Sincere effort or ‘cover-up?’ Canadians split on interference probe intentions: poll

Click to play video: 'More laws needed to confront foreign interference, interim RCMP head says'
More laws needed to confront foreign interference, interim RCMP head says
WATCH: More laws needed to confront foreign interference, interim RCMP head says – Apr 2, 2023

Canadians are split on whether the federal government’s recently-announced probes into allegations of foreign election interference are a sincere effort to get to the truth or an attempt to cover up what is alleged to have happened, a new poll suggests.

The Ipsos poll conducted exclusively for Global News and released Tuesday found 52 per cent of those surveyed think the probes, and the appointment of a special rapporteur to oversee them, are genuine. Forty-eight per cent, meanwhile, think “the investigation is a cover-up.”

Opinions on the investigations and David Johnston, the former Conservative-appointed governor general named by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as the special rapporteur, have largely fallen along party lines, the poll suggests. Two-thirds of respondents who voted Conservative and three-quarters of respondents who voted for the Bloc Quebecois said the government is engaged in a cover-up, compared to just 21 per cent of those who voted Liberal.

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Although 79 per cent of respondents who voted Liberal said the government’s efforts are sincere, NDP voters are more mixed, with 56 per cent agreeing while 44 per cent said a cover-up is underway.

Foreign interference in Canada has become a top concern after months of reports by Global News and the Globe and Mail on alleged attempts by China to influence the 2019 and 2021 federal elections, citing national security sources and classified reports.

A panel of independent experts has determined the alleged attempts at interference did not influence the results of those elections, though acknowledged interference attempts took place.

Yet the reports have cast a spotlight on how the government and Canada’s intelligence and public safety agencies are combating attempts by China and other hostile foreign actors to influence Canadian society, including its elections.

Johnston, in his role as special rapporteur, will make recommendations on further steps the government can take to protect Canadian interests.

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Katie Telford to testify in election interference probe

The probes are being led by the National Security and Intelligence Review Agency and the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians (NSICOP), both of which operate behind closed doors. NSICOP submits reports on their findings to Parliament, but the prime minister can order redactions to any of those reports before they are made public.

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Canada’s opposition parties have called for a public inquiry into the matter, saying an open process would create transparency and restore Canadians’ faith in their democratic institutions.

One of Johnston’s chief tasks will be determining whether such an inquiry is warranted. He has until May to advise government on his recommendation.

Click to play video: 'Reaction to Johnston being named special rapporteur'
Reaction to Johnston being named special rapporteur

The poll found support for Johnston and the ongoing investigations varies regionally. Belief in the government’s sincerity was highest in Atlantic Canada (60 per cent), Ontario (57 per cent) and Alberta (56 per cent). The idea that Trudeau’s government is engaged in a cover-up, meanwhile, was strongest in Quebec (57 per cent) and Saskatchewan and Manitoba (52 per cent).

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Whether Canadians are following news on foreign interference also played a role in their answers to the survey. Just under half (48 per cent) said they are keeping up with developments on the issue.

Support for the probes and Johnston dipped from 56 per cent among those not following the news to 48 per cent among those who are, according to the poll.

Men were more likely than women to be paying attention (56 per cent to 40 per cent, respectively), the poll suggests, with more Canadians living between British Columbia and Ontario keeping an eye on the matter than those living in Quebec and Atlantic Canada.

These are some of the findings of an Ipsos poll conducted between March 20 to 22, 2023, on behalf of Global News. For this survey, a sample of 1,001 Canadians aged 18+ was interviewed. Quotas and weighting were employed to ensure that the sample’s composition reflects that of the Canadian population according to census parameters. The precision of Ipsos online polls is measured using a credibility interval. In this case, the poll is accurate to within ± 3.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20, had all Canadians aged 18+ been polled. The credibility interval will be wider among subsets of the population. All sample surveys and polls may be subject to other sources of error, including, but not limited to coverage error, and measurement error.

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