Liberals thwart opposition effort to investigate Canada-China relations


OTTAWA — The federal opposition parties have failed in their bid to use a rare summer committee hearing to press for an investigation that would force top officials and the foreign affairs minister to explain the Liberal government’s China policy in detail.

Conservative critic Leona Alleslev says such an investigation would have shed light on Liberal efforts to end Canada’s deepening diplomatic row with China, which has prompted two former diplomats to accuse the government of improper arm-twisting.

David Mulroney and Guy Saint-Jacques told The Globe and Mail newspaper last week there was a partisan undertone to a request from a civil servant that each connect with Global Affairs Canada for briefings before speaking publicly about the government’s handling of the China file.

The House of Commons foreign affairs committee met today to discuss an opposition request to look into the allegations.

The Liberals hold a majority on the committee, so at least one of their number would have had to vote with the opposition for an inquiry to go ahead. None did.

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau insisted his office didn’t direct the department to reach out to the former diplomats.

Speaking prior to the meeting, Alleslev said the Conservatives wanted to hold the government to account for putting pressure on private citizens.

Alleslev called the allegations serious and urged the Liberal majority on the committee to let the probe go ahead. She argued that the Liberals would be committing a coverup unless they vote for a full inquiry, particularly if the Liberals have nothing to hide.

During the meeting, Liberal MP Rob Oliphant said federal officials regularly engage with civil society and experts outside the government, but that there was no instruction that Mulroney clear his public comments with the government.