in Hong Kong? Is that a Prime Minister who has the integrity to admit that his government did not get it right and that the member should have been briefed? No, it is not a Prime Minister with integrity. It is a Prime Minister who is using every tactic in the book to change the channel to avoid accountability, and in the most disgusting of ways, engage in victim blaming by trying to disgracefully impugn the integrity of the member for Wellington—Halton Hills, a member who I have gotten to know over the last eight years and who many members, in all corners of the House, have gotten to know.
If there is one thing that can be said of the member for Wellington—Halton Hills, it is that he is a member of principle and integrity. He does not deserve this. If the Prime Minister had any integrity, he would apologize and he would apologize now to the member for Wellington—Halton Hills for spreading this kind of misinformation.
This is part of a pattern that we have seen. The Prime Minister covers up issues of interference in our elections by Beijing and intimidation attempts by Beijing diplomats accredited in Canada. It gets reported on in the media, and then the Prime Minister tries to offer up excuses, blame others and say that there is nothing to see here at all.
Nothing that we know about Beijing's interference in our elections or by Beijing diplomats is a result of anything that this Prime Minister has said. CSIS has advised the Prime Minister that the best approach to dealing with matters of foreign interference is sunshine and transparency, but there has been no sunshine. There has been no transparency. There has just been one cover-up after another.
Only now, because the Prime Minister got caught covering up for this Beijing diplomat one week after The Globe and Mail first reported this, did the government, this afternoon, after voting against the official opposition motion, finally send Zhao Wei packing.
It took the government and the Prime Minister two years. I can remember when the Minister of Foreign Affairs came before the procedure and House affairs committee a little over a month ago. This report in The Globe and Mail had not yet come to light, but there was plenty of evidence that Beijing diplomats, particularly at the Toronto consulate, as well as the Vancouver consulate, had been engaged in election interference activities. In the face of that, I asked the minister why it was that not a single Beijing diplomat had been expelled. The Minister of Foreign Affairs, incredibly, talked about a lack of evidence.
Obviously, the minister and the government did have evidence. They had evidence with respect to Zhao Wei because they knew about it two years ago, but there she was, saying there was no evidence. Now, a week later, after it has been reported in The Globe and Mail, there was finally the evidence to send him packing. Why did it take two years?
By the way, what is the minister talking about with respect to the need for evidence? What is the parliamentary secretary talking about with the need for due process with respect to these Beijing diplomats? There does not need to be due process. When there are findings of interference, article 9 gives the government the unfettered discretion to expel any diplomat, at any time, for any reason. Yes, it is true that making a decision to expel a diplomat could result in retaliatory measures being taken by the Beijing regime. I acknowledge that is something the Liberal government, and any government, would have to weigh.
However, let me also say there is a cost of inaction. I would submit that that cost, in these circumstances, is far greater. It is simply intolerable that we have Beijing diplomats involved in facilitating the clandestine transfer of funding to candidates, targeting Conservative candidates in the 2021 election, and then bragging about the role they played in seeing that certain incumbent members of Parliament, whom they did not like, were defeated. It is intolerable that we have Beijing diplomats responsible for organizing illegal police stations to harass and intimate Chinese Canadians at what are effectively black sites. It is intolerable that we have Beijing diplomats intimidating members of Parliament and their families.
It should not have taken two years. It should not have taken the Globe and Mail report, and it should not have taken a week of pressure from the official opposition for the government to finally send this Beijing diplomat home. When it comes to protecting our national security from Beijing, the Prime Minister is completely incompetent and unfit for office.