Trudeau’s chief of staff Telford will testify about foreign interference: PMO

To shared

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s office has announced that after nearly 24 hours of Liberal attempts to block it from happening, Trudeau’s chief of staff Katie Telford will testify about foreign interference.

“While there are serious constraints on what can be said in public about sensitive intelligence matters, in an effort to make Parliament work, Ms. Telford has agreed to appear at the Procedure and House Affairs Committee as part of their study,” Trudeau’s office said in a statement.

“Foreign interference is not a partisan issue. That is why our government put in place two independent bodies, one that includes members of Parliament and senators with access to classified documents, to review foreign interference in our elections in a responsible way. We also announced an Independent Special Rapporteur to determine if any other transparent process is needed. The mandate of the Independent Special Rapporteur was released today.”

This comes after Trudeau said this morning that the vote later today on the Conservative motion calling for a new study into foreign interference and for Telford to testify, would not be considered a matter of confidence.

This news also follows NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh giving the Liberals an ultimatum: stop obstructing and allow her to testify or we’ll vote in favour of the motion.

This is a breaking news update, previous version follows….

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the vote later today on the Conservative motion calling for a new study into foreign interference and to have his chief of staff testify, will not be considered a matter of confidence.

“It’s not going to be a confidence motion. Obviously it goes to how important the issue of foreign interference is,” Trudeau said on his way into a cabinet meeting on Tuesday morning.

On Monday, the Conservatives had the House debate a motion they put forward that, if passed, would see the House instruct the opposition-dominated ethics committee to strike a fresh study into Chinese interference in the last two federal elections.

The motion is scheduled to come to a vote after question period on Tuesday and there had been some question whether the Liberals would be looking to make it a confidence vote, to potentially force the NDP to side with the government to squash the Bloc Quebecois-backed push for a new probe.

The Conservatives and the Bloc Quebecois wouldn’t have the votes to see it pass without the NDP. In the House on Monday Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre and his caucus put concerted pressure on the NDP to vote with them.

So far the NDP have not tipped their hat in terms of their voting intention, other than expressing some concerns with the motion’s scope and witness list and still pointing to a public inquiry rather than a parliamentary study as the more apt venue for further investigation into this topic. NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh is slated to take reporters’ questions later this morning.

As of midday Monday, Government House Leader Mark Holland told reporters that the prospect of the motion becoming a matter of confidence was the subject of ongoing discussion. A feature of the Liberal-NDP supply-and-confidence deal is that the two parties are to discuss potential confidence votes before they are called.

However, Trudeau has now clearly taken risking an election call over an election interference controversy—which could be the result of a failed confidence vote given the Liberals’ minority standing—off the table, pointing to wanting to handle the issue differently and with less partisanship than the Official Opposition.


The motion contains clear instructions that the committee call Trudeau’s chief of staff Katie Telford to testify under oath before mid-April, followed by numerous other federal officials and party players believed to have insight into allegations of meddling during the 2019 and 2021 campaigns.

Also on the Conservatives’ proposed witness list: authors of the Critical Election Incident Public Protocol reports for the 2019 and 2021 elections James Judd and Morris Rosenberg, respectively, former Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation officials, and current and former ambassadors to China.

In order to fit in what would be more than a dozen additional hours of testimony, the motion prescribes that the committee meet at least one extra day each week regardless of whether the House is sitting, and have priority access to House resources.

This push is an effort by Conservatives to get around a nearly 24-hour-long Liberal-led filibuster at a separate committee, that has been blocking a similar motion calling for Telford to testify from coming to a vote.

All of this was sparked by The Globe and Mail and Global News reports, citing largely unnamed intelligence sources, alleging specific attempts by Beijing to alter election outcomes, and what the opposition thinks is an insufficient response by the Liberal government.

Officials have repeatedly asserted the integrity of both elections held, despite China’s interference efforts.


Trudeau also announced on his way into Tuesday’s cabinet meeting that the mandate for the special rapporteur, former governor general David Johnston, will be issued later today.

“I’m actually pleased to contrast the approach that we’ve taken… People will see that there is an expert process that will dig into this in a non-partisan way,” said the prime minister. “People can contrast this with the kind of political circus that Mr. Poilievre is trying to generate.”

Trudeau tapping Johnston to look into foreign interference and provide recommendations to further shore up Canada’s democracy became highly politicized by the Conservative and Bloc Quebecois parties, who were quick to question his impartiality and potential conflict of interest given his connections to the Trudeau family and foundation.

Amid the flurry of partisan fury over his appointment, Johnston issued a statement late last week saying he was “privileged to accept the appointment” and was getting to work on finalizing his mandate with government officials.

He said his marching orders would “be made public promptly.” It remains to be seen what kind of timeline Johnston will be working under.

“Any attempts at undermining our democracy are serious matters and it is essential that we take action to protect our institutions and uphold Canadians’ confidence in our democracy,” Johnston said.

More to come… 

To shared