Majority of Canadians oppose trading Meng for Kovrig and Spavor: Nanos survey
TORONTO -- More than half of Canadians oppose swapping Meng Wanzhou for two Canadians imprisoned in China, according to a new poll from Nanos Research on behalf of CTV News.
Additionally, the poll shows, Canadians want the federal government to be more aggressive in freeing Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor from their Chinese prisons, and believe the fate of Meng, a Huawei executive facing extradition to the United States on fraud charges, should be left to the courts.
Kovrig and Spavor were arrested separately in December 2018, days after Meng was taken into custody in British Columbia, and charged with espionage last month. Their arrests have widely been seen as political retribution by China, though the Chinese government has denied this.
The idea of a prisoner swap gained steam in late June after a spokesperson for China's foreign embassy suggested that Canada releasing Meng could affect the fates of Kovrig and Spavor. A group of 19 prominent former politicians and diplomats wrote Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on the same day, urging him to halt Meng's extradition proceeding in order to secure the release of the two Canadians.
Trudeau emphatically ruled this out, saying that Canada should not suggest that arresting Canadians will allow other countries to get whatever they want from the Canadian government.
The new polling data suggests that Trudeau has popular support for this stance. Nanos found that 40 per cent of Canadians say they oppose a prisoner exchange, with another 16 per cent somewhat opposing it. Sixteen per cent say they support it, and 19 per cent say they somewhat support it, while nine per cent report being unsure.
Support for the prisoner swap was higher among Canadians aged 55 or older and men, and noticeably lower among Quebec residents.
The poll also reveals strong support for leaving the Meng extradition file with the courts. More than two-thirds of respondents – 68 per cent – said that is the venue where it should be decided, while 22 per cent said it should be decided by the government. Ten per cent were unsure.
Although there are arguments that the government has the legal authority to intervene in the court process, Trudeau has been advised that the specific power that allows this has never before been used for diplomatic or political reasons.
Another major finding of the poll is that when presented with a range of approaches for trying to get China to release Kovrig and Spavor, Canadians are most likely to support more aggressive government action that directly targets China, such as blocking Chinese companies from buying Canadian firms or denying entry to the country to Chinese government officials and their families.
Fifty-three per cent of respondents preferred those approaches, while 36 per cent said Canada should focus on diplomatic efforts, six per cent said Canada should ask the U.S. to intervene, and six per cent were unsure.
Residents of B.C. and the Prairies were the most likely to prefer Canada taking more aggressive measures against China, while Quebecers were the most likely to recommend a continued focus on diplomacy.
The observations in this polling data are based on an RDD dual-frame (land- and cell-lines) hybrid telephone and online random survey of 1,049 Canadians, 18 years of age or older, between June 28 and July 2 as part of an omnibus survey. The margin of error for this survey is plus or minus 3.1 percentage points, 19 time out of 20.
The poll was commissioned by CTV News and the Globe and Mail and the research was conducted by Nanos Research.