Toews says Dechert did nothing 'untoward'
Public safety minister says PM's office has looked into controversy
The Prime Minister's Office has looked into the Bob Dechert email controversy and found nothing untoward occurred, says Public Safety Minister Vic Toews.
The Conservative MP admitted to sending "flirtatious" emails to Shi Rong, a journalist in Toronto working for China’s state-run news agency, Xinhua, in 2010 while parliamentary secretary to the minister of foreign affairs.
In an interview with the CBC's Evan Solomon on Power & Politics, Toews said he had no evidence to indicate anything untoward took place between the journalist and Dechert.
Some have wondered if there should be an investigation into the matter in order to make sure no sensitive information was exchanged in their correspondence.
Late Thursday, the Ottawa Citizen reported that Rong now has left Canada on a "scheduled vacation."
Zeng Hu, the state media agency’s North America bureau chief based in New York City, told the newspaper he didn’t know if Shi would be coming back to Toronto after her trip.
"She wanted to have a vacation for some time before," Zeng told the Ottawa Citizen, adding that he doesn’t know when Shi left but said he believes she went back to Beijing.
Call for resignation
Federal NDP Interim Leader Nycole Turmel has called on Dechert to resign.
"He should step down and there should be an investigation," Turmel told reporters in Quebec City, "We believe it is inappropriate what happened. He's a key person."
Dechert was appointed parliamentary secretary for Foreign Affairs in May. He said he met Shi while doing interviews for Chinese-language media and maintains the emails were nothing more than a flirtation between friends.
But the "flirtation" has raised questions about the Chinese news outlet as some Xinhua journalists have been linked to the Chinese government's intelligence-gathering activities.
Tom Flanagan, a professor of political science at the University of Calgary, said the whole scandal should be dropped by the media.
"It would be better for the country if we dampen it down," Flanagan said on Power & Politics Thursday. "All it will do is piss off the Chinese government and there is no profit in that for anybody."
But former Liberal MP Alexandra Mendes said on the program some aspects of the issue should be investigated.
"The only thing that needed to be looked at is what kind and what nature of information was exchanged in those emails — if any," Mendes said.
The emails, sent in April of 2010, were forwarded to members of the media and were circulated late last week.
Dechert said in a statement Friday that Shi's email account was hacked as part of a domestic dispute.