The Conservatives, Bloc Québécois, NDP and the Greens Party have all been discussing what comes now after David Johnston resigned from his role as special rapporteur on June 9.
Johnston, who was tapped by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to examine the issue, said he was stepping down due to the “highly partisan atmosphere around my appointment and work.” The former governor general had faced weeks of scrutiny over what the opposition parties called a conflict of interest due to his ties to Trudeau’s family and the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation.
Despite calls from the opposition for an independent public inquiry, Johnston recommended against such a forum in his interim report. Following his resignation, Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc said all options were on the table for determining the “next steps” into the matter.
Opposition parties have been meeting with LeBlanc to discuss those next steps, and some have shared what they want to see happen now. Here’s what we know so far:
Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet kicked off the week by penning an open letter to LeBlanc Monday night stating his party’s desires.
In it, he said there must be a public and independent inquiry and that a person or persons chosen to lead it can only happen if all party leaders agree to their selection.
Blanchet put forward names for potential candidates, including former Supreme Court of Canada justice Louise Arbour — who conducted the independent review into the military’s handling of sexual misconduct in 2021 and 2022; former Liberal justice minister and now head of the Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights Irwin Cotler; former Canadian ambassador to China Guy St-Jacques and former Superior Court of Quebec judge Louise Otis.
He also suggested assistant commissioners given an inquiry’s mandate could be quite diverse, naming former chief electoral officer of Canada Jean-Pierre Kingsley as a candidate.
“We must proceed quickly because it goes without saying that Parliament must dispose of this issue before the end of this session … so that the electoral process is protected for the next federal election,” the letter, written in French, reads.
LeBlanc called the Bloc’s list “a positive step forward” on Tuesday, saying he hopes that by the end of next week, when Parliament is scheduled to break for summer, the government can announce what that public process will look like.
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh has said potential candidates for leading an inquiry should have no affiliation with the Trudeau Foundation.
Arbour, who had issued a blistering report on sexual misconduct in the Canadian military and was described by Blanchet as a leading personality for the role, has a past connection to the foundation, Singh said Wednesday.
The NDP is recommending that main federal party leaders or their representatives sit at a table to discuss terms of reference for an inquiry – or that the discussion happens at the procedure and House affairs committee, which has been studying foreign interference.
A party spokesperson told Global News they’re focused on the criteria of who should head a public inquiry.
“We’ve put forward a list of criteria that the committee should follow for their recommendation: they should be a sitting or retired judge, someone who hasn’t donated to a political party in the past ten years, and they should have no affiliation with the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation,” the spokesperson said.
“In addition, the mandate for the public inquiry should include all aspects of foreign interference from all states, including, but not limited to, the actions of Chinese, Indian, and Russian governments.”
Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre was scheduled to meet with Singh Wednesday to discuss terms for a possible public inquiry. Poilievre sat down with Blanchet on Tuesday, with the Bloc leader saying the two agreed not to share publicly what they talked about.
The Conservative Party did not respond to Global News’ request for comment on the party’s stance on what it wants going forward.
The Tories have been adamant that a public inquiry be held. Poilievre said on June 11 he would work with his opposition colleagues to ensure the person who fills that role is “independent and unbiased.”
The Conservatives were leading the calls for Johnston to resign over a perceived conflict of interest.
“We want to make sure there are no ties to the Trudeau family, no relationship to the Beijing-financed Trudeau Foundation, no other compromising relationship with … any foreign dictatorship and someone who has a track record of non-partisanship and neutrality,” Poilievre said June 11.
“The last thing we need is for the truth to continue to be hidden in the next election so there’s no accountability, but worse yet, there could once again be foreign interference in the next election. We need this public inquiry to be called immediately, and we need it to be on tight timeframes so that it gets its findings to the Canadian people so that we can prevent this kind of interference from ever happening again.”
Green Party Leader Elizabeth May told Global News Thursday that any inquiry should not be limited to one country alone.
Furthermore, it needs to be an independent commission of some kind – not necessarily a judicial inquiry, but there must be agreement across all parties on the independence and appropriate nature of a commissioner or commissioners to undertake the review.
“I can’t say we all agree specifically on the timeline, but I think everyone agrees, and certainly the Green Party’s view is that we should be able to get this completed before the next election,” she said.
May also said given the current “optics,” any person who leads an inquiry must not have an association with the Trudeau Foundation.
“I will defend the Trudeau Foundation as a really stellar organization that does a lot of good work, but at this point it’s obvious … any connection to the Trudeau Foundation was going to create a political firestorm in which the person who was selected would not be tenable,” she said.
May said there’s “good progress” being made on getting the file going and picking someone who is reliable, smart, uncompromised, independent, competent and who has previous experience with handling information related to national security in a public forum.
“I’d also say some experience in politics would help in terms of electoral politics, election laws and the ways in which our election laws aren’t strict enough to preclude foreign interference,” she said.
May added she believes the intention is for an individual or individuals, as well as a term of references, to be announced before Parliament breaks for the summer on June 23.
— with files from The Canadian Press