OTTAWA — Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer wants Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne to explain how his holding two mortgages with a Chinese bank doesn’t compromise his ability to deal with the People’s Republic.
Scheer wants Champagne to appear before the special House of Commons committee on Canada-China relations and he says Prime Minister Justin Trudeau needs to justify the cabinet appointment there too.
Scheer says Champagne is Canada’s top diplomat and China’s communist leaders can use the $1.2 million he owes on two London properties to the Bank of China as leverage at a time of strained relations.
Scheer pointed to the ongoing dispute that has seen two Canadian men arbitrarily detained by China since December 2018 and the fact Canada is dependent on Chinese supplies of personal protective equipment for COVID-19.
Scheer says some of those Chinese imports have included millions of defective masks that were of no use to front-line health workers.
Scheer is dismissing Liberal government rebuttals that Champagne disclosed the situation to the ethics commissioner and the information is posted publicly.
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“But the minister’s latest disclosure was only made on June 4, just a few days ago,” Scheer told a press conference on Friday.
“So did the minister disclose both mortgages when he was elected in 2015 or not?”
Scheer said Canadians may bank all over the world, “but there’s a big difference between a Canadian having a mortgage at a Chinese bank and Canada’s most senior diplomat being indebted to the PRC.”
Scheer said China’s communist party uses leverage to expand its influence.
“Owing someone over a million dollars — that’s pretty big leverage.”
Relations between Canada and China have been severely strained since the RCMP arrested Chinese high-tech scion Meng Wanzhou on an American extradition warrant in December 2018.
China arrested Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor nine days later in what is widely viewed as retaliation and has levelled accusations of spying against them.
Canada calls their detention “arbitrary” and has marshalled a broad coalition of international support calling for their release and that has angered Chinese leaders.
Champagne was appointed to his current cabinet post after last fall’s federal election, following stints as trade minister and infrastructure minister.