Former Conservative campaign director urges MPs to protect the next election from foreign meddling
Liberal campaign manager says briefings by intelligence officials often left gaps
The Conservatives' national campaign director for the 2021 federal election urged MPs on Tuesday to amend legislation to put Canada in a better position to combat attempts at foreign interference in elections.
"We're spending a lot of time trying to find out who knew what, when and where. I feel a lot of effort should be going into, as legislators, putting together legislation to plug these holes," Fred DeLorey told the House of Commons procedure committee.
"We're all under threat here. All parties could be impacted by this in the next election. It can come from different entities, different countries and I really wish we could see a more collaborative approach to really drill down on what the issues are and how we solve them."
DeLorey made his comments before the committee investigating allegations of interference by China's government in the past two elections and what the federal government knew about it.
DeLorey was one of four campaign managers testifying Tuesday about the briefings they received from intelligence officials regarding the 2019 and 2021 campaigns.
Jeremy Broadhurst, a senior adviser to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the Liberal Party's campaign director for the 2019 vote, said the briefings were sometimes frustrating.
"You are looking at raw data and asked to come to your own conclusions," he said.
"There's often, 'Here's what we know and here's what we don't know.' That leaves gaps for people to decide what's the calibre of the information you have."
WATCH | 'We're all under threat': former campaign manager on foreign interference
On Tuesday, Conservative MPs on the committee raised a February story from Global News alleging that the Canadian Security Intelligence Service warned Prime Minister Justin Trudeau about Toronto-area Liberal candidate Han Dong.
Broadhurst said he couldn't comment on the nature of the briefings he received.
"The determinations of candidates are the bailiwick of parties," he said. "I think I've pointed out that there have been inaccuracies in that public reporting."
Azam Ishmael, who oversaw the Liberals' most recent campaign in 2021, told MPs the Liberals have not "turned a blind eye" to allegations of foreign meddling in elections.
Dong has denied various Global News stories and is suing the media company.
Conservative campaign says results 'felt off'
The Conservatives 2019 campaign manager, Hamish Marshall, said the briefings were "very, very vague and top-level."
"We're loathe to fire candidates and remove candidates," he said. "It's not something we enjoy doing. It's something that's difficult. It's obviously extraordinarily disruptive during an election.
"The information that we would have to be presented [with] in order to take action on it, from a committee or something else, would have to be very, very detailed."
DeLorey said the party heard the "odd rumbling" during the campaign about foreign interference — warnings that he described as "anecdotal at best."
WATCH | Internal CPC memo lists federal ridings believed to be 'negatively impacted' by outside interference
"However, after the campaign was concluded, we noticed some results that felt off. And that's when internal rumblings of foreign interference became much louder," he said.
DeLorey said he then told his field operations teams to investigate the issue and meet with the local campaigns.
They determined that "there was a strong case to be made that there was a degree of influence exerted by an outside actor in the Chinese community during the 44th general election," he said.
A panel of top civil servants concluded that there were attempts to interfere with the 2021 federal election but they did not affect the results.
With files from Richard Raycraft