A majority of Canadians want Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to respond more forcefully to alleged election interference by China, according to a poll published on Wednesday, as relations between the two countries again take a turn for the worse.
Some 53% of respondents said they felt Canada’s response following a string of recent events, including the arbitrary detention of two Canadians by Beijing and media reports of election meddling, was “not strong enough”, polling firm Angus Reid Institute said.
Another 41% said the federal government’s response was “about right” while 6% said it was “too strong”, the online poll showed.
“Canadians are indicating that they expect their government to take this seriously,” said Shachi Kurl, president of the institute, which surveyed 1,622 Canadian adults from Feb. 23 to Feb. 25.
Trudeau has acknowledged that there were attempts by the Chinese to interfere in the elections, but he has said that the outcome of both the 2019 and the 2021 polls were not altered. He has so far resisted calls for a broad public inquiry into the allegations.
The poll, which has a margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points, comes amid ongoing tensions between Canada and China over election and other security concerns.
Canada this week banned the use of the Chinese-owned social media app TikTok on government-issued devices, citing privacy and security risks. A suspected Chinese spy balloon flew over the United States and Canada before being shot down last month.
Recent media reports have alleged ongoing Chinese interference in Canada’s elections, with Trudeau this week denying one article saying his office was told by Canada’s spy agency to drop a Chinese-Canadian candidate in 2019 because of his ties with Beijing.
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On Wednesday, the Chinese embassy in Ottawa responded to the latest report in an email, saying the allegations were “baseless and defamatory”.
“We are not interested in meddling with Canada’s internal affairs, nor have we ever tried to do so,” the embassy said.
But most Canadians disagree with the embassy’s statement. Some 65% said they believe that the Chinese government “definitely” or “probably” tried to interfere in the 2021 vote, according to the survey.
While 69% said they believe the Canadian government “is afraid to stand up to China”, respondents were split over the potential economic fall out if Ottawa were to take stronger action, with 46% saying they were worried about potential financial consequences and another 46% dismissing such concerns, the Institute said.