Chinese interference, Trudeau promises to appoint a ‘special rapporteur’ “in coming days”, but one in three Canadians don’t care

OTTAWA – A week after pledging to appoint a “special rapporteur” to look into allegations of federal election interference by China and the issue of foreign interference in general, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said today that Canadians will know who chose “in the next few days”.

“We know how important it is for Canadians to trust our system and have the right independent expert. Because it’s not about what one political party or another says” the prime minister said.

One of the “special rapporteur’s” first tasks will be to recommend to the federal government whether a formal investigation or other form of judicial investigation or review is the best next step. Trudeau has promised that liberals will “respect” any invitation by the chosen person to open an investigation.

But the opposition parties are not satisfied with the prime minister’s statements and are once again asking to convene an inquiry or, alternatively, to decide all together in Parliament who should be the “special rapporteur”.

As is well known, the matter concerns allegations that China meddled in the 2019 and 2021 federal elections, as reported by reports published in recent weeks by Global News and The Globe and Mail, based on leaks from security sources: in essence, China would have tried to interfere in Canadian politics by supporting candidates considered “friendly” with Beijing and ensuring that the liberals go to government.

But what do Canadians think? A new poll indicates they are divided on the issue but broadly believe the country’s electoral system is secure. According to the poll conducted by Leger on a sample of 1,544 interviewed between March 10 and 12, 71% of Canadians believe that the electoral system is secure, while 29% believe it is not. And the majority, 69 percent of respondents, said they generally trust Canada’s election results (one in five said they don’t trust the results, another 11 percent say they don’t know).

The poll also suggests that 93% of respondents who vote Liberal believe the electoral system is secure. Conservative voters are split, with 52% saying they believe the system is secure and 48% saying they believe it is not. Liberal and NDP supporters are more likely to say they generally have confidence in Canada’s election results, with 92% of Liberal voters and 81% of NDP voters. Confidence in the election is slightly lower among Bloc Quebecois supporters, at 75%, and Green voters, at 64%. Only 55% of Conservative voters said they generally have faith in the election, while 36% said they have no confidence at all. Very low trust among supporters of the People’s Party of Canada.

The survey therefore indicates that there is a strong “partisan” gap in opinions on elections in general. “Those who tend to distrust our electoral system or not tend to fall on partisan lines” said Christian Bourque, executive vice president of Leger. “It is mainly right-wing voters who tend to show greater distrust of traditional institutions of our democracy, such as elections”.

Going back to the poll data, a third of respondents said the potential for foreign interference is “so important that it greatly undermines the legitimacy of the election results”. But the poll also indicated that a third of Canadians have not even heard of foreign interference. Probably, between inflation, skyrocketing prices and unsustainable mortgage payments, they have much more to think about.

In the photo above, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during a rally in Markham-Unionville in the Chinese community: the image is taken from the Instagram page of Hang Don (@handongontario), Liberal MP from Toronto