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Update on public inquiry talks could come ‘very soon’: Holland

Click to play video: 'Foreign interference: Conservatives continue to press for public inquiry in Johnston resignation aftermath'
Foreign interference: Conservatives continue to press for public inquiry in Johnston resignation aftermath
WATCH: Conservatives continue to press for public inquiry in Johnston resignation aftermath – Jun 20, 2023

Government House Leader Mark Holland appeared to hint on Wednesday about a potential update on calls for a public inquiry  on foreign interference, saying discussions with opposition parties were “moving well forward.”

The Liberals have been in discussions with opposition parties about their demands for the government to call a public inquiry.

“I expect news on that very soon given the productive nature of those conversations,” Holland told reporters on Wednesday.

Holland would not say where talks with the Conservatives, NDP and Bloc Quebecois currently stood, but stressed that he was focused on passing legislation and a possible inquiry was separate from House business.

“There are obviously separate conversations that are happening between the minister of intergovernmental affairs and other opposition parties,” he told reporters. “On the question of foreign interference and how to best approach that, those are separate conversations.”

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However, Bloc Leader Yves-Francois Blanchet said Wednesday morning that an agreement on the inquiry could be reached within hours.

Blanchet suggested the inquiry would focus on allegations that the Chinese government has interfered in Canadian democracy, but that it would not be restricted to that subject.

He said he believed that at a minimum, the Bloc and the Liberals would agree on details of the inquiry and that it might also be supported by the NDP and Conservatives.

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Opposition leaders met themselves last week to try and come to a consensus on what they wanted the government to do.

Click to play video: 'The West Block: June 18, 2023 | Liberals must do more to ‘safeguard’ against foreign interference, O’Toole says'
The West Block: June 18, 2023 | Liberals must do more to ‘safeguard’ against foreign interference, O’Toole says

The House of Commons was scheduled to rise no later than Friday for the summer break but the talks also involved whether that recess would begin earlier, possibly as early as Wednesday night.

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The talks were being led by Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc, who was tasked by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau with working with opposition parties to find a way forward on the foreign interference quagmire.

Opposition parties have been pushing for an inquiry for months amid repeated allegations that the Chinese government had attempted to interfere in the last two federal elections. Initially, Trudeau’s response was to appoint former governor general David Johnston as a “special rapporteur” to review documents, interview some of the people involved and decide by the end of May if an inquiry was warranted.

Johnston’s initial report said an inquiry was not the right choice, largely because so much of the material involved classified evidence that cannot be made public. But the opposition parties skewered that decision and accused Johnston of being too affiliated with Trudeau.

Johnston has said he will resign as special rapporteur before the end of the month because the work has become too hyper-partisan.

All parties agree that the 2019 and 2021 federal election results were not compromised, but opposition MPs say a public inquiry on foreign meddling attempts is the only way for Canadians to feel confident in the electoral system.

Click to play video: 'Foreign interference: Government House leader says he ‘expects news’ on public inquiry ‘very soon’'
Foreign interference: Government House leader says he ‘expects news’ on public inquiry ‘very soon’

The Conservatives want the inquiry to focus heavily on the government’s handling of the foreign interference file, including what it knew about China’s alleged meddling, when it knew it and what it did about it.

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The NDP want the inquiry to be broader on the issue of foreign interference in general and not be restricted to just the Chinese government.

–With files from Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press

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