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'Tone-deaf': Singh slams rapporteur Johnston for not stepping down

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh slammed foreign interference special rapporteur David Johnston's refusal to heed the House of Commons' call for him to step down as "tone-deaf."

"With all due respect to the service of Mr. Johnston and his previous public service, I believe that his response to the vote on our motion is tone-deaf," Singh said in a statement Thursday.

On Wednesday, the majority of MPs—all from opposition parties— passed a motion calling for Johnston to "step aside" after he recommended against a public inquiry, and in light of the "serious questions" raised about his mandate and conclusions. 

Within an hour of the non-binding motion being passed, Johnston issued a statement asserting his intention to continue on with his work. He said that while he "deeply" respects the right of the House of Commons to "express its opinion about my work going forward" his mandate came from the government.

Singh, whose party presented the motion calling for Johnston to resign and for the government to forge ahead with a public inquiry rather than the former governor general's plans for public hearings, said Thursday that he "would have expected a more thoughtful approach and respect for the will of the House of Commons from a former governor general."

"I am very disappointed with the lack of understanding of the importance of such a vote calling for him to step aside and the rapidity with which he responded to this vote," Singh said. "Going forward, I expect, it will be very difficult for Mr. Johnston."

Singh said that the problem from the outset of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau appointing Johnston in March as part of a suite of measures meant to assuage Canadians' concerns about foreign interference, is the process is not independent from the government.

Johnston referring to his marching orders coming from the government, and not Parliament, was something the Conservatives were also quick to pick up on in balking at his refusal to walk away.

Bringing it up during question period on Thursday, Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre asked whether the prime minister would "finally" fire Johnston.

"Parliament had a vote of non-confidence in David Johnston, the chalet buddy and ski buddy of the prime minister, a member of the Trudeau Foundation, someone the prime minister appointed to investigate Beijing's interference. David Johnson said in answer to the vote that he doesn't work for Parliament, he worked for the government… and that's exactly the problem," Poilievre said in French.

Responding on Trudeau's behalf as he was not in Ottawa, Emergency Preparedness Minister Bill Blair said he thought it was "unfair and frankly offensive" that the opposition was questioning Johnston.

"His 50-year career in public service makes it clear that his loyalty is to Canada, and I believe that he represents the highest ideals of hard work, dedication, public service, and humility. And we should all be thankful that he perseveres in his commitment to service to Canada," Blair said. 

In his post-vote statement, Johnston said that when he accepted the job he did so "with full knowledge of the fact that the work ahead would be neither straightforward nor uncontroversial." 



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