The Conservatives are again putting the government’s lack of action on Huawei and China in their crosshairs with a call for the government to table a plan to combat Chinese aggression.
Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole spoke ahead of the debate on his party’s motion, which calls for MPs to demand that the government table a decision on whether to allow Huawei to participate in the country’s 5G network as well as a plan for how they will counter Chinese influence in Canada.
The motion calls for both plans to be presented within 30 days.
“There is no greater threat today to Canada’s interest than China’s rise,” said O’Toole in a press conference on Tuesday, citing Chinese influence operations as one example.
“The democratic world must acknowledge that the approach to China over the last two decades has not worked. In fact, the situation has only gotten worse over recent years.”
Global News has reported extensively on Chinese intimidation and influence peddling among diaspora communities and politicians in Canada.
Much of that has involved activities by the United Front, Beijing’s influence network used to target Chinese community members and critics of the regime abroad, and influence local coverage of China.
The Canadian Security and Intelligence Service also warned earlier this year that Canada poses an “attractive and permissive target” for Chinese interference and influence operations.
There were reports earlier this month as well that CSIS has warned once again about the extent to which Chinese influence operations were targeting individuals on Canadian soil, which has led to increased criticism from the Conservatives over the last week of the government’s lack of a response.
The Liberals have refused calls to sanction Chinese officials over the arbitrary detention of Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor or over China’s crackdown on pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong.
China’s ambassador also threatened Canadians living in Hong Kong last month in a warning to Canada not to accept Hong Kongers fleeing those crackdowns as asylum claimants.
O’Toole said the government should not fear economic retaliation from China, noting Canada has already seen economic restrictions from China in recent years, but that coordinating action to crack down on influence along with allies like Australia and the U.S. is key.
Australia has in recent years put a strong emphasis on combating foreign influence by China in its domestic affairs, including passing new laws aimed at limiting foreign interference.
“We have to show we will work with our allies in a concerted way to provide a counterbalance,” he said, suggesting the government’s approach to pushing China to release Kovrig and Spavor has been “weak.”
“A stronger approach may make progress.”
He also added the coming transition south of the border once President-elect Joe Biden is sworn in on Jan. 20, 2021, makes this a good time for Canada to show it is willing to take a stronger stand on China.
“This move is going to help re-establish relationships with the United States,” he suggested, and noted there has been broad support among U.S. lawmakers including Democrats for taking a tougher line on China.
“We have to show we can be a serious and reliable trade and security partner with the U.S.”
— More to come.
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