Foreign interference | PCC lost up to nine seats in last election, says Erin O’Toole

(Ottawa) Former Conservative Party leader Erin O’Toole is adamant that China’s foreign interference activities during the 2021 federal election cost his party victory in at least nine ridings across the country.

What there is to know

  • The Commission on Foreign Interference is examining activities by China, Russia and India to influence the results of the 2019 and 2021 elections.
  • Former Conservative leader Erin O’Toole says his party lost between five and nine seats in 2021 because of a massive disinformation campaign led by the Beijing regime.
  • Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will also appear before the commission chaired by Judge Marie-Josée Hogue.

In itself, this would not have changed the final result of the last election, which saw Justin Trudeau’s Liberals win a second minority mandate. But these interference activities, which took the form of a “deluge of disinformation” on the social networks WeChat and Douyin and targeted the Chinese diaspora in ridings in the Vancouver and Toronto regions, will continue to grow. magnitude, said Mr. O’Toole, who was testifying before the Commission on Foreign Interference.

“Every vote counts to protect our democracy. (…) We must do more to safeguard our parliamentary democracy,” argued Mr. O’Toole, who left politics last June, less than 18 months after being ejected from his position as leader by his caucus.

During his nearly two-hour testimony, during which he remained calm and precise, Mr. O’Toole lamented that senior officials responsible for ensuring the integrity of federal elections did not see fit to inform his party of China’s foreign interference activities.

However, documents submitted to the Commission prepared by members of the Working Group on Security and Intelligence Threats to Elections (also known by the acronym SITE) on September 13, 2021, in the middle of the electoral campaign , reported that there were efforts supported by Beijing to undermine the credibility of candidates from the Conservative Party, deemed hostile to the Chinese communist regime.


Erin O’Toole testified Wednesday at the Commission on Foreign Interference, chaired by Justice Marie-Josée Hogue.

“We were never informed of this,” confirmed Mr. O’Toole, affirming that the safeguards put in place to counter foreign interference by the Trudeau government had visibly failed.

On social networks like WeChat, it has been falsely claimed that a Conservative government led by Erin O’Toole could sever diplomatic relations with China and could also require that Canadians of Chinese origin declare in a possible registry of agents of influence foreigners their trips abroad and the meetings they might have with representatives of another country.

“There were horrific reports circulating to create fear and suppress the vote,” O’Toole said.

He also said his party had submitted relevant information about fake news campaigns targeting certain conservative candidates to SITE members, but no one seemed to take it seriously. Several incidents were noted by party organizers in certain constituencies. “Our conversations with SITE members were one-way,” he said.

He said he considered denouncing China’s activities during the last campaign, but did not do so because he feared it would have negative consequences. “Looking back, I regret not doing it,” he said.

In anticipation of the last election, his party had adopted a fairly detailed seat projection formula which, according to him, gave at least 127 seats to the Conservative Party. However, on voting day, the Conservative Party only won 119 seats.

Certainly, the controversy surrounding compulsory vaccination imposed by the Trudeau government cost the Conservatives victory on election day. But Mr. O’Toole estimates that his party lost “five to nine seats” due to China’s campaign of interference.

The former Conservative leader acknowledged that his party had proposed taking a hard line on China in its electoral platform. The Conservative Party then proposed banning the Chinese communications giant Huawei from Canadian territory, adopting a register of influence of foreign agents, ending Canadian participation in the Asian Infrastructure Bank and bluntly denouncing the violation of the rights of minorities in China, in particular the Uyghur minority.

However, he argued that several of these proposals were also part of the Conservative Party’s program during previous elections and that this had no effect on the outcome of the vote.

Asked to comment on the statements of the former Conservative leader, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau suggested that the latter was seeking to clear himself for the defeat he suffered in 2021.

“I understand that for Mr. O’Toole, he would like to look at reasons other than his own performance which led to their failure in the elections,” he said on the sidelines of a pre-budget announcement in Toronto. But experts and senior officials “concluded definitively that the elections in 2019, in 2021, were not affected by foreign interference,” he continued, agreeing that “yes, as always, there is had attacks (attempts) at foreign interference” which however did not “result in changes in the election results or in any seats across the country”.

Former Conservative MP Kenny Chiu, who bit the dust in the last election, was also called to testify after Erin O’Toole on Wednesday. He reiterated his belief that the Beijing regime had waged a disinformation campaign against him after he introduced a bill to create a registry of foreign agents.

China strongly denies all allegations that it interfered in the 2019 and 2021 federal elections.

With the collaboration of Mélanie Marquis, The Press


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