Faced with the possibility of a combined Conservative-NDP vote to force Katie Telford, Justin Trudeau’s Chief of Staff to testify on foreign interference in Canadian elections, the Trudeau government has agreed to allow her to testify before a parliamentary committee. The government had been staging a filibuster to prevent Telford’s appearance, and tried to keep the NDP in line by making the matter a vote of confidence. But NDP leader Jagmeet Singh made it clear he was prepared to vote with the Conservatives regardless, and the government backed down.
The government had hoped that the appointment of David Johnston as a special rapporteur with broad discretion to advise the government on how to proceed would stifle calls for government officials testifying, but Johnston’s appointment has been criticized because of his friendship with the Trudeau’s. Critics have said that while Johnston is acknowledged to be an exemplary public figure, this assignment puts him at risk of appearing to be conflicted.
It is expected that Telfer will testify in April, but there is some question about how much she will be able to say. “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. Allowing her to testify buys the government time for the issue, which has become a public relations disaster for the government, to cool down.
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