Thursday, June 7, 2018

Terry Glavin: As Chinese money corrupts western politics, Trudeau's Liberals keep cashing in

Terry Glavin: As Chinese money corrupts western politics, Trudeau's Liberals keep cashing in

We don’t know how much Chinese money came into the country for the purposes of influencing the last election...” Linda Frum said. “How much is going to come in in 2019?”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang at a business luncheon in September 2016 in Montreal.Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press
December 13, 2017
1:26 PM EST

As Australia continues to reel from lurid revelations about the extent of Beijing’s influence-peddling, espionage and propaganda operations in that country, Conservative Senator Linda Frum says Ottawa should follow Canberra’s example by launching an inquiry into the extent of Beijing’s subterfuge in Canada, and by tightening laws to prevent Beijing from meddling in Canadian political processes.
“This is essential. It’s critical. It’s essential for Canadian political sovereignty that we examine this very, very closely,” Frum told me. “I think we need to look at it and I think we need to look at it urgently.”
It’s highly doubtful that we will, though. But first, a look at what’s been going on down under.  
Following investigations into Beijing’s covert operations by Fairfax Media and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull launched an inquiry in June that went on to uncover cash-for-access scandals, the covert strong-arming of overseas Chinese students and Australia’s ethnic Chinese communities, and unheeded intelligence-agency warnings about Beijing’s lavish donations to Australian political parties — including Turnbull’s own Liberal Party.
Let us be thankful that his weird infatuations have been unrequited

Earlier this week, the ABC revealed that Huang Xiangmo, a billionaire property developer with close ties to the Chinese Communist Party, donated $55,000 to the opposition Labour Party to have lunch with Labour leader Bill Shorten. At the time, Huang’s application for Australian citizenship had been blocked by Australian intelligence agencies. On Monday, a tightening ring of scandals — allowing dubious Chinese money-men to pay off his personal debts, defying his party’s opposition to China’s annexation of most of the South China Sea, and warning a suspected Beijing operative that his phone was bugged — forced the resignation of Labour MP Sam Dastyari.
Less than two years into a “free trade” agreement with China, Turnbull’s government is facing threats from Beijing that he should be made to “feel the pain” for introducing legislation this week that bans foreign political donations and cracks down on covert attempts to influence Australian politics and society. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has been clamouring for a free trade deal with Beijing. Let us be thankful that, at least for now, his weird infatuations have been unrequited.  
New Zealand’s worsening predicament was highlighted in October with the disclosure that Chinese-born MP Jian Yang, a member of the select committee for foreign affairs, defence and trade in New Zealand’s ruling National Party, had failed to disclose that he had worked as senior linguistics instructor for Chinese military intelligence before emigrating to New Zealand.
For the purpose of elections, there should not be any foreign funds coming in

New Zealand’s intelligence agencies this week were sounding the alarm about a rapid upsurge in espionage and subversion in aid of China’s newly thuggish overseas exertions under strongman Xi Jinping, which are run out of the Chinese Communist Party’s United Front Work Department (UFWD). The October revelations about MP Jian Yang came in a Financial Times investigation that uncovered an internal UFWD report boasting about successes in the election of several politicians in Canada.
Senator Frum says Canada’s laws banning direct foreign donations to political parties are sufficiently robust, but third-party groups registered under the Canada Elections Act can still get away with using foreign money to influence voters, as long as the money is donated six months before an election. “It’s just so obvious that for the purpose of elections, there should not be any foreign funds coming in,” Frum said. “It should be prohibited.”
It should be obvious, but former Liberal prime minister Jean Chretien led his first Team Canada emissaries to Beijing way back in 1994, so Beijing has had a head start of nearly a quarter of century in sloshing money and influence around Canada. What might seem obvious and sensible to most Canadians won’t necessarily look that way in Ottawa.
The modest bill would ban foreign entities from influencing Canadian voters

Last May, Frum introduced a modest private members bill, S-239, which would ban foreign entities from directly or indirectly inducing Canadian electors to vote for or against any political candidate or political party. The six-month loophole would be eliminated, and registered third parties would face fines and possible jail time for accepting foreign donations.
The bill is stuck in second reading stage and it won’t come up again until February. Last week, Senator Yuen Pao Woo, the Beijing-friendly former president of the Asia Pacific Foundation who Trudeau appointed to the Senate in October last year, spoke against Frum’s bill: “In our zeal to defend the right to make decisions ourselves, let’s not go down the road of parochialism that privileges nationality or place of residence over reason.”
Woo leads the Senate’s “Independent” group, but he has never voted against the Senate’s government representative — Peter Harder, the former president of the Canada-China Business Council who led Trudeau’s transition team following the 2015 federal election. And the government hasn’t shown any enthusiasm for Frum’s bill, either, so S-239 may well be doomed.
I think the Liberals are just trying to run the clock on legislation, Frum said

“I think the Liberals are just trying to run the clock on legislation that interferes with their winning formula, and their winning formula includes being the beneficiaries of foreign money that comes into the country via third parties that is then used to assist the Liberal Party in their political agenda. We don’t know how much Chinese money came into the country for the purposes of influencing the last election, but I don’t think the number is zero,” Frum said. “How much is going to come in in 2019?”
Then there’s all that money in between elections, besides, and it’s not as though sleazy cash-for-access gambits involving Chinese billionaires will get you into any serious trouble in Canada. Prime Minister Trudeau survived almost wholly unscathed after offering himself up at $1,500-a-plate dinners last year. The glamorous attendees included Benson Wong of the Chinese Business Chamber of Commerce, insurance tycoon and banker Shenglin Xian, and billionaire Zhang Bin, who donated $1 million to the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation and the University of Montreal on top of his $1,500 fee. Such a nice man.
Ethics Commissioner Mary Dawson found that the money-grubbing was “not very savoury,” but other than that, the Liberal Party kept its millions, and Trudeau promised that henceforth such galas would be open to the news media, advertised publicly, and duly reported upon. So we moved on. 
The bill may well be doomed

Meanwhile, the Senate Ethics Office is looking into whether any serious breach of propriety should be read into the free trips to China that three Conservative senators and their spouses took last April, courtesy of the usual pro-Beijing business groups and Xi’s propaganda-and-pressure UFWD agency. The junkets were among 36 such freebies taken by a variety of MPs and senators over the past few years. Leading the pack: John McCallum, now Canada’s ambassador to China. He racked up $73,000 worth.
There’s no suggestion here that any of this was illegal. And you can bet that every time a Chinese state-owned enterprise buys up another piece of some vital industry in Canada, they become “stakeholders,” and they slosh their money around politicians, during elections and between elections, and there’s nothing illegal about that, either. As for foreign money pouring into third parties, don’t count on Justin Trudeau’s government doing anything to stop it.
“The part that just slays me is that it’s perfectly legal. And the government knows it’s legal, and the government doesn’t care,” Frum said. “We are now two years into their mandate and they haven’t done anything to address this. They don’t even talk about it.”

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