Mar 1, 2023
Canadians fear China swayed elections that put Trudeau in power: Poll
The balloon is the least of our worries; cyber is the number one worry in regards to China: Jeff Hull
Two thirds of Canadians suspect China attempted to interfere in recent elections that returned Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his Liberals to power, according to a new poll.
More than half think the alleged meddling represents a serious threat to Canada’s democracy. A similar proportion says Trudeau’s response to the simmering scandal hasn’t been tough enough.
A series of recent media reports that cited secret intelligence documents alleging China attempted to interfere in the 2019 and 2021 votes has brought the issue into the spotlight. Trudeau has so far resisted pressure to call a public inquiry into the matter.
While the strongest belief in Chinese interference comes from supporters of the main opposition Conservatives, the survey published Wednesday by the Angus Reid Institute found majority support for the notion among backers of all parties.
“The political aspect of this is undeniable,” Angus Reid President Shachi Kurl said by email, flagging the belief among Conservatives that China denied them an election win in 2021. “This is significant because it runs the risk of further undermining trust in the election process.”
Overall, 32 per cent of respondents said China definitely tried to interfere in recent Canadian elections and 33 per cent said it probably did. Only 6 per cent answered a definitive no to the question.
On Tuesday, a non-partisan group of government officials released a study on the integrity of the last national vote, in which Trudeau secured a third term but fell short of a parliamentary majority that would have allowed him free reign to pursue the Liberal government’s agenda.
“National security agencies saw attempts at foreign interference, but not enough to have met the threshold of impacting electoral integrity,” the panel said.
Angus Reid, however, found that 42 per cent of Conservative voters said they thought the 2021 election was “stolen” due to Chinese interference, compared to tiny support among those backing left-leaning parties.
While Trudeau and Chinese President Xi Jinping have clashed in public, the Liberals are seen as more open to doing business with the Asian superpower than the Conservatives, who take a hard line on human rights issues and national security concerns.
China maintains it doesn’t interfere with Canada’s internal affairs and has warned that the northern nation should stop “smearing” Beijing’s government with what it calls unfounded allegations.
It’s too soon to tell if the issue will do lasting damage to Trudeau, according to Kurl. “These data offer an early directional arrow in terms of expecting the PM and his government to be seen to be taking this issue more seriously,” she said.
The poll found that 53 per cent of respondents think Trudeau’s response to the allegations hasn’t been strong enough, and want to see Canada take further action. About 64 per cent said they believe Canada doesn’t put enough focus on national security and defense.
Asked if Trudeau’s government is “afraid to stand up to China,” 69 per cent said they agree.
Reporting by broadcaster Global News and the Globe and Mail newspaper has alleged Trudeau received secret intelligence briefings saying China attempted to get certain candidates elected to parliament, and preferred to see his Liberals govern the country over the Conservatives.
The prime minister has called the stories inaccurate, but declined to go into detail about what exactly he disputes. The reports included claims that China spread misinformation to hurt certain candidates, and funneled money and volunteers toward people it wanted to see elected.
A parliamentary committee is studying the matter, and will hear testimony later Wednesday from government witnesses including Trudeau’s national security adviser, Jody Thomas.
The Angus Reid survey was conducted online between Feb. 23 and 25 among a representative randomized sample of 1,622 Canadian adults. The firm said that for comparison purposes, a probability sample of this size would carry a margin of error of 2 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.
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