Tory leadership candidates presented their approach to China policy during the French-language debate on May 25, providing their response to the moderator's question, “What, as prime minister, would be your attitude to China?”
Candidate Patrick Brown answered first, saying while it’s important to defend human rights, it is also crucial to support trade that is vital to Canada’s interests. He suggested sending B.C.’s liquefied natural gas to China as a way to “help China fight climate change.”
“And it is a way to improve relations with China that became worse under [former] Prime Minister [Stephen] Harper,” he said.
Jean Charest, a former Quebec premier, said there is a need for Canada to "reformulate" and review its foreign policy.
“We can see that our U.S. allies were always with us, and now that’s no longer happening,” he said, while noting China is emerging as a superpower.
“Why is that? Because we are insignificant in the eyes of our allies,” Charest said. “We’re missing in action in Asia.”
Charest proposed reaching more economic agreements with ASEAN countries and contributing to the security of the new zone with allies including the United States, Japan, and South Korea.
Pierre Poilievre said he believes Canada can advance its economic interests with China while also defending its principles and values.
“That is why I support the rights of Taiwan, which is a democracy in Asia, and we need to maintain good relations with Taiwan,” he said.
“We also need to stand up for human rights in China. And that is why I voted to condemn the treatment of Uyghur people, of Christians, and of other minorities in China. We can do both at the same time—that is what we did with the Harper government.”
Independent MPP Roman Baber said he is "not afraid of China," and if elected prime minister, he would strategize with Canada's allies in dealing with the communist regime.
“Justin Trudeau was too easy on China. China is putting Uyghur people in concentration camps. They are stealing our intellectual property. They are threatening to turn Taiwan into another Hong Kong,” he said.
“It is time to face up to China, to stand up to China,” he added.
Leslyn Lewis, an MP for Haldimand-Norfolk, said trade with China "is no longer based on cooperation, but rather on confrontation."
“That is the new reality. We need to establish new policies that take this new reality into account,” she said.
“China uses its military and economic power to sow instability, undermine world security in the Indo Pacific region, and violates human rights in the most flagrant way we are seeing in the world today,” he said.
Spar Over HuaweiDuring the debate, Poilievre called on Charest to disclose the details about his consulting work for Huawei after leaving provincial politics.
“Are you going to disclose how much you were paid by Huawei? And secondly, are you going to disclose the contract that you or your company had with Huawei so that Canadians learn all the details of the work you did for Huawei?” Poilievre said.
Charest defended himself, saying he had not undertaken any assignment that goes contrary to Canada’s interests.
“The first thing I'd like to say is that I never worked on any issue that would jeopardize the interests of my country,” he said.
“And secondly, I am proud to have contributed something that has been confirmed, that I contributed to helping releasing Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig.”
Charest also counselled the Beijing-linked company in its bid for Ottawa’s approval to sell equipment for the construction of Canada’s 5G networks. Canada’s closest allies have banned Huawei from their 5G networks due to security concerns.