Canadians are more likely to support foreign interference investigation than hearings: Nanos

Canadians are twice as likely to support a formal investigation into foreign interference, as opposed to public hearings, according to a new survey by Nanos Research for CTV News.

According to the survey, nearly six in 10 Canadians say they prefer the idea of ​​a formal public inquiry led by a judge with full subpoena powers.

Meanwhile, a quarter of respondents say they would prefer the option of public hearings “to shed more light on the problem of foreign interference and the threat it poses.”

Special Rapporteur David Johnston has come under harsh criticism from opposition leaders and parliamentarians for the conclusions of his recently released report, which recommended “a series of public hearings with Canadians”, as opposed to the inquiry many had called for.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and members of his cabinet have repeatedly defended the former governor-general’s decision, while Johnston has said much of the information and documents on which he based his report are classified so a public inquiry would not be public at all.

However, during his testimony before the House Affairs and Procedure Committee on Tuesday, Johnston indicated that if there were certain witnesses at his public hearings, for example, intelligence officials or members of the public who fear the implications of speaking up, and are prepared to hear testimony on camera.

Johnston himself has also come under fire, mainly over his personal relationship with the prime minister and his past membership in the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation, which has been at the center of his own accusations of foreign interference.

But the Nanos figures show that more than a third, 38 percent, of Canadians believe Johnston is “credible” on foreign interference, compared with 30 percent who don’t think he is credible on the issue.

The poll also shows that 46 percent of Canadians believe the prime minister is not credible on the issue, compared with 26 percent who believe he is. This, while 48 percent of those polled said conservative leader Pierre Poilievre is not credible, and 26 percent said he was.

Opinions are divided on the credibility of NDP leader Jagmeet Singh on foreign interference: 32 percent of respondents said he is credible, compared to 31 percent who said he is not.

The comparison between the prime minister and the official opposition leader comes as recent figures show that Poilievre has surpassed Trudeau when it comes to preferred prime minister.

STRONG SUPPORT FOR FOREIGN REGISTRY

According to the survey, there is also “very strong support,” with about nine in 10 respondents showing “support” or “some support,” for a foreign agent registry, an online searchable database of agents who They work for foreign governments.

The federal government recently concluded its consultations on the possibility of creating such a registry, similar to those in Australia and the United States, but Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino has not given a timetable for when it might be implemented.

The vast majority of those surveyed, some 86 percent, also said that a criminal charge and jail time is “the most appropriate punishment for those found guilty of foreign interference in Canada.”

Less than one in 10 said a fine and warning would be appropriate, or they weren’t sure what the punishment should be.

Most of the respondents also said that foreign interference is a threat to democracy, mirroring the results of an earlier survey conducted by Nanos Research in March.

Concerns about foreign interference began to mount in February, sparked by reports from The Globe and Mail and Global News, which largely cited unnamed intelligence sources and leaked documents. The controversy has continued to rage on Parliament Hill in the months since.

According to the Nanos survey, nearly six in 10 Canadians say it is not acceptable or somewhat unacceptable for public officials to leak sensitive security information about foreign interference to the media.

In March, the RCMP said it had launched an investigation into the leaks, specifically into violations of the Security and Information Act, which outlines both the expectations surrounding the legal obligations of federal government employees to protect classified operational information as punishment for committing crimes such as unauthorized disclosure of such information.



Methodology:


Nanos conducted a random dual-frame (landlines and cellular) RDD hybrid telephone and online survey of 1,096 Canadians, 18 years of age or older, between May 31 and June 3, 2023 as part of an omnibus survey. The margin of error for this poll is ±3.0 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.


This study was commissioned by CTV News and The Globe and Mail and the research was conducted by Nanos Research.


With files from CTVNews.ca Senior Digital Parliamentary Reporter Rachel Aiello

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