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'We're not there yet': LeBlanc on status of foreign interference public inquiry

Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc says while the federal government is "not there yet" when it comes to launching some form of public inquiry into foreign interference, "constructive and collaborative" conversations are continuing — with more scheduled in the days ahead.

The minister taking the lead on the file told reporters that he met with senior officials from the Privy Council Office on Monday, has plans to meet again "in the next couple of days" with opposition party House leaders, and spoke to an opposition party leader over the weekend.

"We have made significant progress," LeBlanc said during a press conference in New Brunswick.

Asked what holdups remain, LeBlanc wouldn't say, telling reporters that "public conjecture" would not be helpful to the "constructive private conversations" underway.

"I can tell you that we recognize the importance of reassuring Canadians about the resiliency of our democracy. We think Canadians understandably want to be assured that Canadian elections are decided by Canadians independently," LeBlanc said.

"And any steps that can be taken to greater ensure that level of confidence… we view as positive. And frankly, we're encouraged by the collaborative tone with the opposition parties."

Last week, Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre accused the Liberals of "lying" for accusing the Official Opposition of impeding progress, pointing to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's powers to call a public inquiry under the Inquiries Act, at any time.

"We're waiting. We asked, we've offered the prime minister all the information he's asked for," Poilievre told reporters last week. "We've suggested a mandate, a timeframe, we have names ready to share with him as soon as he confirms that that he's going to go ahead with it."

"We're sitting next to our phone waiting for him to call with any news on when that inquiry will happen," Poilievre said.

Opposition MPs have been calling for a public inquiry into foreign interference for several months amid heightened attention on alleged attempts by China to meddle in the 2019 and 2021 federal elections.

The decision by former special rapporteur David Johnston not to recommend one drew swift criticism, but on the heels of his resignation in early June, calls for an inquiry were renewed.

With the Liberals appearing to show new openness to the idea, LeBlanc began engaging in negotiations with the other parties over how to proceed.

There appeared to be momentum leading towards an imminent announcement of a potential inquiry, or other unspecified new process, when the House of Commons adjourned for the summer on June 22.

However, in the weeks since then there has been little update on whether it will be a full public inquiry after all, who could lead this initiative, or what kind of timeline would be set for this investigation of the issue.

Trudeau has said that the federal government wouldn't be making any announcement on a new approach to examine foreign interference in Canada until the Liberals secured "full buy-in" from the opposition parties, to avoid the process becoming as hotly politicized as it did under Johnston.

All sides did convene late last month to draft a terms of reference, according to the Conservatives, but the finalized wording appears to be in limbo.

While Poilievre has put the ball in the Liberals' court to call an inquiry, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh remains "cautiously optimistic" that all parties can "work together to do this."

With files from CTV News' Spencer Van Dyk 



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