Note: I use lower and upper case to distinguish between an informal inquiry conducted by David Johnston and a formal, judicial one.
Like a referee in a hockey game, David Johnston’s call was either booed or cheered depending which side you’re on.
Federal opposition parties wanted a Public Inquiry but that’s not what they got. As a result, the former governor general is being vilified and labeled as “a bad choice for the job.”
I’m cheering Johnston’s decision because a Public Inquiry into China’s election interference would be lengthy, expensive, and not reveal much since many reference documents are classified.
Also, a Public Inquiry would inflame tensions between Canada and China, something that neither Canadians nor the Chinese people want.
A public inquiry will be streamlined because there will be no subpoenaing of witnesses, no battles over release of classified records.
And in end, neither a Public Inquiry nor a public inquiry would result in criminal or civil liability.
Johnston is proceeding with a public inquiry regardless. In his second report, due in October, he will reveal the results of his less formal inquiry.
A Public Inquiry is unnecessary says Wesley Wark, Senior fellow at the Centre for International Governance Innovation:
“Mr. Johnston’s reasoning for not holding a Public Inquiry (essentially a judicial inquiry) is sound. There are secrets to protect. There is no smoking gun around claims of ministerial negligence or malfeasance in turning a blind eye to intelligence warnings for partisan political reasons. Finally, in his view, there is a better way (Globe and Mail, May 26, 203).”
In his first report, Johnson says there are problems with a Public Inquiry:
“A Public Inquiry examining the leaked materials could not be undertaken in public given the sensitivity of the intelligence. The sensitivity of the intelligence and the damage that would be done by revealing it means that the ‘Public Inquiry’ would necessarily be held in camera.”
Much of that interference is being revealed daily as the targets of interference speak out daily. Johnston says that there is much already in the public domain but media didn’t pay much attention to it at the time. It simply wasn’t deemed newsworthy back then.
Despite the differences between the Canadian and Chinese governments over the fallout involving Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou and the two Michaels held captive in China, relations between the Chinese and Canadian people remain cordial.
Chinese visitors and immigrants remain welcome in Canada. Historically, Chinese workers helped build Canada.
Even with the expulsion of Chinese diplomats from Canada and Canadian diplomats from China, there has been no escalation of since. That’s a relief to Canadian grain and pork farmers who export to China.
And the Canadian brand has been unaffected in China.
Jacob Cooke, Beijing-based of a marketing firm, says that despite the diplomatic dispute: “. . . what we’re seeing on the ground in China is that demand for Canadian products is soaring.
The Chinese people hold a warm regard for Canada and Canadians, something that hasn’t changed since I visited there.
A public inquiry will reveal much about the Chinese interference without escalating tensions between our two countries.