Legault says no foreign meddling in Quebec election, amid China allegations

QUEBEC — There was no foreign meddling during last October's Quebec provincial election, Premier François Legault says.

Legault's comments on Thursday were in reaction to media reports — citing unnamed security sources and leaked intelligence — alleging China interfered in the 2019 and 2021 federal elections.

The Quebec premier told reporters he wasn't aware of any foreign interference in the fall provincial campaign, which brought his party to power with a second consecutive majority mandate.

"I have no indication that there was interference," Legault said.

Legault, however, did not say where he got that information or whether his government had carried out any checks.

The Globe and Mail newspaper, citing classified CSIS records, recently reported that China worked to help ensure a Liberal minority victory in the 2021 general election as well as defeat Conservative politicians considered unfriendly to Beijing.

The federal Conservatives, Bloc Québécois and NDP want a public inquiry into allegations of foreign interference in Canada’s democratic system — despite assurances by the country's security agencies that China's meddling attempts did not affect electoral integrity.

Élections Québec, the independent organization that oversees the electoral process in the province, also said it had no indication of foreign interference.

"Nothing leads us to believe that there would have been illegal political financing from abroad during the last provincial elections," Julie St-Arnaud Drolet, a spokesperson for Élections Québec, said in an interview.

St-Arnaud Drolet was unable to say whether complaints had been filed in connection with a potential threat or with interference from a foreign power. However, she said there had not been any intrusions identified into the agency's computer systems or any indication of a concerted effort by a foreign state to discredit or undermine Quebec's electoral process.

"In light of the information currently available, there is no evidence that there was a structured campaign of disinformation about the electoral process from abroad during the last election," St-Arnaud Drolet said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 3, 2023.

Patrice Bergeron, The Canadian Press