More than half of Canadians disapprove of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s handling of the growing diplomatic dispute between Canada and China following the arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou, a new poll has found.
The Angus Reid Institute survey released on Friday found 52 per cent of respondents said Trudeau has done a bad job of handling Canada-China relations. Thirty per cent said the government has handled the situation very poorly, while 28 per cent said “good,” and just five per cent “very good.”
A strong majority of Canadians agree on the severity of issue with 92 per cent saying it’s either “quite” or “very” serious.
Canada’s current dispute with China began in December with the arrest of Meng, Huawei’s chief financial officer, for extradition to the U.S., where she is facing criminal charges including bank fraud and obstruction of justice.
Two indictments totalling 23 charges against Huawei Technologies, two of its subsidiaries, and Meng were unsealed in the U.S. Tuesday. They detailed a 10-year conspiracy by the tech giant to sidestep sanctions against Iran and steal trade secrets.
Meng, who is out on bail in Vancouver, is currently awaiting a decision by British Columbia Superior Court, which has 30 days to decide whether to authorize extradition proceedings.
Several Canadians were arrested in China’s apparent retaliation for Meng. Former diplomat Michael Kovrig and entrepreneur Michael Spavor, have been arrested in China and held without charge, while Robert Schellenberg’s sentence for drug trafficking was suddenly upgraded from life in prison to death.
John McCallum was also forced out as Canada’s ambassador to China after his comments on Huawei case
The poll found 44 per cent of respondents said Trudeau’s government has not been “tough enough” and needs to take a tougher approach to the current conflict, while 29 per cent thought it was the correct approach and 20 per cent thought Canada “should ease up.”
Canadians were also asked about the potential economic benefits of trade ties with China, versus the country’s abysmal human rights record.
Nearly two-thirds, or 62 per cent said China’s record on human rights and the rule of law should be a higher priority than trade and investment opportunities for Canada.
The Angus Reid Institute surveyed 1,700 Canadian adults online who are members of Angus Reid Forum. A poll of roughly this size would carry a margin of error of +/- 2.4 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.