Freeland calls ex-envoy's advice to China about election 'highly inappropriate'

Chrystia Freeland

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland is distancing the Trudeau government from its former ambassador to China, a day after he said he has warned Chinese officials that further punishments against Canada could help the opposition Conservatives win the fall election.

Asked by reporters today about John McCallum's remarks, Freeland said it's highly inappropriate for any Canadian to advise a foreign government on how it can influence an election result in Canada.

In her response about McCallum, she also made a point of highlighting the government's ongoing efforts to protect Canada from foreign election interference.

McCallum's recent comments to the South China Morning Post came with the two countries locked in a diplomatic dispute that has seen Chinese authorities block key imports from Canada and detain two Canadians on espionage charges.

He told the newspaper that he warned his contacts in China's foreign ministry that further negative actions against Canada would help the Conservatives, a party he described as much less friendly to China.

McCallum, an economist and Liberal cabinet minister before he was named an ambassador, was fired by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in January after going off-script in the government's efforts to win the release of detained Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor.