Michael Taube: Ottawa’s ‘Special Rapporteur’ to Look Into Foreign Interference Won’t Be So Special

Commentary For weeks, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the Liberals minimized, claimed ignorance, or flat-out denied various allegations of foreign interference in Canada’s election process and its democratic institutions. But the court of public opinion could only absorb so much nonsense about a long-standing, decades-old problem and ruled against them. Ottawa is now scurrying to stop the political bleeding. Trudeau announced on March 6 that his government will put through measures and safeguards he claims will protect Canada against future interference from totalitarian nations like Russia, Iran, and most recently, China. In particular, the PM will “appoint an eminent Canadian to the position of independent special rapporteur who will have a wide mandate to make expert recommendations on protecting and enhancing Canadians faith in our democracy.” Oh my. A “special rapporteur.” This fancy-sounding title seems, well, special. Will this individual be able to do something special to prevent foreign interference on Canadian soil and keep the country safe and secure? Not especially. For you see, the soon-to-be appointed special rapporteur won’t be all that special. “Rapporteur was adopted into English in the 16th century,” according to Merriam-Webster, “and is a descendant of the Middle French verb rapporter, meaning ‘to bring back, report, or refer.’” In other words, Trudeau’s special rapporteur will be part-observer and part-recorder. This person will hopefully have some level of knowledge or expertise in this particular area. He or she will oversee the proceedings, discussions, interviews, and potential committee meetings. He or she will also make a series of recommendations and write a report with the help and input of others. To assume the special rapporteur will have significant political and legal powers to carry out these duties is preposterous. If the Liberals attempt to design this new position in said fashion, Canadians will have every right to be skeptical. To also assume the special rapporteur will be fully independent of Ottawa’s long political arm is another point of concern. Why? Political appointments rarely ever are. “He could pick someone independent but he won’t,” Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre recently told the media. “He’ll pick another Liberal establishment insider, a real Ottawa insider with some grey hair who looks like a reasonable fellow, but we all know that it will be someone tied to him, tied to the Liberals.” If Trudeau and the Liberals want to establish an arm’s-length relationship with the special rapporteur, be it real or imaginary, there are several ways to do it—and not to do it. The role shouldn’t be filled by a current or former Liberal politician, party activist, or any type of perceived sympathizer. That would defeat the whole purpose of this exercise. It should also disqualify Morris Rosenberg from becoming special rapporteur. Although Rosenberg worked as a deputy minister in foreign affairs and justice for Liberal and Conservative governments for over three decades, and is writing a paper about foreign interference in the 2021 federal election, he served as president and chief executive officer of the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation between 2014 and 2018. It was also revealed by the Conservatives that Rosenberg, in this capacity, was involved “in facilitating a controversial $200,000 donation from influential CCP official Bin Zhang, who was also intimately involved in Trudeau’s 2016 billionaire cash-for-access scandal.” The Foundation returned Zhang’s donation, which they described as a “pledge,” in the amount of $140,000. (The remaining $60,000 was reportedly never received.) The role also shouldn’t be filled by a New Democrat, Green, or other left-leaning progressive voice. The Liberals could theoretically attempt to point out this person is aligned with a different political party, and therefore has a different political mindset. The argument wouldn’t fly with right-leaning Canadians—and would surely create quizzical reactions from centrist and business-oriented Liberals, too. Trudeau could be toying with convincing an old Progressive Conservative, or left-leaning Red Tory, to become special rapporteur. Someone like Jean Charest, Hugh Segal, Kim Campbell, Joe Clark, or even John Tory, in spite of his recent downfall as Toronto’s Mayor. That way, the PM could claim he’s listening to Conservative voices who crave an impartial, independent figure at the helm. Realistically, Trudeau would be choosing someone the vast majority of current and former Conservative MPs, party members, supporters, and activists either don’t like or particularly want in this role. This strategy wouldn’t reduce the heat in the Liberal political kitchen, but would crank it up even higher. When the identity of Trudeau’s special rapporteur is unveiled, it won’t result in major changes to the way Canada deals with foreign interferenc

Michael Taube: Ottawa’s ‘Special Rapporteur’ to Look Into Foreign Interference Won’t Be So Special

Commentary

For weeks, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the Liberals minimized, claimed ignorance, or flat-out denied various allegations of foreign interference in Canada’s election process and its democratic institutions. But the court of public opinion could only absorb so much nonsense about a long-standing, decades-old problem and ruled against them.

Ottawa is now scurrying to stop the political bleeding.

Trudeau announced on March 6 that his government will put through measures and safeguards he claims will protect Canada against future interference from totalitarian nations like Russia, Iran, and most recently, China. In particular, the PM will “appoint an eminent Canadian to the position of independent special rapporteur who will have a wide mandate to make expert recommendations on protecting and enhancing Canadians faith in our democracy.”

Oh my. A “special rapporteur.” This fancy-sounding title seems, well, special.

Will this individual be able to do something special to prevent foreign interference on Canadian soil and keep the country safe and secure? Not especially.

For you see, the soon-to-be appointed special rapporteur won’t be all that special.

“Rapporteur was adopted into English in the 16th century,” according to Merriam-Webster, “and is a descendant of the Middle French verb rapporter, meaning ‘to bring back, report, or refer.’”

In other words, Trudeau’s special rapporteur will be part-observer and part-recorder.

This person will hopefully have some level of knowledge or expertise in this particular area. He or she will oversee the proceedings, discussions, interviews, and potential committee meetings. He or she will also make a series of recommendations and write a report with the help and input of others.

To assume the special rapporteur will have significant political and legal powers to carry out these duties is preposterous. If the Liberals attempt to design this new position in said fashion, Canadians will have every right to be skeptical.

To also assume the special rapporteur will be fully independent of Ottawa’s long political arm is another point of concern. Why? Political appointments rarely ever are.

“He could pick someone independent but he won’t,” Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre recently told the media. “He’ll pick another Liberal establishment insider, a real Ottawa insider with some grey hair who looks like a reasonable fellow, but we all know that it will be someone tied to him, tied to the Liberals.”

If Trudeau and the Liberals want to establish an arm’s-length relationship with the special rapporteur, be it real or imaginary, there are several ways to do it—and not to do it.

The role shouldn’t be filled by a current or former Liberal politician, party activist, or any type of perceived sympathizer. That would defeat the whole purpose of this exercise.

It should also disqualify Morris Rosenberg from becoming special rapporteur.

Although Rosenberg worked as a deputy minister in foreign affairs and justice for Liberal and Conservative governments for over three decades, and is writing a paper about foreign interference in the 2021 federal election, he served as president and chief executive officer of the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation between 2014 and 2018. It was also revealed by the Conservatives that Rosenberg, in this capacity, was involved “in facilitating a controversial $200,000 donation from influential CCP official Bin Zhang, who was also intimately involved in Trudeau’s 2016 billionaire cash-for-access scandal.” The Foundation returned Zhang’s donation, which they described as a “pledge,” in the amount of $140,000. (The remaining $60,000 was reportedly never received.)

The role also shouldn’t be filled by a New Democrat, Green, or other left-leaning progressive voice. The Liberals could theoretically attempt to point out this person is aligned with a different political party, and therefore has a different political mindset. The argument wouldn’t fly with right-leaning Canadians—and would surely create quizzical reactions from centrist and business-oriented Liberals, too.

Trudeau could be toying with convincing an old Progressive Conservative, or left-leaning Red Tory, to become special rapporteur. Someone like Jean Charest, Hugh Segal, Kim Campbell, Joe Clark, or even John Tory, in spite of his recent downfall as Toronto’s Mayor. That way, the PM could claim he’s listening to Conservative voices who crave an impartial, independent figure at the helm.

Realistically, Trudeau would be choosing someone the vast majority of current and former Conservative MPs, party members, supporters, and activists either don’t like or particularly want in this role. This strategy wouldn’t reduce the heat in the Liberal political kitchen, but would crank it up even higher.

When the identity of Trudeau’s special rapporteur is unveiled, it won’t result in major changes to the way Canada deals with foreign interference in our elections and democratic process. It will only give us a better indication of the political yarn the Liberals plan to spin and weave with the Canadian public over the coming months.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.