Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre asked some pointed questions of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau Wednesday about his government’s handling of Chinese election interference.
Trudeau hit back with a question of his own: Why are Conservative MPs who met with a far-right German politician still in the Tory caucus?
Under pressure from the Conservatives to state exactly what his office knew about claims regarding politicians working with Beijing, Trudeau took a pause from his scripted answers on the issue to demand that Poilievre “apologize” for three Conservative MPs meeting with Christine Anderson.
Anderson is a member of the European Parliament representing the Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, which has been under surveillance as a suspected extremist group in Germany and is accused of downplaying Nazi crimes, opposing immigration and pushing anti-Muslim ideology.
“I do want to point out another issue that I know is preoccupying for Canadians. Just recently, Conservative Party MPs knowingly dined with a far-right German politician,” Trudeau said in question period.
Over a chorus of boos from the opposition benches, Trudeau said Anderson’s “far-right, xenophobic, anti-science, pro-Putin views are well known.”
“(Poilievre’s) carefully crafted condemnation that neither he nor his MPs will repeat publicly just won’t cut it,” he said. “It’s time he gave Canadians real answers and apologized.”
Poilievre ignored Trudeau’s jab and pressed on with questions about Beijing’s alleged meddling.
Conservative MPs Leslyn Lewis, Dean Allison and Colin Carrie met with Anderson late last month as part of her recent tour of Canada.
Anderson has become something of a folk hero in anti-vaccine mandate circles because of her support for last year’s “Freedom Convoy” protests near Parliament Hill.
Anderson has also been a vocal critic of Trudeau.
Last year, when Trudeau addressed the European parliament, Anderson called the prime minister “a disgrace for any democracy” because he implemented stringent COVID-19 public health restrictions.
She also called him a dictator who treats citizens as “terrorists.”
Anderson’s Canadian visit was organized by convoy elements.
Following Trudeau’s call for an apology, Lewis heckled the PM, saying, “It’s time to apologize for blackface.”
Pictures of Trudeau in blackface surfaced during the 2019 election campaign. Trudeau said at the time that he was “deeply sorry” for the racist act.
After photos of the Anderson meeting appeared on social media, there was outcry from some Canadians about MPs meeting with such a controversial figure.
The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, a Jewish advocacy organization, said it was “deeply concerned” by the fact that MPs met with someone like Anderson. Anderson’s AfD has been accused of trivializing the Holocaust.
Poilievre’s office then released a statement condemning Anderson’s views as “vile” while insisting his three MPs were unaware of her politics and regretted the meeting.
Carrie, who represents the riding of Oshawa, expressed his regret on social media. Neither Allison nor Lewis have said anything publicly about the meeting.
On Monday, when asked about Anderson, Poilievre pointed to Trudeau’s past use of blackface to deflect from uncomfortable questions about his own MPs.
“Right now, what I’m more concerned about is the vile and racist views of the prime minister,” he told reporters, pointing to Trudeau’s use of blackface several times before entering politics.
When asked directly on Monday whether he intends to remove Lewis, Allison or Carrie from caucus, the Conservative leader answered, “No.”
Trudeau also got a reprieve from Poilievre’s questioning Wednesday when a backbench Liberal MP asked Trudeau about abortion.
“Access to abortion is an issue that affects us all. Can the prime minister tell this House what the government is doing to make sure everyone has the right to make decisions about their own bodies?” said Taleeb Noormohamed.
Trudeau said universal access to abortion is “guaranteed” and “protected” in Canada. He warned that some Conservative MPs want to challenge that right.
“There are still those, even in this House, who would like to resurface the debate on the right [to] abortion. This cannot be ignored and we must remain vigilant. We will, on this side of the House, always unequivocally stand up for women’s fundamental right to choose,” Trudeau said.
Trudeau used abortion as a political wedge issue in the last two election campaigns, championing access to the service while suggesting Conservatives would roll back women’s rights.
During the Conservative leadership race, a spokesperson for Poilievre said a government led by him “will not introduce or pass any laws restricting abortion.”