Foreign interferences, three out of 4 Canadians don’t trust Johnston

TORONTO – Barely one in four Canadians trust the credibility and impartiality of former Governor General David Johnston as special rapporteur on foreign interference, according to a new poll by Léger for the National Post, conducted using an online panel of 1,531 eligible Canadian voters, May 26-29. In fact, only 27 percent of respondents said they believed Johnston’s recent report advocating against a public inquiry into foreign interference was based on “rigorous, unbiased work” or “foreign policy expertise”. In fact, three out of four Canadians don’t trust him. 

Johnston has been known to have come under fire from opposition parties for his special rapporteur qualifications, including his ties to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the foundation of the Trudeau family, which is at the center of some allegations of foreign influence.

According to Léger’s poll, 46% of respondents said they were aware of Johnston’s report published last week, but 33% said they believed the report was not based on sufficient expertise or impartiality, while 40% said they were not sure or “I don’t know”. A significant majority of Canadians (69%) said they were concerned about China’s meddling in electoral affairs, but 47% said the Trudeau government handled the issue “badly” or “very badly”. Only 28% of respondents said the Trudeau government’s response to the question was “good” or “very good.”

“The matter is of significant public attention,” comments Leger’s administrative vice president, Andrew Enns. But respondents are also skeptical about the government’s responsiveness: 50 percent don’t think the Johnston report “will change anything” in how the government handles foreign interference in federal elections. Only 24% said they believe the government will introduce more safeguards against interference based on the report’s guidance.

Criticism of Johnston’s appointment increased last week after his report acknowledged, yes, foreign interference in Canada’s politics, but failed to signal a public inquiry: instead, he announced he would chair a series of public hearings on the matter. And of course the prime minister accepted Johnston’s recommendation. Well, the poll shows that more Canadians oppose Johnston’s decision not to recommend a public inquiry – 36% said they disagree – than 30% who did. The remaining 34% said they did not know or were uncertain. 

On Wednesday, the House of Commons approved (with only the Liberals voting against) the NDP motion calling on the government to remove Johnston and “urgently establish” a public inquiry into foreign interference, particularly from China. But Johnston himself was unruffled: “I deeply respect the right of the House of Commons to have its say on my ongoing work, but my mandate comes from government. I have a duty to carry that work forward until my mandate is completed” Johnston said in a statement.

Continued criticism of the Trudeau government’s handling of foreign Chinese interference does not seem, however, to have influenced support for the Liberals: according to the same poll, in fact, as of May 29, the Liberals and Conservatives were almost neck to neck, with respectively 33% and 31% support. The situation hasn’t changed much since Léger’s previous poll in early May put the Conservatives at 33% and the Liberals at 32%.

Over the weekend, however, thanks to a report by the CBC, it emerged that Johnston had hired three media and legal firms to conduct his investigation, at taxpayers’ expense. Who knows if the numbers would change if the same survey were done today…

In the pic above, David Johnston (photo by Mohammad Jangda from