Trudeau Foundation To Return $200,000 Donation From Beijing Adviser

Conservatives say donation compromised report on foreign election interference written by the former CEO of the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation.

In what seems to be an attempt to do damage control, the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation said it is returning a donation of thousands of dollars given by a Chinese government adviser.

Zhang Bin, a wealthy Chinese businessman and Chinese government consultant, donated $200,000 to the organization in 2016.

The move comes after a Globe and Mail report disclosed that Canadian security officials linked that donation back to the Chinese government, as reports of Chinese interference in Canadian elections garner intensifying scrutiny amid lack of action from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government despite calls for investigation.

The foundation’s president, Pascale Fournier, issued a statement on Wednesday claiming that, in light of the Globe’s revelations, the foundation — which sponsors and promotes academic and public interest research — has reimbursed Zhang in full.

“As an independent, non-partisan charity, ethics and integrity are among our core values and we cannot keep any donation that may have been sponsored by a foreign government and would not knowingly do so,” Fournier’s statement said.

It is noteworthy that the donation that happened around six years ago is only being returned now despite, as the federal government puts it, “attempts of interfering the elections” by the Chinese has been present in the 2019 and 2021 elections, albeit not affecting the “integrity of the results.”

Compromising the report?

On Tuesday, a report was released evaluating the actions of top civil workers tasked with monitoring and warning the public to foreign influence in that election. It discovered that, while there were attempts to tamper with the voting process, those attempts had no effect on the overall integrity of the election.

“In 2019 and 2021, the panel, as part of the Protocol, determined that the Government of Canada did not detect foreign interference that threatened Canada’s ability to have free and fair elections,” the report says.

In 2019, the federal government established the Critical Election Incident Public Protocol to monitor and notify the public of credible threats to Canada’s elections. The team is a group of top government officials entrusted with reviewing whether episodes of interference meet the threshold for public notification.

The Conservatives have questioned the donation to the Trudeau Foundation by Zhang, claiming that it jeopardizes a recent report on foreign meddling in the 2021 election.

Morris Rosenberg, a retired senior public servant of more than 30 years, wrote the report. Rosenberg was also the foundation’s president at the time of the donation.

“The Trudeau government must ensure that the very credible reports on election interference are investigated in a meaningful and impartial manner, rather than trying to spin them as unimportant as they clearly have tried to do here,” the Conservative Party said in a media statement.

The report also said the government should explore modifying the regulations to allow the panel to notify Canadians of “potential” consequences on election integrity.

Rosenberg stated that the panel of five senior public employees found no foreign involvement in the 2019 or 2021 elections on the scale of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election. Nonetheless, the panel found attempts at foreign involvement that did not meet the standard, with Rosenberg stating that such a statement was seen as a last resort.

According to a 2016 National Post report, donations to the foundation have surged dramatically since Trudeau’s election as leader of the Liberal Party of Canada in April 2013.

When it comes to fundraising or dealing with lobbyists, “Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries must avoid conflict of interest, the appearance of conflict of interest, and situations that have the potential to involve conflicts of interest,” according to the Open and Accountable Government guide, which was codified after Trudeau became Prime Minister in October 2015.

Critics argue that the Trudeau family’s continued involvement with the Trudeau Foundation may breach such guidelines, because making a donation may assist curry favor with the prime minister’s family.

According to the National Post’s analysis at the time, approximately 40% of the foundation’s 108 donors, directors, and members since 2014 — or one in every six if academic institutions are excluded — have affiliations with organizations that currently lobby the government, creating the perception of a conflict.

Records of the media firm also showed that in 2015, foreign donations rose from $53,000 in 2014 to $428,000 in 2015 and $535,000 in 2016. Rosenberg was the CEO of the foundation from 2014 to 2018.

Source: National Post

“Serious questions must be asked about this appointment, and whether the Liberals are actually taking this threat against our democracy seriously,” the Conservatives said in a news release Monday afternoon.

The party wants Rosenberg to testify before the Commons committee investigating claims of Chinese meddling to answer questions.

Information for this briefing was found via CBC, The Globe And Mail, National Post, and the sources mentioned. The author has no securities or affiliations related to this organization. Not a recommendation to buy or sell. Always do additional research and consult a professional before purchasing a security. The author holds no licenses.

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