73% of Canadians Say David Johnston Unfit to Be Special Rapporteur: Survey

73% of Canadians Say David Johnston Unfit to Be Special Rapporteur: Survey
David Johnston, special rapporteur on foreign interference, presents his first report in Ottawa on May 23, 2023. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)
Peter Wilson
A large majority of Canadians say former governor general David Johnston is unfit to carry out his government-appointed role as special rapporteur on foreign election interference, according to a survey report released May 29.
Specifically, 73 percent of the population questioned whether Johnston either has the foreign policy expertise necessary to conduct a thorough investigation into interference threats or is “impartial” in the role due to his past connections to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s family and Johnston’s membership in the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation, according to the Léger survey conducted May 26 to 29 on behalf of the National Post.
“A majority of Canadians question the credibility of David Johnston’s report,” said the survey report, referencing the May 23 report in which Johnston recommended against establishing a public inquiry into foreign election interference because of the sensitive nature of intelligence documents that would need to be presented.

Léger’s survey also found that 36 percent of Canadians disagree with Johnston’s recommendation against holding a public inquiry and 34 percent are “unsure.”

“Half of Canadians (50%) don’t think David Johnston’s report will change anything in the way the federal government is dealing with foreign interference in the next election,” researchers wrote. “Another quarter of respondents (26%) are uncertain of the report’s impact.”

The survey also found that “a vast majority of Canadians (69 %) are concerned that the pressure directed by the Chinese government is influencing or impacting the political activities in Canada, including elections.”

Over 40 percent of the survey’s respondents say the federal government should “adopt a more aggressive approach towards China, even if it means risking potential economic and political retaliation from the Chinese government.”

Léger conducted the online survey among just over 1,530 Canadian adults who are eligible to vote.
The survey’s release comes shortly after the House voted in favour of a non-binding NDP motion calling on Johnston to step down as special rapporteur and calling on the government once again to establish a public inquiry into foreign interference allegations.

After the motion carried with support from all opposition parties, Johnston stated he would not step down from the role because he said his mandate came from the government, not the House.

“I deeply respect the right of the House of Commons to express its opinion about my work going forward, but my mandate comes from the government. I have a duty to pursue that work until my mandate is completed,” Johnston said in a statement on May 31.
Isaac Teo contributed to this report.