A former mayor of Vancouver says national intelligence officials came to warn him about Chinese interference before the 2022 municipal election because the information wasn’t getting through to authorities at “upper levels.”
Kennedy Stewart told CTV’s Vassy Kapelos that a senior official at the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) and one of its China specialists briefed him last May on foreign interference, and when he asked why they came to warn him, the officials said it was “because there was information that they had that wasn’t getting through to upper levels, and they thought it was important that people knew what was happening or at least had some sense that something was happening.”
Stewart said he believed himself to be a target of interference by the Chinese regime in the 2022 municipal election, in which he lost to Ken Sim of ABC Vancouver by a margin of over 36,000 votes, according to an article by The Globe and Mail.
The Globe cited a Jan. 10, 2022, CSIS report that outlined how China’s then-consul-general in Vancouver, Tong Xiaoling, had discussed the “grooming” of Chinese–Canadian municipal politicians for higher positions as a way to advance Beijing’s interests, seeking to elect a new mayor and a city councillor. The Globe report made references to Sim and Vancouver city councillor Lenny Zhou, though it said the CSIS document didn’t name those who Beijing targeted for influence.
The Epoch Times reached out to Sim and Zhou for comment but didn’t immediately hear back.
Sim, who is the first Vancouver mayor of Chinese descent, expressed outrage in response to the Globe report, saying that race is a factor behind the allegations.
“I’ll just say it: If I was a Caucasian male, we’re not having this conversation,” he said at a press conference on March 16.
‘A Very Easy Target’
When asked if he had observed any irregularities or interference during the 2022 campaign, Stewart told CTV that the Chinese consulate was “openly hostile” toward him due to his support of Taiwan, a self-ruled island that Beijing claims to be part of its territory.
“This wasn’t a secret to me,” he said. “I was warned by a number of colleagues … that the consul-general was very angry with me, and was going to do what they could to make sure I wasn’t re-elected.”
Stewart said that despite holding this knowledge, he had nowhere to go to try to have the alleged interference stopped.
“I can’t call the Chief Electoral Officer of the city because that’s our clerk; I can’t call Elections BC because they have no oversight in this; I can’t call Elections Canada because they don’t do anything with local elections; I can’t call the Vancouver Police Department because they’re connected to this—police can’t investigate their own municipalities, essentially. So there was really nowhere for me to go with this information.”
Stewart, who has taken the position of director of the Centre for Public Policy Research at Simon Fraser University, said Canada has a strong electoral oversight system at the federal level, but lacks scrutiny at the municipal level, making it susceptible to foreign interference.
“If there was an easy way into influencing Canadian government, I think municipalities are one way to do it, as are nominations that are overseen by party,” he said. “If China is interfering, or other countries are interfering, municipalities are a very easy target.”