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Don Martin: Finally and inevitably, Trudeau waved the white flag


Finally and inevitably, he waved the white flag.

An inquiry if necessary, but not necessarily an inquiry, will likely be called to probe allegations of Chinese interference in Canada’s elections.

This after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau surrendered to intense internal and external pressure and reluctantly pledged action after weeks of denying any further action was needed.

A "special rapporteur" with a "wide mandate" will be appointed to review two national security committees probing Chinese interference allegations and decide what, if anything, is needed to restore Canadian confidence in the integrity of their federal elections.

Be it a public inquiry, commission or a group of judges huddling together for a closer look at the secret evidence, it’s now clear Trudeau came to the epiphanic recognition that his strong opposition to further examination was no longer viable.

Late in the afternoon on the week of his expected return to the House of Commons to face what will certainly be a full question period assault on his handling of the issue, Trudeau decided a flip-flop was in order and deployed the special rapporteur as cover to help him retreat into an inquiry.

He could’ve gone straight to calling the inquiry without having the unnamed eminent Canadian eventually make the call.

But, to be fair, Trudeau made a valid point that the issue had generated so much partisan heat with so many conflicting views on the value of a public inquiry that an independent authority was the best way forward.

That makes the next step particularly interesting. Finding someone willing to put their “eminent” reputation on the line for this hot-potato-toss, an individual who is scrubbed clean of political connections and hasn’t already taken a public position on this topic, is going to be a serious headhunting challenge.

And that individual will be under pressure to move quickly to get the inquiry up and running lest the next election be held before we find out if Chinese interference was a factor.

So, to sum up, when the rapporteur announcement is coupled with his order for two national security committees to probe the controversy, his pledge to re-examine long-ignored national security recommendations and his push to create a foreign agent registry, well, you have a prime minister going from a stubborn standstill to looking for everything, everywhere, in just a few days.

If we pull back the lens on this startling change of heart, you’re left to seriously question the competence of the prime minister’s office. The pointless delay in taking action needlessly precipitated a political relations crisis which demands improved adult supervision in his communications.

The mind reels that Trudeau couldn’t see or be made to understand that downplaying so many allegations for so long would be problematic on him personally as a leader tolerating foreign interference to help his party win seats.


To watch him repeatedly set off diversions by smearing the accuracy of the Chinese interference reporting and dismissing allegations raised against Liberal candidates as racist, only to suddenly spring into we’re-taking-action, this-is-serious-stuff mode on Monday, suggests the PMO is in panic mode.

For the RCMP to reveal it will investigate security leaks to media, which the prime minister suggested should be done, while declining to investigate the details of the leaks, which the prime minister had declared weren't worth investigating, is an alarming optic.

And for Trudeau to abruptly appoint a senior minister to act on the consistently ignored recommendations from the national security and intelligence committee of parliamentarians, a committee he now pledges to respect as crucial security oversight, is transparently pathetic damage control.

Of course, this being a political controversy as much as an electoral security crisis, the key consideration for opposition forces is whether the special rapporteur and the national security committees will probe Trudeau’s personal knowledge of Chinese interference allegations.

What Trudeau knew about unethical and illegal Chinese tactics, when he knew it and what he did about it are of singularly keen interest to opposition parties.

After all, when it comes to Parliament, ending general election manipulation is a distant secondary consideration to thwarting Trudeau’s re-election.

That’s the bottom line.




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