Canada rejects 'election interference' claim probe, exposing infighting
Ottawa's policy lacks independence, strategic vision and continuity
Published: May 24, 2023 10:07 PM
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in a press conference during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Bangkok on November 18, 2022. Photo: VCG

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau Photo: VCG

Canada's internal political wrestling over alleged "China interference" in elections continues, as a government appointee on Tuesday rejected holding a public inquiry into leaked intelligence about the allegation, while opposition lawmakers blasted the decision. 

Underling the recklessness of Canadian policymakers that are indulging in political wrestling, analysts said Ottawa's China policy lacks independence and strategic vision, which not only deals a heavy blow to China-Canada relations but would ultimately damage Canada's own interests. 

David Johnston, appointed by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in March, announced recommendations Tuesday saying that a public inquiry into the leaked materials could not take place because of the sensitivity of the intelligence, AP reported. However, Johnston recommended public hearings on broader issues, including on foreign influence in Canada's political system.

Trudeau said he would abide by Johnston's recommendation to not hold a public inquiry.

Opposition Conservative Party leader Pierre Poilievre slammed Johnston's recommendation, saying that it covers up Beijing's influence in Canada. He also alleged Johnston was compromised because he has family ties with Trudeau.

China on Wednesday again responded to the groundless allegation. Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said at the routine press briefing that China has always pursued a foreign policy of non-interference in other countries' internal affairs, and firmly opposes such interference. 

"We have no interest in and will not interfere in Canada's internal affairs and elections. We urge Canada to abandon ideological prejudice and the Cold War mentality, and stop making an issue out of China," Mao said. 

Yao Peng, deputy secretary-general of the Canadian Studies Center of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times on Wednesday that the attitude change demonstrates that Canada does not have any evidence but only "conjecture, speculation and hearsay." Those officials and lawmakers' recklessness is apparent. 

Though there are claims that Canada has plenty of leverage as China relations sour and Ottawa can withstand the consequences, Yao said the narrative was only to boost its own courage.   

If Canada continues on its present course, it will only feel more frustrated seeing the unfreezing of high-level China-US interactions and the close engagement between China and Europe, Yao said. 

From the long hype over alleged "China interference" and the sudden escalation in early May which resulted in the mutual expulsion of diplomats, to the "toning down" this week, analysts consider Canada's China policy is "dancing to the tune of the US." 

Li Haidong, a professor at the Institute of International Relations at China Foreign Affairs University, told the Global Times on Wednesday that Canada's diplomatic style and pace is under heavy US influence. 

Whether anti-China noises continue is ultimately related to the future development of China-US relations, Li said, warning that following the US so closely and acting as an acolyte would see Canada sacrificing its own interests.   

Yao pointed out Canada's China policy lacks independence, strategic vision and continuity, prompting China to be concerned about unstable China-Canada relations. 

Though economic and trade ties between the two countries remain stable so far, the diplomatic uncertainty has cast a shadow, the expert said. 

Canada's Financial Post published an opinion piece which called on Canada to engage with China more, not less. Carlo Dade, director of the Center for Trade and Investment at the Canada West Foundation, wrote "Even the US, which tells Canada not to engage China, has signed a trade agreement with China, one that took market share from Canadian farmers."