Monday, March 06, 2023

Let's Not Get Paranoid

A lot of ink has been spilled recently on the subject of potential Chinese interference in Canadian elections. Michael Harris writes:

A lot of people are in a lather over alleged Chinese interference in Canadian elections. I am not one of them. Am I concerned? Of course. Would I like to know more about what happened in certain ridings? Absolutely. 

But is my blood pressure going through the roof like the editorial board over at The Globe and Mail, which is howling for a public inquiry? It is not, and here’s why.

For starters, Canadians already know that whatever the Chinese did or didn’t do, it did not affect the outcome of elections in either 2019 or 2021. Just read the report by former deputy minister of foreign affairs Morris Rosenberg for the details. Even Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre, who is leading the hue and cry for a public inquiry, acknowledges that.  

So there is no question that the results of the election were in any way corrupted. Certainly not the whole story, but an important part of it. The federal Liberal government is as legitimate now as it was before this curious story was broken. Thank heaven for that. At least this has not turned into a saga of election denial, or the nonsense spouted by former CPC leader Erin O’Toole who claimed that Chinese interference cost the party eight or nine seats in the 2021 election.  

However, the matter must be investigated. The question is what is the best way to do it?

In tandem with investigations by a parliamentary committee, the commissioner could theoretically complete the work in a more timely manner than a full-fledged public inquiry, which could take years. If there is truly an emergency here, why delay addressing it? I think most people would agree that it would be beneficial to have findings and recommendations concerning alleged foreign interference in our politics before the next federal election.  

There are some advantages, of course, to a public inquiry, particularly when it comes to the scope of evidence gathering. But since this particular situation is steeped in serious national security issues, how public would such an inquiry be? My guess is that a lot of evidence would have to be heard in-camera. And if there are documents, they would have to be seriously redacted. The old sources and methods dilemma might end up hiding more than it could potentially reveal.  

And would such a public inquiry settle disturbing doubts about a potentially dangerous vulnerability in our democratic elections? It might, but I doubt it.  

In the present circumstances, it should be noted that the Conservative Party of Canada hasn’t always been so sanguine about ferreting out potential interference in our elections. It did not, for example, ask for a public inquiry into the Robocall Affair of 2011, in which 31,000 Canadians in 247 out of 308 federal ridings complained of false and misleading calls aimed at suppressing their votes. 

In subsequent court actions involving the Council of Canadians, Justice Richard Mosely found that the “most likely source of information used to make the misleading calls” across the country, and in seven close ridings won by the Conservatives was the CIMS database. That database was controlled and maintained by the Conservative Party of Canada.  

Although the CPC denied any knowledge of the fraudulent use of its data, it never asked for an investigation into how CIMS had been compromised, or provided investigators with a list of authorized users of the party’s database in the days leading up to the election. Strange, that.  

There will be a lot of sound and fury about this. But let's not get paranoid.

Image: Brookings



Cap said...

The CIMS obviously has lax security and could have been hacked by the Chinese to target conservatives. To paraphrase Donald Trump, I think we need a total and complete shutdown of the CIMS until we can figure out what is going on.

Toby said...

There seems to be a lot of orchestrated hysteria over China meddling in our elections. Curiously, there is no mention of the US doing the same. The reality is that all the bigger countries spy on each other and they all meddle in each other's elections. Yes, Canada tries to influence American elections. Remember Steven Harper getting caught at that?

Owen Gray said...

Let's do a careful review, Cap. But, unlike the Trumpists, let's stay sane.

Owen Gray said...

Thanks for the link, Toby. We should be realistic about what all nations are doing in the brave new cyber world.

Owen Gray said...

If you initial your comment, Anon, I'll publish it.

Trailblazer said...

If a candidate of any Canadian political party shows disapproval of any foreign government then he or she could become a target and his or her competitor receives the foreign support.
It becomes more of an issue when we have foreign students from such places as Saudi Arabia or China whose students are studying in Canada at the grace of their governments and as we have seen be recalled at a notice.


Owen Gray said...

Point well taken, TB. If we welcome international students, there's going to be international interest in our elections.

jrkrideau said...

However, the matter must be investigated.
Why? To cater to a bunch of xenophobic idiots who watch Fox News?

Still, would-be Canadian Joe McCarthys need a project.

Owen Gray said...

Today Justin announced he would appoint a "special investigator," jrk. That could be a way to investigate the matter and keep the McCarthys out.

Trailblazer said...

Today Justin announced he would appoint a "special investigator..

I have no doubt some sort of investigation is required that would put some confidence back into the election of our officials.

Perhaps the issue is who should appoint the investigator?

We cannot leave it to the MSM to dictate the issues; we all know where that will lead..


the salamander said...

I won’t go into detail or history here Owen..
but Michael Harris does Canada no Service
via his paragraph about CIMS..

He so rarely ‘puts a foot wrong’
but I near fell over reading that..

Recent ‘reportage’ only extends the grim reality
re the Live & Robocall Election Fraud of 2011

Who was/is Stephen Lecce ? Or ‘red goatee Alberta Robo Guru’
he crowed about sharing an office with.. & ‘his super weapon’
in the Julian Fantino By-Election Campaign Office ?
& subsequent General Election of 2011

Guelph Riding & Plymouth Brethren footsoldiers ?
& what of Ms Jenni Byrne - Poilievre’s lover
They split up on the eve of that Election Fraud

What of ‘wood chipper’ evangel Lawyer Arthur Hamilton ?
The ‘edited’ CIMS Administrator Logs ?

Give me an F’n Break.. ‘lax security’ who’s kidding who ?
Who the F do we think Ray Novak is ? The gardener ?
yes yes.. was ONLY 247 Ridings .. !

‘Data Mined & Hauled’ and still is.. that was used
and ‘Micro-Targeted’ against US.. yes.. US !
We & The Vaunted RCMP were stonewalled
by Arthur Hamilton - Die Hard Evangelical Zealot

This ain’t ‘partisan libtard gossip’ Owen..
This shite is ‘Business As Usual’ ..
Sweep ‘under the rug’ or diffuse with weakness reportage
at Our Peril.. C’mon Michael.. !

Owen Gray said...

This could easily turn into a circus, TB. If that happens, nothing useful will be accomplished.

Owen Gray said...

You rarely disagree with Harris, sal. But, this time, he struck a nerve.

the salamander said...

I had no idea that ‘orchestrated Malice & Aforethought’
could be confused with ‘lax CIMS security’.. and the Chinese..

If that was even ‘possibly the case.. or ‘a defence’
surely we would have heard so.. via the Harper CPC

Michael Sona went to prison .. for ‘lax security’ ?
by CPC Headquarters ? Canadian Taxpayers paid off
the Red Goatee Guy who was HANDED A THUMB DRIVE
and a Contract for RoboCalls across Canada
while working inside Fantino’s Campaign Office
that was also ID’d internally as running two sets of books ?

Deary me.. !