Tory motion fails after Katie Telford agrees to testify on foreign interference

Click to play video: 'Katie Telford to testify in election interference probe'
Katie Telford to testify in election interference probe
WATCH: Katie Telford to testify in election interference probe – Mar 21, 2023

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s chief of staff has agreed to testify on foreign election interference at a parliamentary committee investigating the matter, his office says.

The news of Katie Telford’s upcoming appearance at the procedure and House affairs committee (PROC) comes after the Conservatives tabled a motion in the House of Commons on Monday, calling on her to appear at the ethics committee, which is also investigating the matter.

That motion failed soon after the PROC committee unanimously approved its own motion for Telford to appear for at least two hours of testimony next month.

Conservatives have been trying to get Telford to appear at the House affairs committee for weeks, but Liberal filibustering had prevented a vote on the matter. That came to an end with the PMO’s statement Tuesday.

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“While there are serious constraints on what can be said in public about sensitive intelligence matters, in an effort to make Parliament work Ms. Telford has agreed to appear at the Procedure and House Affairs Committee as part of their study,” the statement said.

Telford will now appear at a yet-to-be-scheduled meeting between April 10 and 14, according to the PROC committee motion.

Trudeau doubled down on his office’s remarks on Tuesday afternoon, saying his government is taking the matter seriously.

Click to play video: 'Reaction to Johnston being named special rapporteur'
Reaction to Johnston being named special rapporteur

Singh said just minutes before the prime minister’s office statement that the NDP would support the Conservatives motion in the House unless the Liberals ended their filibustering at the House affairs committee. That committee is chaired by a Liberal MP, whereas the ethics committee is chaired by a Conservative MP.

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Government House Leader Mark Holland told reporters it wasn’t a “function of preference” which committee Telford would appear at, saying a motion requesting her testimony was already made at the PROC committee.

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Conservatives say Telford has valuable information regarding when Trudeau was briefed on allegations of Chinese interference in Canadian elections and society, an issue that has been captured in ongoing reports published by Global News and the Globe and Mail.

Click to play video: 'Katie Telford will testify on foreign election interference, PMO says'
Katie Telford will testify on foreign election interference, PMO says

“We are attempting to work with the opposition parties to ensure that they get the opportunity to pose the questions that they want to ask,” he said.

“It’s important that parliament work and so she’ll be appearing before the procedure and House affairs committee for two hours.”

A vote on the Tory House motion after question period on Tuesday afternoon failed, with the NDP voting on the side of the Liberals.

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Earlier Tuesday morning, Trudeau said his minority government would not make the Conservative House motion a confidence matter, a move that would force the NDP to choose whether to throw out the supply-and-confidence agreement over compelling Telford’s testimony.

“No, it’s not going to be a confidence motion. Obviously, it goes to how important the issue of foreign interference is, and I’m actually pleased to contrast the approach that we’ve taken,” Trudeau said.

Click to play video: 'Conservatives push for Katie Telford’s testimony on election interference, question NDP stance'
Conservatives push for Katie Telford’s testimony on election interference, question NDP stance

He added that the terms of reference for the special rapporteur position the government announced last week would be coming out on Tuesday, which they did. Former governor general David Johnston was named to the post, and will, among other things, assess whether a public inquiry into the allegations is needed. Trudeau has been under pressure to call one, but has passed off that decision to Johnston.

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“People will see that there is an expert process that will dig in to this in a non-partisan way, and people can contrast this with the kind of political circus that Mr. Poilievre is trying to generate.”

The Liberal government has been under immense pressure to explain what it knew about foreign interference in the 2021 election after the Globe and Mail reported last month that intelligence sources said China attempted to interfere in that campaign to help the Liberals win another minority government.

That report came after months of revelations from Global News about allegations of Chinese interference in the 2019 election.

— with files from Sean Boynton

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