Electoral integrity is essential for a functional democracy. Citizens must be confident that their preferred candidate won or lost in a fair and uncorrupted process. When stories of domestic malfeasance in elections arise, the outcome of the race is questioned and trust in the process is damaged. To fix this, offenders must be exposed and punished while further controls are put in place to discourage abuse.
Foreign interference in elections is much worse than domestic issues. It infuriates citizens and destroys trust in the process. In the United States, the media pushed the story of Donald Trump’s alleged collusion with Russia to win the 2016 election, even though the Mueller investigation concluded there was no such collusion. In Canada, reports suggest the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has been meddling in federal elections for years. To address this, the government created a Security and Intelligence Threats to Elections task force in February 2019. However, two federal elections have been held since then and no warnings have been issued from the task force.
When questioned in the House of Commons last November about possible CCP interference in elections, Prime Minister Trudeau said he had never received any information from any security agencies, police officers, intelligence officials, or public servants about a federal candidate receiving money from China. However, Privy Council Office documents have revealed that intelligence officials informed the government in February 2020 of possible electoral interference and funding of candidates in the 2019 federal election.
If such evidence of foreign election interference had been uncovered in the United States, it would make headlines for months and could lead to the government’s downfall. In Canada, this story is barely breaking the top 10 news items. Trudeau’s response has been focused more on plugging the leaks from CSIS rather than dealing with what the leaks exposed. Legacy media outlets are more interested in covering other stories or the opposition party’s response to the issue rather than the government’s.
Canadians must demand answers from both the media and political leaders on this issue. If we don’t have free and unfettered elections, we don’t have a democracy.