Officials from the Department of Finance declined to answer questions from MPs this week while appearing before a House of Commons committee studying the federal government’s recent suspension of activity with the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB).
James Wu, director general of the finance department’s funds management division, and Kathleen Wrye, director of the department’s financial crimes and security division, told the Commons Standing Committee on Canada-China Relations on June 19 that the government’s decision relating to the AIIB was beyond their purview, as first reported by Blacklock’s Reporter.
Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland announced on June 14 that Ottawa was ceasing all activities with the AIIB while it investigates allegations made by the bank’s Canadian global communications director, Bob Pickard, after declaring his resignation.
Pickard alleged that the AIIB—founded in 2016 to finance railways and other infrastructure—is “dominated” by the Chinese Communist Party.
Freeland told reporters at the time that Ottawa would also be discussing the issue with Canada’s “allies and partners who are members of the bank.”
“China, as the world’s second-largest economy, needs to play a role in solving global problems which affect every country,” she said.
The government’s action on the matter comes about six years after Parliament passed the “Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank Agreement Act” in 2017, which permitted the Finance Department to buy up to US$375 million worth of AIIB shares.
Conservative MP Garnett Genuis asked Wu and Wrye during their committee appearance to explain the government’s current stance on the AIIB and what it “means” to suspend activity with the bank.
“Is this just kind of a ‘say we’re reviewing it to get it out of the news’ issue, or is there an actual serious review where we are going to hear back a decision?” Genuis said, while also asking for more information beyond what Freeland gave previously.
Wu said he could not provide any further information, and Wrye said she was “not able to answer questions with respect” to the bank.
Then-deputy finance minister Michael Sabia told the Commons Standing Committee on Public Accounts in November 2022 that the AIIB is “not a Chinese-controlled investment bank.”
Pickard said, when resigning from his position on June 14, that the CCP “runs” the AIIB.
“The Bank is dominated by Communist Party members and also has one of the most toxic cultures imaginable, ” he wrote on Twitter on June 14.
“I don’t believe that my country’s interests are served by its AIIB membership.”
Matthew Horwood contributed to this report.