March 25, 2023

Pierre Poillièvre said Trudeau should abandon the special rapporteur process and instead hold a public inquiry.

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OTTAWA – Opposition leaders reject the choice of former Governor General David Johnston as special rapporteur on foreign interference investigations, and Conservative leader Pierre Poilivre calls Johnston Trudeau’s “family friend.”

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On Wednesday, Johnston was named special rapporteur and tasked with investigating foreign interference in Canada’s elections.

In a statement, Poilivre declined the appointment.

“Justin Trudeau appointed a ‘family friend’, old cottage neighbor and member of the Beijing-funded Trudeau Foundation as ‘independent’ spokesperson on Beijing’s intervention,” he said.

Poilivre said Trudeau should abandon the entire private rapporteur process and instead hold a public inquiry.

The Prime Minister said that Johnston knew his father Pierre Trudeau and that they were neighbors when Trudeau lived at Rideau Cottage and Johnston lived at Rideau Hall.

Johnston was appointed Governor General on the recommendation of former Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Harper also selected Johnston to write the terms of reference for what became the Airbus investigation.

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Since stepping down as governor general in 2017, Johnston has served as a federal leader’s debate commissioner and has been a member of the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation.

Members of the foundation help oversee it by choosing board members and performing other oversight functions. The Foundation provides scholarships to students in the humanities and social sciences. Most of the foundation’s funding comes from a $125 million donation that the government gave to the foundation in 2002 after Pierre Trudeau’s death. The fund can distribute the interest that the fund earns each year.

In 2016, two Chinese billionaires donated $200,000 to the foundation and pledged $800,000 to the University of Montreal. The Globe and Mail report cited security sources as saying that donors were ordered to make the donation and the Chinese government reimbursed the costs to influence the prime minister.

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At a press conference, Bloc Québec leader Yves-François Blanchet said he had met Johnston several times and the former Governor General seemed “a real gentleman”.

“However, if you want the population to feel safe because of the choice you made, you should choose someone who is unfairly not considered a friend of the family,” he said.

Blanchet accused Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of “beating around the bush” by instructing Johnston to investigate the seriousness of a public inquiry into allegations of Beijing’s meddling in the last election, instead of immediately launching an investigation.

“If, in the end, Johnston recommends a public inquiry, we will lose three, seven or ten months in vain,” he said.

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