Chinese Media Campaigns Cost Conservative MP His Seat in 2021 Election, Committee Hears

Chinese Media Campaigns Cost Conservative MP His Seat in 2021 Election, Committee Hears
Conservative MP Kenny Chiu rises during question period in the House of Commons on April 13, 2021. (The Canadian Press/Adrian Wyld)
Peter Wilson

Chinese Communist Party (CCP) media campaigns carried out against Conservative MP Kenny Chiu during the 2021 federal election cost him his seat in Parliament, a witness told a House of Commons committee on Feb. 7.

Charles Burton, a senior fellow at the Ottawa-based think tank Macdonald-Laurier Institute, told the Commons Standing Committee on House Affairs that Chiu was targeted by a number of Chinese-language media outlets controlled by the CCP and “didn’t have anywhere really to turn.”

“What happened in the case of Mr. Chiu was, on the same day as there was a poll that came out that showed that the Conservatives might achieve a minority government, then this massive campaign of disinformation on multiple Chinese-language websites directed at people in Canada appeared,” Burton said, as first reported by Blacklock’s Reporter.

“I think it’s really a question of it happened too fast and immediately Mr. Chiu’s numbers started to plummet.”

Chiu lost his bid for re-election to the B.C. riding of Steveston-Richmond East by over 3,400 votes to Liberal MP Parm Bains, who received about 43 percent of the riding’s votes while Chiu got around 34 percent.
In the 2019 election, Chiu won with about 42 percent of the riding’s votes.

Burton was asked if he thought the disinformation campaign against Chiu in 2021 had an effect on the election results in his riding.

“My subjective judgment was that the impact was enormous,” Burton said, acknowledging that while believing “negative things” is often “more appealing than positive things,” he still thinks the disinformation campaign had a large impact.

“My personal view is that if it had not been for the disinformation, Mr. Chiu would still be in Parliament today,” he said.

Election Interference

Burton also said that while attempts by the CCP to interfere in Canadian affairs have been going on for some time, their efforts have increased in recent years.

He said Chinese Leader Xi Jinping over his years in power has allocated a “massive increase” in resources for the CCP bureaus “involved in engaging with persons of Chinese origin in foreign countries.”

And because there have been no repercussions, Canada can expect more of the same, he said.

“I think that after what has happened in the previous elections, no Chinese diplomats have been declared persona non grata and no agents of the Chinese regime have been brought before a Canadian court to be accountable for alleged criminal activity, that this emboldens the Chinese regime to do much more of it in the next election,” Burton said.

“In other words, the longer we remain passive and ineffective, the more encouraged they'll be that they can do more of this and get away with it.”

A November 2022 report by Global News said the CCP has covertly funded candidates in past elections, but Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and other ministers have denied ever being briefed by Canadian intelligence officials about specific candidates receiving Chinese funds.
Noé Chartier contributed to this report.