Trudeau calls David Johnston ‘unimpeachable’ as Conservatives attack his impartiality
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau defended his choice of former governor-general David Johnston as special election correspondent on Friday, arguing that the Conservatives’ attacks on him show the party is more interested in creating chaos than tackling foreign electoral interference.
“David Johnston has served this country in many, many different ways in a long and unassailable career,” said Trudeau of Guelph, Ontario. the man he appointed to investigate reports of foreign electoral interference.
“If we are looking for someone who will put the country first and put the interests of Canadians at the heart of what he does, there is no better name than David Johnston.”
Citing secret Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) sources, several media reports have claimed that China was trying to ensure the Liberals would win a minority government in the last general election. Those reports also said Beijing was working to defeat conservative candidates critical of China by interfering in the last two federal elections.
A panel of top officials concluded that attempts to interfere in the 2021 federal election did not affect the results. Trudeau has announced several investigations into foreign election interference and appointed Johnston as special rapporteur earlier this week.
Among other things, Johnston has been tasked with advising the prime minister on whether to call a public inquiry – something all opposition parties have been calling for.
Trudeau said he will follow Johnston’s recommendations. Conservatives and the Bloc Québécois on Thursday opposed Johnston’s appointment, arguing that he was too closely linked to the prime minister.
Poilievre brings ‘flamethrowers’ to institutions: Trudeau
“Trudeau has appointed a family friend, an old cottage neighbor and member of the Beijing-funded Trudeau Foundation as the independent rapporteur on Beijing’s meddling,” Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre said in a media statement.
“Be honest. Trudeau needs to end his cover-up. Call a public inquiry.”
Yves-François Blanchet, leader of the Québécois bloc, told reporters in Ottawa on Wednesday that while the prime minister has “nothing against” Johnston, the prime minister should “enhance his own credibility” by choosing someone for the job who is not personal friend is
“I will accept nothing but a public independent inquiry into which leadership was chosen by Parliament. Nothing else,” he added.
Trudeau said that while China tried to interfere in Canada’s election, the evidence suggests it was unsuccessful.
Poilievre pushes back
Trudeau said Poilievre “hopes that if he attacks our institutions with a flamethrower, maybe he can win. That sounds like a really great way to make sure all Canadians lose.”
The Prime Minister said the Conservatives under Poilievre were only interested in turning the problem of election interference into a partisan circus.
“We must stand up for our institutions, we must reassure Canadians that everything has been and is being done to ensure their focus is on serving Canadians and keeping the people safe.
“You don’t do that by increasing the toxicity and partisanship to the point where it doesn’t matter what the substance is, it just matters which side you’re on.”
Johnston, who had a long career as a law professor, was appointed governor-general by former Prime Minister Stephen Harper in 2010, a position he held until 2017. Harper extended his five-year term by two years.
In a speech in Vancouver on Friday, Poilievre dismissed Trudeau’s criticism, saying the prime minister was “putting his own interests ahead of our national interests” and reiterated his call for a public inquiry.
“It is Justin Trudeau who put Mr. Johnston in this terrible situation by appointing a member of the China-funded Trudeau Foundation to fill this role of investigating Beijing’s interference in our election campaigns,” Poilievre said.
“That was Justin Trudeau’s misjudgment. All of this suggests that he is covering up the truth because he is afraid Canadians will find out how he failed to speak up for our interests and instead stood up for his own.”
Johnston is a member of the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation, an independent charity. This foundation recently announced that it would return a $200,000 donation it received seven years ago after media reports claimed the money was donated at the behest of China.