Liberals defend David Johnston, whose oppositions demand the withdrawal

The Liberals took turns defending the work of the special rapporteur on foreign interference, David Johnston, on Tuesday, while a motion calling for the withdrawal of the former governor general is likely to be adopted on Wednesday.

“He is someone who has demonstrated his commitment to Canada and the work he has done with this report is exceptional,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on his arrival in the House of Commons. to take part in question period.

Earlier, his government’s whip, Steven MacKinnon, unsurprisingly confirmed that the Liberals opposed the motion put forward by the New Democrats on their opposition day.

“We certainly maintain that there has been a de facto examination and we will obviously deepen the efforts with regard to foreign interference,” he said in a press scrum.

Mr. MacKinnon was referring to Mr. Johnston’s preliminary report ruling against a commission of inquiry into foreign interference.

Such an investigation, wanted by all the opposition parties, is also again called for in the text of the motion which was debated on Tuesday and which will be voted on on Wednesday.

Such a motion is non-binding on the government, like a previous New Democratic Party (NDP) motion passed by the House in March.

The difference, in the context of the past few weeks, is that NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh is now promoting the new motion while having agreed to read the confidential appendix to the Johnston report. The Liberals therefore cannot accuse him of refusing to take cognizance of sensitive information underlying the conclusions of the special rapporteur, as they face the refusal of the Conservative and Bloc leaders, Pierre Poilievre and Yves-François Blanchet.

Asked whether this is a game-changer, Mr. Trudeau closed the door to launching an investigation on his own.

“Mr. Johnston was very clear in his well-founded recommendation,” he reiterated.

Mr. Singh nevertheless insisted that he believed he could convince the Liberals, with whom his party has an alliance, to change their tune.

“The next steps are to continue to increase the pressure,” he repeated many times in a press briefing.

He took the example of the dental care program, the first milestone of which was launched by the Liberals after being included in the agreement that binds them to the NDP.

“Everyone said, ‘Even [si] you have an agreement, you won’t be able to deliver the dental care” and we succeeded. […] In the same way, we will continue to put pressure, we will continue to push, because we think it is important to take these allegations seriously. [d’ingérence étrangère]. »

Asked why he did not withdraw from the agreement to deprive the Liberals, in a minority government situation, of an assured partner, he again returned to dental care, but from a completely different angle.

“It will help millions of people. We will force this government to implement this measure. I don’t want to give the Liberals an excuse not to do something they’ve voted against in the past,” he said.

The Bloc, who will support the motion, would “definitely” prefer that the New Democrats withdraw from their agreement, supported Mr. Blanchet in a scrum.

The leader of the Bloc Québécois stressed that he was in favor of the fact that the motion asks Mr. Johnston to recuse himself without Mr. Trudeau necessarily having to show him the door. According to Mr. Blanchet, it will be difficult for the former Governor General to ignore an “order from Parliament”.

In his opinion, a vote by Parliament cannot be seen as symbolic “except when the issue is only a symbol”. “In this case, we have what is unequivocally the most important issue in the news and in the very recent history of Quebec and Canada on the table,” said Mr. Blanchet.

Johnston’s office did not respond to questions sent by The Canadian Press. The main interested party wrote, in a text published Friday on the website of the Globe and Mail, that he would not be deterred from completing his term. It was therefore a few days before the filing of the motion to request its withdrawal.

The Conservatives have not confirmed that they will support the New Democrats. A spokeswoman for Mr. Poilievre’s team declined to do so on Tuesday. However, it is more than likely that Mr. Poilievre’s troops will vote in favor. During question period, they used their speaking time to again ask Prime Minister Trudeau to fire the special rapporteur, in addition to urging him to set up a commission of inquiry.

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