In just a few days — Canadians head to the polls. Current Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s future isn’t certain. The past four years have seen ups and downs, including Canada’s relationship with China.
CGTN’S Roee Ruttenberg has more from Toronto.
Justin Trudeau first visited China in 1973, as the son of then-Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau.
The younger Trudeau would return again, 43 years later, filling the PM shoes himself.
A few weeks after that, in September of 2016, the Chinese Premier Li Keqiang traveled to Ottawa, Canada to discuss a possible free trade deal.
Justin Trudeau would then return to China – on an official visit to Beijing – one year later.
“Mr. Trudeau came in with great expectations not only about Canada being back in foreign policy but for a new, more open partnership with the People’s Republic of China,” Canadian Foreign Policy Expert John Kirton said.
Relations seemed strong. Hundreds of Canadian businesses were working with China. And talk of a Chinese ban on imports of Canadian canola seed was fading.
In 2018, as Washington’s trade war with Beijing was starting to heat up, many Canadians thought they, and China, would seize the opportunity to boost ties and trade.
Then, on December 1st, at the request of the U.S., Canada arrested Meng Wanzhou, the CFO of Chinese telecom giant Huawei.
Two Canadian nationals were then arrested in China – Beijing says, in an unrelated incident and later charged with spying.
Foreign policy expert John Kirton says that was a decisive turning point:
“Canadians, I think, can’t just understand why an arrest in accordance with Canada’s legal obligations of a senior executive of a private sector firm is arousing such a harsh and sustained assault on Canada’s interests across the board,” Kirton said.
In March, the ban on Canadian canola went into effect. China accounted for 40% of the grain’s export market.
Public sentiment in Canada then largely turned against China. But some have blamed Trudeau for mishandling the situation.
Trudeau’s main challenger, Conservative Andrew Scheer, has vowed if elected, to pull Canada out of the Chinese-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.
If Mr. Trudeau’s liberals are returned, I think we’ll see the continuation of a restrained, even accommodating, approach. If however, we have a Conservative government led by Mr. Scheer, I think you will have a continuation and an intensification of Canada’s tough line – even more than Mr. Scheer’s rhetoric – towards the People’s Republic of China that will evoke countermeasures in kind on the Chinese Side. It’ll be a long time before the relationship gets back on track.