“I disagree with Mr. Johnston in his decision to remain as a special rapporteur,” Singh told reporters. “I think he’s made the wrong decision.”
The NDP motion in the House of Commons called for Johnston to step aside and passed on Wednesday in a vote of 174-150, with only the Liberals voting against it. In a letter after the vote, Johnston said his mandate comes from the government and he has a duty to pursue that work until it is complete.
However, Singh repeated Thursday that given a “strong appearance of bias,” Johnston can’t actually do the work he was intended to do.
“The work was to restore confidence that everything is being done by our government and the electoral system to ensure we are free from foreign interference,” Singh said.
“That work requires the trust and confidence of the public and has been eroded by this appearance of bias, which is too strong.”
Singh said he will continue to put pressure on the government for a public inquiry into foreign interference in Canadian affairs.
Johnston was picked by the Liberal party to recommend for or against a public inquiry. In a report in May, he recommended against a public inquiry, reasoning that much of the evidence that would be required can’t be made public due to national security concerns.
Instead, Johnston said he will hold public hearings as part of the continued probe he is working on and plans to file a second report on his findings.
However, all opposition parties have called for a public inquiry as more reports have surfaced of Chinese interference in Canadian politics, including attempts to interfere with former Conservative leader Erin O’Toole as well as Conservative MP Michael Chong and NDP MP Jenny Kwan.
Johnston has previously been on the board of the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation, which faced intense criticism for its past acceptance of a donation linked to China. The board of directors, president and CEO resigned over the scrutiny of that donation in April.
The foundation is a registered charity that is prohibited from engaging in political activity and primarily funds scholarships. But Johnston’s membership as well as his connections with the Trudeaus have led to accusations that he is not the best person to independently investigate Chinese interference.
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