Skip to content

Trudeau’s staff on Vancouver Chinese consulate allegations: ‘Bragging is not doing’

'It seemed improbable that the Chinese government would have a preference' for a Canadian government, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told the foreign interference commission
Prime Minster Justin Trudeau testified at the foreign interference commission Wednesday, April 10

Prime Minster Justin Trudeau testified at the foreign interference commission Wednesday, providing his version of how he has been briefed on the matter.

Over the course of 75 minutes, commission counsel went through some of the largely-redacted briefing materials that have come to Trudeau’s attention.

In one instance, Trudeau’s Chief of Staff Katie Telford noted from a foreign interference briefing that “bragging is not doing” — a reference to reported allegations the Chinese consul general in Vancouver boasted about defeating two Conservative MPs during the 2021 election.

When asked about that briefing, Trudeau paused before saying, “let me frame this in a way that’s not identifiable.”

He went on: “There was a foreign government official in Canada who was taking credit for a certain thing having happened in Canada in their reporting to a superior or their home country.”

In February 2023, the Globe and Mail reported the official was Chinese consul general Tong Xiaoling, who has denied the allegation.

Trudeau framed briefings brought to him from staff as like “conversations.” He also challenged the accuracy of intelligence, in one instance pointing to a briefing note that suggested he attended an event when he had not.

The inquiry has been shown intelligence reports indicating Chinese-language media with ties to the Chinese Communist Party had waged a coordinated campaign against Steveston-Richmond East MP Kenny Chiu, a Conservative incumbent in the 2021 election.

Trudeau said he “couldn’t really speak’ to the details of a briefing on Chiu because it was heavily redacted.

Trudeau was initially asked about his knowledge of the Liberal Party of Canada candidate nomination process in Don Valley North, which produced Han Dong as the successful candidate after Dong’s team brought a bus full of Chinese international students to vote for him.

Trudeau said Liberal campaign director Jeremy Broadhurst briefed him during the campaign.

“He shared with me that intelligence services shared with him concerns that Chinese officials in Canada had been developing plans to possibly engage in interference in the nomination contest, specifically by mobilizing buses filled with …I believe it was full of students or Chinese speakers or diaspora members who would be mobilized to support Han Dong,” said Trudeau.

(The Liberal Party allows foreigners residing in Canada to vote for its party’s candidates for Parliament.)

Trudeau said bussing in people for nomination votes is not unusual.

“Just the existence of buses wasn’t enough to be alarming,” he said.

“But there were concerns from CSIS that China might have been behind this.”

In the end, the party proceeded with Dong, who would later become part of a greater scandal — that of engaging in conversations with Toronto’s Chinese consul general, including allegations, reported by Global News, that he directed the consul general to not release Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, two Canadians jailed in China in retaliation for Canada detaining Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou.

Another reported allegation was China’s preferred election outcome was a minority Liberal government so as not to have a government take a strong stance on the country’s human rights abuses and trade tactics, among other matters.

Trudeau said he was briefed on such matters.

“It seemed improbable that the Chinese government would have a preference” of a party to run the Canadian government, said Trudeau. At any rate, he said it’s normal for diplomats to have political preferences.

At the inquiry last week, Chiu was critical of government’s response to the alleged misinformation campaign against him, claiming he was “drowning” and the only thing officials could do was inform him of the fact he was drowning.

When asked how government can do better to mitigate foreign interference, Trudeau said more needs to be done.

“We’ve continued to continue to do more,” said Trudeau.

[email protected]