Liberal MP says he won his riding 'fair and square' after rival tells committee he was undermined by Beijing
Kenny Chiu tells MPs foreign meddling 'played a role in my defeat'
Liberal MP Parm Bains said he won his B.C. riding in the last election "fair and square" after his former opponent told a parliamentary committee foreign interference by Beijing played a role in his victory.
Bains sits on the Commons ethics committee and was sitting across the table when former Conservative MP Kenny Chiu told MPs on the committee Friday he believed Bains was the "beneficiary" of a disinformation campaign he suspects was tied to the Chinese Communist Party during the 2021 election campaign.
"I would say it played a role in my defeat," Chiu told the committee.
CBC News asked Bains if he thought foreign interference played a part in the election outcome in his riding.
"No, not at all," he replied while walking away from the cameras. In his first public comment on the matter, Bains insisted his win in Steveston-Richmond East in 2021 was "fair and square."
His comment came after a two-hour committee hearing on foreign interference during which Chiu sat alongside national security experts and shared his personal experience. The federal government has been under intense public scrutiny for weeks over its handling of Beijing's attempts to meddle in the 2019 and 2021 federal elections.
Chiu has spoken out about his belief that the Chinese Communist Party targeted him during his 2021 campaign in retaliation for putting forward a private member's bill to introduce a foreign agent registry that Beijing opposed.
Chiu told MPs he went to CSIS during the campaign to report a "significant amount of disinformation" spreading on the popular messaging apps WeChat and WhatsApp targeting him and the Conservative Party.
"I've been mischaracterized as someone who's anti-Chinese," Chiu said of the posts. "Even hating Chinese. That I must not be allowed to be re-elected."
The messages, Chiu said, also targeted the Conservative leader at the time, Erin O'Toole, by suggesting that he would ban WeChat if he became prime minister, jeopardizing the diaspora's ability to connect with family in China and do business.
Bains told the committee anyone running for public office can be targeted.
"As candidates, we're all victims of misinformation or disinformation when we're in an election," Bains told MPs. "There was a campaign against me [claiming] that I was going to legalize hard drugs and things of that nature."
Bains also pushed back against claims that his riding was targeted due to a large Chinese-Canadian community living there. Bains told MPs he's lived there his "entire life" and called it a "very mixed community." He pointed to a five-kilometre corridor in the city with 28 different religious institutions, popularly known as the "highway to heaven."
The local newspaper in Richmond questioned Bains decision to sit beside the People's Republic of China's Consul General Yang Shu in November 2022 at a Canadian Alliance of Chinese Associations event.
In a response sent to the Richmond News, Bains said "the event in question was advertised as a way to recognize the charitable efforts of numerous organizations toward flood relief, Richmond Hospital and numerous contributions to our local community."
"That is all I attended for," he added, saying he takes the issue of foreign interference seriously.
WATCH: Former MP says he's a victim of election interference by China
Bloc Québécois MP René Villemure asked Chiu if Bains's presence at the committee hearing during his testimony constituted a conflict of interest. Chiu said that was a question for Bains.
Bains didn't respond during the committee. Afterwards, he told CBC News "there's no conflict here." He then left, saying he had to catch a flight.
Before that, Bains walked up to Chiu and shook his hand in what appeared to be a friendly encounter.
Chiu said during the committee hearing that being a beneficiary of Chinese Communist Party political interference "does not necessarily mean collusion."
Chiu told CBC News he isn't sure he'd run again without assurances that the foreign interference problem has been addressed.
"If I run again and yet face similar disinformation, or the diaspora community is still open for exploitation and manipulation, what good is that?" he said.
Chiu said CSIS never got back to him after he reported his case.
"I feel I'm vulnerable," Chiu said. "That my government's not there to protect me when it's needed."
When Chiu was asked if had faced any overt threats, he said someone broke into his home in 2019 and stole some items, just days before voting day.
A local news article from that time shows a photo of Chiu reunited with his dog after his home's security system was disabled, his home was ransacked and his dog got out while he was at a volunteer appreciation dinner.
Chiu said he tries to "think positive" and wouldn't consider the break-in to be linked to foreign interference.
The committee is now on a break for the next two weeks.
With files from Raffy Boudjikanian