... that Justin Trudeau is an idiot who cannot manage to sit through a briefing. There are global leaders like that, but Mr Trudau is not amongst them. He can understand the points being made by senior officials, he can discuss, rationally, the policy options presented by his political advisors. He may not be the sharpest knife in the drawer, but he’s not a total fool.
According to a report in the Globe and Mail, when “Asked about the British move … [to severely limit how Huawei might participate in the UK’s roll-out of 5G] … Mr. Trudeau would say only that his government is still consulting its national security agencies on what to do … [and, the Globe and Mail‘s reporters, Steven Chase and Robert Fife, say that] … The Liberal government has been referring to this review when asked about the company for more than one year and eight months.“
We know that very, very senior officials from CSIS and DND (which administers the Communications Security Establishment) have both warned the government to ban Huawei. Now, of course, there are other points of view. Huawei, itself says that it can be trusted. And I am certain that some officials in some government departments, including some pretty senior officials, think that the Canadian security services are a) sort of captives of the US intelligence community, and will go along with whatever they say, without question ~ kind of a bureaucratic Stockholm Syndrome; and b) believe that US President Trump trade war against China ~ in which Huawei and 5G are just one battleground ~ is ill-considered and that China will overtake the USA in economic importance, to Canada, in this century. There is, also, as strong Canada-China trade and business community that, while largely silent, in public, wants to smooth over Canada-China relations. At least one major Canadian telecom service provider has published plans to use Huawei‘s equipment when it rolls out 5G. Huawei and China both have friends in Canada, and some of those friends, like former Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, have a lot of influence at the very heart of the Trudeau regime. They ~ those pro-China voices ~ don’t get as much media attention as is lavished on, say, a two years old Stephen Harper interview with a minor American online celebrity, but they do get heard in the PMO.
I believe Justin Trudeau. I believe he is telling the truth when he says he has not made up his mind. I do NOT believe that he and his government is “still consulting its national security agencies;” they’ve had their say. I believe that Prime Minister Trudeau is listening, now, to M Chrétien and to Ambassador Dominic Barton, Canada’s (or is he McKinsey & Company‘s) man in Beijing and to Ambassador Cong Peiwu, Beijing’s man in Ottawa. And I believe that they are telling him something quite different from what he heard from his national security advisors.
Let me be clear: I don’t think, not even for a µsecond, that M Chrétien, TELUS President Darren Entwistle and Ambassador Barton are anything but smart, loyal and exemplary Canadians who want what’s best for Canada. They are not agents of a foreign power. I may disagree with the counsel that I suspect they are giving on this one issue but I support their right to offer it and I support Prime Minister Trudeau’s choice to weight it in the balance.
I suspect that a large part of the Liberal political elites and the Laurentian Elites, too, agree with the view that Donald Trump has made a serious strategic error is starting a trade war with China and that Huawei is not all that much different from, say, Apple or Google in its relations with its parent nation’s government and security services.
One is neither stupid nor naive to mistrust the strategic judgement of Donald Trump and Mike Pompeo and doing so is certainly not unpatriotic or un-Canadian.
I suspect that Messers Barton, Chrétien, Cong and many others are singing a siren song that whispers: “what does it matter? all really secret government communications are encrypted, end-to-end, anyway, aren’t they? who cares if China can “read” the message that autonomous vehicles send each other? should you really worry if China knows what you ordered from Amazon, or if you watch a bit of porn? it’s not a big deal, is it?” And they’re saying “who cares if Donald Trump explodes in another rage? actually, isn’t it a good thing for a Canadian politician if Donald Trump gets angry at you? that wins votes, doesn’t it? and he’s not going to deny us access to the Five Eyes stuff ~ we contribute a lot, don’t we? he may rant and bellow but after a few days it will be business as usual, right?” I also suspect that Prime Minister Trudeau is listening because I’m sure that Ambassador Cong is whispering that China can make good things happen to countries that are ‘onside.’ Countries that cooperate can get trade deals, they can have Chinese support for their global ambitions ~ even for a seat on the United Nations Security Council. And countries that don’t ban Huawei don’t have their citizen rotting in Chinese jails. In fact, I’m sure Prime Minister Trudeau is listening.
How will it play out? Will China tell it’s many, many client states to stop opposing Canada’s bid for a Security Council seat in the United Nations? Will Prime Minister Trudeau tell Attorney General David Lametti to put an end to the prosecution of Meng Wanzhou? Will China release the Two Michales? Will Huawei be allowed to participate in Canada’s 5G network? Will Canada have a general election and end up with one of the few resoundingly pro-China governments in all of the Western world?
That’s what’s at stake here: who are China’s friends? Many European states will allow Huawei to help build their 5G networks. Japan has banned Huawei but South Korea has not and LG Uplus (LGU+), a major South Korean carrier is using Huawei equipment in its (already working) 5G network. If South Korea can trust Huawei, many will ask, why can’t Canada? Prime Minister Trudeau will, eventually, decide how Canada will react. He’s heard from his own nationals security advisors; he’s heard from the USA. Now he’s listening to other voices who have other concerns, beyond national security.