A B.C. senator who last year was accused by Conservatives of being a sympathizer with communist China is the sole candidate in the running to lead Independents in the Senate.
Malaysian-born Yuen Pau Woo, who was appointed by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau last November, has put his name forward to lead the Independent Senators Group (ISG), which is expected to soon become the largest bloc in the Senate, displacing the Conservatives for the first time.
Woo sponsored the government’s budget bill in the Senate last spring and successfully fended off attempts to split the Canada Infrastructure Bank.
Prior to joining the Senate, Woo was a senior fellow in public policy at the Asian Institute of Research at the University of British Columbia, and is the former president of the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada. He has long been a supporter of closer trade ties between Canada and China.
Other candidates for the top job must come forward by Friday. Another would-be contender, Sen. Larry Campbell of B.C., has pulled out.
Campbell, a former mayor of Vancouver who was appointed as a Liberal in 2005, recently suffered a heart attack. The current caucus leader, Elaine McCoy, has signalled she will not reoffer.
Woo is a political neophyte, but has already faced attacks from Conservatives over his perceived ties to the Chinese regime.
Defender of China
Conservative MP Peter Kent called Woo an “apologist for the Chinese dictatorship,” after the senator spoke against a motion that would condemn China for territorial encroachments and a massive military buildup in the South China Sea.
“It seems every week we hear new evidence of the cozy relationship the Liberal government has with the Chinese communist dictatorship. Now Liberals are using the Senate as a platform to undermine our allies and the foundation of international law,” Kent said in a statement after Woo delivered his speech on the matter in November.
Woo said the Conservative comments are unfair.
“That kind of accusation is just ludicrous. It’s a very serious allegation. Of course I’m not. I’m a member of the Senate of Canada,” Woo said in an interview with CBC News Tuesday when asked about Tory claims.
Woo, who said he is “not a political animal,” did not want to discuss the matter in detail.
“If someone has beef with me, or has chosen to call me particular names, I’ll respond at that time. I don’t really care what names people throw on me.”
The motion in question,…