Former governor general David Johnston, whom Prime Minister Justin Trudeau appointed as special rapporteur to investigate foreign election interference, did not use any information given him by the previous Conservative Party leader Erin O’Toole to draft his forthcoming report on interference in Canada’s last two elections, according to O’Toole.
O’Toole, who was the leader of the Conservatives when they lost to the Trudeau Liberals in the 2021 general election, has alleged in the past that interference activities carried out by the Beijing regime cost his party seats in the election.
Johnston was tasked earlier this year with investigating reports of foreign election interference in Canada’s 2019 and 2021 federal general elections and providing the prime minister with advice and recommendations based on his findings.
The special rapporteur will also be providing the federal government with a number of reports on his investigation, the first due May 23, in which he must advise the government on establishing a public inquiry into the matter if he believes it necessary.
Trudeau has said that his government will heed all of Johnston’s recommendations.
In a SubStack post published on May 22, O’Toole said that Johnston did not offer to meet with him about his report until the week before its due date.
O’Toole said he had gathered a “considerable amount” of information on potential election interference activities carried out by Beijing to give Johnston.
However, the former Tory leader said he was “disappointed” to learn midway through the meeting that Johnston had already completed his report and translators were preparing it for release on May 23.
“I was flabbergasted and realized that nothing I was going to provide to the special rapporteur was going to impact his work,” O’Toole wrote. “I was left with the clear impression that my meeting was nothing more than a box checking exercise.”
O’Toole said he gave Johnston “detailed examples” of his concerns around Beijing’s intrusion, but he “was not really asked any questions or given any insights” on the matter.
“It was a very strange meeting,” O’Toole wrote.
“When they made a comparison of nomination level interference by China to nomination campaigns by specific groups in Canada, I realized that sharing my on-the-ground experiences leading the team that had been targeted by China was a waste of time.”
Shortly before O’Toole’s meeting with Johnston, current Conservative Party leader Pierre Poilievre told reporters on May 18 that he turned down an offer to meet with Johnston because of the special rapporteur’s previous membership in the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation.
Poilievre said Johnston is unable to carry out his mandate “impartially” because of the links to the Trudeau Foundation and said the special rapporteur should simply call for a public inquiry.
Johnston’s first public report since being appointed as rapporteur will be released later today.
Andrew Chen contributed to this report.