David Johnston, Special Rapporteur Investigating Foreign Election Interference, Announces Resignation Amid Partisan Criticism

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House of Commons and the Library of Parliament Summer
House of Commons and the Library of Parliament

Johnston’s Work Marred by Allegations of Bias and Partisan Politics

David Johnston, Canada’s former Governor General, who tasked with examining allegations of Chinese meddling in the country’s federal elections, has submitted his resignation effective no later than the end of June 2023. The abrupt move comes amid a swell of criticism and allegations of bias that have tainted his work and the surrounding atmosphere with partisanship​​.

Conservative Party Leader Pierre Poilievre has been unrelenting in his critical commentary. “Justin Trudeau’s handpicked ‘special rapporteur’ has done exactly the job that was asked of him. David Johnston is shamefully helping the Prime Minister cover up Beijing’s attacks on our democracy. This is outrageous, but not surprising, states Poilievre.

“This report was rigged from the start and has zero credibility. David Johnston, a ski buddy, cottage neighbour and family friend of Justin Trudeau, was given a fake job by the Prime Minister and tasked with sweeping Trudeau’s coverup under the rug,” continued the Conservative Leader. “Even worse, Johnston is a member of the Trudeau Foundation, which received $140,000 in donations from Beijing designed to influence the Prime Minister and his government. It comes as no surprise that there is not a single mention of the Trudeau Foundation in Johnston’s report. It’s hard to imagine a more compromised individual for this fake job”.

Unfounded Rumours and Political Pressure

Johnston, in a public statement, refuted rumours questioning his impartiality as “quite simply false”​. The former governor general released his first report in late May, confirming that foreign governments are indeed attempting to influence candidates and voters in Canada, and urging further action to strengthen Canada’s resistance to such interference​.

However, his suggestion that a public inquiry would not be beneficial due to the secret nature of the required material sparked widespread frustration and further fuelled allegations of bias​​.

In a vote in Parliament Johnson lost the confidence of the House of Commons.

Opposition Parties Raise Concerns

Criticism intensified with the Conservative leader, Pierre Poilievre, expressing concern over Johnston’s long-standing familiarity with the Trudeau family and his association with the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation, which has received donations from Beijing. This led to a motion passed by a majority of lawmakers in the House of Commons calling for Johnston to “step aside” due to these potential conflicts of interest​1​.

Johnston Stands His Ground

In response to these criticisms, Johnston expressed his respect for the House of Commons’ opinion but firmly refused to step down, maintaining that his mandate was from the government and he had a duty to complete his work​. In a parliamentary committee meeting, Johnson reiterated his stance, stating, “I don’t believe I have a conflict of interest and I would not have undertaken this responsibility, had I had a conflict of interest”​.

A Plea for Continued Investigation

In his resignation letter, Johnston encouraged Prime Minister Trudeau to appoint a new rapporteur, ideally someone with national security experience, to complete the crucial work he had begun​.

This news comes as a significant development in Canada’s ongoing struggle to safeguard its democratic processes against foreign interference.

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