Ontario Premier Doug Ford says his office was briefed by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service about Toronto MPP Vincent Ke, who has since left the Progressive Conservative caucus over allegations of foreign interference, but that the information was sparse and “very secretive.”
Mr. Ford on Tuesday revealed that his former chief of staff, Jamie Wallace, was briefed by CSIS about Mr. Ke, who now sits as an Independent. The Ontario government said it requested the briefing after Global News first asked Mr. Ford’s office about allegations concerning Mr. Ke.
The Premier’s office confirmed the briefing happened last fall. Mr. Ke left the PC caucus on March 10, when Global reported on allegations that Mr. Ke was part of a Beijing-led effort to interfere with the 2019 federal election, which he denies. Mr. Ke has called the allegations “false and defamatory,” but said he does not want to be a distraction for the government. Neither Mr. Ke nor Mr. Wallace immediately responded to a request for comment on Tuesday.
Mr. Ford said he’s confident Mr. Ke will clear his name and be welcomed back into the PC caucus.
“He wants to clear his name. And once he clears his name then we can get back to normal. I think he did the right thing and I have confidence that his name will be cleared,” Mr. Ford told reporters at a prebudget announcement in Vaughan, Ont.
“If his name’s totally cleared, there’s no reason why he can’t come back to caucus.”
Mr. Ford said he personally did not receive a briefing from CSIS, but that Mr. Wallace did.
“It’s always sensitive so it’s kind of tough to answer all the details but it was quick. I was briefed through my staff and let’s see what happens here,” Mr. Ford said.
“With CSIS, everything’s a big secret. They don’t give you a proper briefing in my opinion. They will say a few comments and ‘We can’t tell you, we can’t tell you, we can’t tell you.’ Well they’re in charge of national security so let them continue on with their investigation. We’ll co-operate any way we can and let them do their job. But they’re very secretive.”
Mr. Ke has represented Don Valley North since 2018. His resignation from caucus follows a Global News report that alleged he was involved in an election interference network directed by China’s Toronto consulate. The Global report cited unnamed sources.
The federal government has faced an onslaught of criticism over its handling of Chinese interference since The Globe and Mail reported last month on CSIS documents that revealed China employed a sophisticated strategy to disrupt Canada’s democracy in the 2021 election campaign.
Highly classified documents, seen by The Globe and Global News, also outline how China tried to elect 11 candidates – nine Liberals and two Conservatives – in the 2019 election.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has ordered two closed-door probes into Chinese election interference that will be reviewed by special rapporteur David Johnston, the former governor-general.
Mr. Ford on Tuesday declined to say whether he supports a public inquiry into the matter.
“That’s up to the federal government if they want to do that. I can tell you one thing, what people want, doesn’t matter provincially, federally or municipally, they want transparency in their elections, they don’t want any inference from any outside source,” he said. “And that’s what we believe in and we’ll always fight for transparency, when it comes to anything, including elections.”