Sean Kilpatrick The Canadian Press Prime Minister Justin Trudeau should be quicker to respond to the scandal, to protect the process Canadian democracy.
It took Justin Trudeau two weeks to give in (in part) to political and popular pressure and demand new investigations into foreign interference. But the Prime Minister has only stuck to expanding existing work and appointing a possible “special rapporteur” who will tell him whether or not he should launch the public inquiry that is demanded of him. Nothing to appease the opposition parties. Nor the fears of a growing number of Canadians, whom the Prime Minister nevertheless claims to want to reassure.
It is true that the launch of a public inquiry into the attempts of the Chinese communist regime to influence the federal elections of 2019 and 2021 is not unanimous among experts. Some have argued that national security documents and information should be kept secret, which would not further enlighten the public. And that such investigations take time, while the date of the next election is uncertain in the context of a minority government.
It is also true, as Justin Trudeau said on Monday, that if he himself determined the parameters of an investigation from the outset, he would immediately be taxed with undermining its autonomy and credibility. Already, in the minutes following the Prime Minister's announcement, the Conservative and Bloc leaders, Pierre Poilievre and Yves-François Blanchet, have mocked that this special rapporteur, who will be appointed by Justin Trudeau himself, will certainly be “a close friend of the Liberals” not conducive to concluding that a public inquiry is needed. Even NDP leader Jagmeet Singh is calling for such an inquiry (without threatening to withdraw his support for the government).
The climate is such that it would be difficult to satisfy opposition. But Justin Trudeau could have entrusted his special rapporteur now with the task of setting the mandate of an investigation – whether public, independent or judicial –, to set its objectives and especially its duration. The Prime Minister could thus have avoided an additional stage of reflection, as the government is so fond of.
“The longer the Prime Minister takes, the more dangerous it is for the confidence of Canadians in our democratic system,” worries Artur Wilczynski, a former senior official in the field of national security, today at the University. of Ottawa.
The issue has become excessively political. Opposition parties bombard the government with questions, chained written statements and press briefings.
But the consequences of all this are profoundly democratic. A recent poll by the firm Angus Reid revealed that half of Canadians (53%) believe that the Chinese regime's allegations of electoral interference pose a serious threat to Canadian democracy. Conservative and Bloc voters are the most worried (72% and 60%), but 43% of Liberals are also of this opinion.
The Trudeau government is also seen as not caring enough about national security and defense issues by 64% of respondents — 88% of those identifying as Conservatives, 73% as Bloc, and even 52% of Liberal respondents.
Other avenues in the meantime
Artur Wilczynski and his colleague Thomas Juneau believe that the cluster of measures announced by Justin Trudeau presents a “good step in Before “. Because a public inquiry, even if it ends up being launched, would not be the only miracle solution to shed light on the conduct of the last two elections and the capacities of the various agencies to protect the following ones.
The cross-partisan special committee of parliamentarians and the expert intelligence oversight panel favored by Mr. Trudeau are good forums to address foreign interference while protecting sensitive information. Even if the opposition rejects these two entities, on the pretext that they do their work behind closed doors.
The register of foreign agents — which the government has been studying for more than a year and for which Mr. Trudeau came to announce once again consultations — is also necessary. But setting it up is taking too long, according to Thomas Juneau, a professor at the University of Ottawa and a former analyst at the Ministry of Defence.
“We know the solutions he replies to those who speak only of a public inquiry.
Experts note that the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) Act, which dates from 1985, should furthermore be updated to broaden the agency's mandate to contemporary practices.
The Prime Minister's national security adviser could report to Canadians regularly on threats to Canada and efforts to counter them.
Political parties could finally tighten their appointment processes quickly to prevent foreign forces to interfere in order to favor candidates favorable to them.
The responsibility to dispel the doubts of Canadians rests with all politicians. Although 50% of Angus Reid respondents indicated they don't believe the 2021 election was “stolen”, 42% of Conservative respondents and 35% of Bloc respondents do however fear it.
< p>“Even if things are under control, it hardly matters anymore. Because the consequences have already been felt and we have to rebuild trust,” summarizes Mr. Wilczynski.
Justin Trudeau was probably hoping that his announcement would buy him time to forget about these allegations of interference aimed at favoring his Liberal Party, considered by Beijing to be more lenient.
The Prime Minister should, however, be quicker to respond to the scandal, in order to protect the Canadian democratic process. And if that's not enough of a reason for him, perhaps he should also remember that after more than seven years in office, his political rivals and Canadian voters may not be so willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. it takes too long to act.