Trudeau “raised a lot of suspicion” about the election results, says Poilievre
Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre said on Tuesday the Liberal government’s inaction over alleged Chinese interference in the election has left some Canadian voters questioning whether to trust the latest election results.
Speaking to reporters after a drug-related announcement in BC, Poilievre said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau “raised a lot of suspicion” for refusing to answer detailed questions about China’s role in the 2019 and 2021 election campaigns.
Poilievre said Chinese interference was known at the highest levels of government but was “kept hidden” until “brave whistleblowers” leaked national security information to the press.
Now, Poilievre said, Trudeau has refused to launch a public inquiry into the matter, which has made matters worse.
“What is Justin Trudeau hiding?” said Polievre. “If we want to restore trust in our democracy, we have to answer these questions and create transparency.”
WATCH: ‘Trudeau aroused much suspicion’ by not answering questions about Beijing interference: Poilievre:
While Trudeau and his cabinet have so far avoided convening a public inquiry, the prime minister said on Tuesday his government will soon appoint a “special rapporteur” who will decide whether a commission of inquiry is necessary to get to the bottom of Beijing’s alleged wrongdoing .
The government’s choice of rapporteur will be announced in the “coming days” or this week, Trudeau said.
Meanwhile, Trudeau has asked the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians (NSICOP), a panel of top-security-cleared MPs and senators, to review what is known about Chinese interference.
The Commons Committee on Procedures and House Affairs is also investigating the matter – including allegations that China co-opted some candidates and staff and illegally funneled money into local campaigns to prop up pro-China MPs.
“We are – and have long been – extremely concerned about China’s actions towards our companies, our researchers, the communities here in Canada and also the government,” Trudeau said.
WATCH: ‘This is a serious problem’: Reporters press Trudeau for attempted election interference:
Trudeau said a panel of senior officials monitored the last two campaigns using data compiled by Canada’s national security agencies. He said they concluded the interference did not materially affect the outcome of the vote.
“This is a serious issue that we’ve always taken seriously and that’s why we’re making sure Canadians continue to have confidence,” he said.
But a Leger poll of about 1,544 Canadians, released on Tuesday, suggests a sizeable minority of Canadians don’t have too much faith in the voting system.
About 29 percent of all survey participants said Canada’s voting system is not secure.
This percentage is significantly higher among conservative voters.
Leger found that nearly half — 48 percent — of conservative voters surveyed said Canada’s voting system is not entirely secure. Just seven percent of Liberal voters polled by the Quebec-based firm said the same.
A majority of Canadians interviewed by Leger had heard of recent media reports of election interference.
Of those respondents, 49 percent agreed that the alleged interference “was somewhat limited and didn’t really affect the overall outcome of the election.”
Another 33 percent said the alleged interference “seriously jeopardizes the legitimacy of the election results.” About 18 percent were unsure.
CLOCK | Many Canadians worry about voting system, poll shows:
Trudeau has defended his administration’s handling of election interference. After the 2015 election, the Critical Election Incident Public Protocol (CEIPP) Panel was established – an independent group of bureaucrats who oversee incidents that threaten the integrity of an election – and the Security and Intelligence Threats to Elections (SITE) Task Force was formed to monitor threats.
Canada learned of Chinese interference through the work of these bodies, Trudeau said on Tuesday.
But as Trudeau himself has said in the past, the government has not always listened to recommendations from NSICOP, the intelligence agency’s watchdog, on foreign electoral interference.
“We need to better follow up on these recommendations. I totally accept that,” Trudeau said at a news conference earlier this month.
The government has also ignored legislation to introduce a foreign registry – a bill former Conservative MP Kenny Chiu said made it a target of Chinese interference in the 2021 vote.
Anti-Chiu posts flooded Chinese-language social media during the last campaign. Some of these messages accused Chiu of wanting to “suppress” the Chinese Canadian community by supporting the law.
After Chiu’s defeat by a Liberal, conservative Senator Leo Housakos took over by introducing S-237, legislation that would establish a foreign influence registry in Canada. Such a system would force agents working on behalf of a foreign government to either register their interactions with officials in Canada or face criminal penalties.
“We have fallen far behind in indicting people who try to circumvent our democracy and our democratic institutions, and it is high time the Trudeau administration did something about it,” Housakos told CBC News.
The government has started consultations on the merits of a register.