Saturday, June 10, 2023

Be Careful What You Wish For

So Canada's foreign interference rapporteur David Johnston has left the building: Dale Smith has an excellent column Exit David Johnston about the resignation, and what might happen next:
None of this solves the underlying problem that a public inquiry is not magic. 
Everyone demanding one seems to think it can be wrapped up in the space of a few months, and that can be broad enough in scope to fully understand how deep Chinese infiltration goes into our country, while also providing concrete recommendations for protecting the next election. That’s not going to happen in a few months—that kind of scoping takes years, and is not going to get to the fundamental issue here, which is that this is ultimately a process story about the machinery of government, dealing with classified information, and that a public inquiry can’t hear most of it. 
That is, if they can find someone to head it who meets everyone’s satisfaction and who is willing to put themselves through the character assassination that will follow.
Once again -- as it was with SNC Lavelin, JWR, WE -- the ultimate goal was always to find something that would force Trudeau to resign in disgrace. So now the parliamentarians who spent the last six months trashing Johnston are perishing the thought that they ever intended to tarnish HIS reputation: Scrimshaw writes about the larger issues in his column David Johnson's Necessary Exit:
I’m unsure of the value of a public inquiry at this point, but it’s the will of the House Of Commons that there should be one so we should have one. At this point there’s been two stories mixed together, which is Bob Fife and the Globe’s reporting mostly centered on what China has tried to do and our institutional failures to solve any of it, and then Sam Cooper’s bullshit. Cooper’s bullshit has been found out to be that, but it’s obscuring that there are a lot of real issues here.
Now, most of those issues aren’t necessarily – or, at this point, are clearly not – political failures, except in the sense that the Ministers responsible for CSIS have overall responsibility for their actions. ...
What we have now is a country that doesn’t have any reason to doubt the results of the next election but does have a lot of doubt about the competence of people who are supposedly running very important parts of this country. This is a clusterfuck of epic proportions, and my advice to those on the left would be to stop defending David Johnston and start trying to bring the conversation back to the governance failures.
We know Pierre Poilievre will act with his narrow self interest above the national one, so bitching about that is a waste of time. There are a lot of things that need to be solved – Friday’s Power & Politics had a expert panel on about those issues – and a ticking clock. Trying to focus on CSIS reform, information sharing inside government, and additional technocratic fixes while an inquiry works on the big picture stuff will have the dual benefits of being good for our country and a political boon for the Liberals.
...the broadest problem [is] that the diaspora doesn’t fucking trust CSIS.
Half the time CSIS views Chinese Canadians as sympathizers and the other half of the time they’re dismissed as alarmist. There is no faith that if a member of the community tries to do anything about what’s going on – be it about election interference or broader intimidation – that CSIS will do anything. You have CSIS investigating a former Liberal Cabinet Minister in Ontario for 13 years without doing anything, but clear and credible threats to the welfare of the diaspora go uninvestigated and ignored.
At the end of the day, the government has to actually do something about the active problem they face, not just the risk of bad PR they’re dealing with, and if the government continues to stumble from point to point like I will be in 3 hours, then they’re going to continue to fail both on a political and a governance level. This is not an easy issue but it is an issue where the road forward is clear.
...the Government has to step up to the plate with a serious offer on a public inquiry, and a serious internal reform agenda for CSIS.
Poilievre is, once again, rising to the occasion as expected -- by doubling down on smearing Trudeau: What's this? Accusing Trudeau now of a "cover-up" of "help from Beijing"? Yeah, so that's going to be the next line of attack, isn't it. Hmm...I wonder:
Paul Wells writes an hilarious substack Ostriches on the Runway, about Intergovernmental Affairs minister Dominic LeBlanc now being tasked with defining the next steps:
... You can tell the Trudeau government is really badly rattled when it starts doing what it should have done in the first place.
...I take LeBlanc at his word when he claims to be seeking input in good faith. As a general rule, his arrival tends to mark an improvement in this government’s handling of a difficult file. But just to be on the safe side, it’s worth saying some obvious things clearly.
The opposition parties should give input when asked. It’s useful for each of them to go through the exercise of conceiving in detail the proper handling of the election-interference file. And it’s good of the government to ask, albeit way later than it should have.
But everything LeBlanc plans to ask them — whether to have an inquiry, who should lead it, its mandate and deadlines and legal justification — remains the responsibility of the government. If the opposition parties chicken out, or play dumb games, or deadlock, or suggest people who decline to participate, the responsibility for designing a workable policy remains the government’s.
...LeBlanc kept saying an inquiry should be run by someone “eminent.” I mean…sure? Whatever? I suppose eminence shouldn’t be actively disqualifying, at least.
...When LeBlanc said our democracy depends on rising above partisanship, I thought, Uh-oh, and I started thinking about objects or creatures that don’t normally rise above much. Which led to a mental image of ostriches trying to fly. I actually have seen non-partisanship, many times, including from some of the most partisan operators in Canadian politics. But I still wouldn’t bet on it happening in any particular case. The incentives run all the other way. To insulate against it, politicians might want to read the latest from Alliance Canada Hong Kong, the diaspora group that has been chronicling foreign interference for years, for whom the issue is not a fun partisan football and the prospect of testifying yet again, to educate some eminent commissioner, is not appealing.
I keep saying the under-served constituency in this country is the people who would like to see serious problems treated seriously....
Wells ends by noting that Poilievre spent Friday afternoon tweeting about Maxine Bernier attending the WEF.
UPDATE: An hour after I posted, I saw these two tweets - very interesting:


Trailblazer said...

If we, Canada, truly wishes to investigate foreign interference in our elections be they local , provincial or national then should we investigate ALL foreign influences and that includes the USA.
I have no doubt that the Chinese try to interfere but what about the US , Saudi Arabia Israel and others??
This is why any investigation is likely to fall flat on it's face whatever political party controls the naritive.


Cathie from Canada said...

Yes, TB, I can agree. I'm not sure where the line is -- there is so-called "interference" that is really just another country or a diaspora trying to get its concerns recognized by Canadian politicians and the Canadian electorate.
And many examples over the years -- Mulroney held an entire election about Free Trade with the US and other countries.

Trailblazer said...

Are the Koch bros ( minus one) contributions to the Fraser institute interference?
Are corporate lobbyists interference?
Was Saudi Arabia's decision to pull its students from Canadian universities political interference?
Tis a slippery slope we are to encounter where were we to have a truly independent inquiry to "foreign political interference' we could have many surprises!!


e.a.f. said...

The foreign interferance is simply a hobby horse PP thinks he can ride to the job of Prime Minister. Even if Trudeau told the cons to run the inquiry they still wouldn't be satisfied. Some of what has gone on is interferance and some of it is just lobbying, which is also interferance but its all about money.
China's interferance in our elections and other things has been going on for decades. They want to control the people who have left the country for their own benefit and to ensure they don't mount a campaign against the communist party of china. China also want to try to have Canada go along with their view of the world and agree to let them remove resources of this country.

We''ve read a number of politicians have been targets. How that was done and the impact isn't something which government can do in a "public inquiry". If PP and his gang can't understand that, he is not fit to be prime minister or for that, an M.P. the man doesn't know how to keep his mouth shut. His only purpose in life is to be elected P.M. and not to ensure this country is a safe place.

A public inquiry is just so dumb. we are dealing with confidental information. Yes, the Liberals ought to have notified the concerned people much, much sooner. There needs to be an overhaul of the various organizations who deal with national security, spying by us and information gathering, and then the very dicey operation of ensuring people living in Canada and Canadian citizens aren't involved in undermining the security of Canada.

It is entertaining that PP wants a public inquiry, what ever that is, but when he was part of Harper's reign PP didn't seem to mind that his boss wouldn't even take questions or hold many press conferences. PP reminds me of a rabid ferrett or rat.