Friday, March 24, 2023
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Justin Trudeau blasts Pierre Poilievre over election meddling response, says he should know better

OTTAWA—Prime Minister Justin Trudeau took a broad swipe at Pierre Poilievre Friday, saying the Conservative leader should rise above his lambasting of Ottawa’s response to claims of foreign elections interference due to his previous time in government.

Trudeau pointed to Poilievre’s former role as democratic reform minister under Stephen Harper’s Conservative government as a key reason why the opposition leader should dial back “the partisan advantage and sniping that unfortunately characterizes so much of our politics these days.”

“He was in charge of the integrity of our elections. He was in charge at the time of making sure that China or others weren’t influencing our elections. He understands how important this is, or he should,” Trudeau said after making a housing announcement in Guelph, Ont.

The prime minister was responding to criticisms of the appointment of former governor general David Johnston as the special rapporteur charged with probing foreign interference in Canada’s last two federal elections. Trudeau has asked Johnston to look into the matter — after recent media reports alleged the Chinese government attempted to influence election outcomes in 2019 and 2021 — and issue recommendations on how to better protect Canada’s democracy.

Both the Conservatives and Bloc Québécois condemned the appointment, with Poilievre and several Tory MPs accusing the prime minister of naming a “‘family friend’, old neighbour from the cottage, and member of the Beijing-funded Trudeau foundation” to the independent role.

The Harper-appointed governor general is listed as a member of the Pierre Elliot Trudeau Foundation, which the prime minister’s office says Trudeau has not been tied to since he became Liberal leader.

Trudeau on Friday continued to back Johnston for his “unimpeachable integrity,” slamming what he called a political climate in which ideas presented by political opponents are automatically considered “wrong.”

“Canadians don’t think that way. But in politics, it’s gotten so polarized and toxic, that we’ve had to take a step back and find someone who is the right person to say, ‘OK, let’s focus on the interests of Canada, of our institutions, of our country, and of Canadians.’”

More to come

Raisa Patel is an Ottawa-based reporter covering federal politics for the Star. Follow her on Twitter: @R_SPatel


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