China in the 2021 Canadian Federal Election Campaign

Article analyzing the Canadian federal party platforms with regards to China

Darren Choi and Sean Janke - 10 September 2021



The Canadian Federal Election is quickly approaching, and policy platforms are being released in anticipation by most major political parties. Each party contending this election has unique ideas and policies that they bring to the table. This brief identifies the references to China from the platforms of each party. As well, the recent leaders debate provided some insight on how the Party Leaders view China. Quotes from the debate have been provided after the platforms.

Party Platforms

Conservative Party of Canada Platform

A Detailed Plan to Secure Jobs and Economic Growth

  • Making Canada the best place to invest and build a business: The Liberals, NDP, and Greens have actively driven investment out of Canada, and the results are clear: jobs and investment are going to the US and China instead of Canada. It’s time for that to change.
Creating Jobs Through Free Trade with Free Nations
  • We will negotiate new agreements with free countries that safeguard workers’ rights and the environment, rebalancing our trade priorities away from countries like China and towards the Indo-Pacific and Africa.
  • Canada’s Conservatives will:
    - Reform Canada’s procurement rules to create a vital national interest category that must be sourced in Canada;
    - Create a strategy to repatriate and diversify supply chains to move them away from China.
    - Protect Canadian intellectual property with a strengthened Investment Canada Act that includes: A presumption against allowing the takeover of Canadian companies by China’s designated state-owned entities; A reformed “net benefits” test to better account for the potential effects of a transaction on the broader innovation ecosystem with a particular focus on protecting intellectual property and human capital; Automatic review of transactions involving sensitive sectors such as defense, artificial intelligence, and rare earth minerals; and A mandatory national security review.
    - Withdraw from the Asian Infrastructure and Investment Bank

Creating opportunity in all sectors of the economy:
  • Mining: Implement a Critical Minerals Strategy to take advantage of Canada’s abundant resources of the minerals needed to power our clean energy future - creating jobs, supporting the Indigenous economy, contributing to a cleaner environment, and reducing global reliance on critical minerals from China.
    - This will include adopting policies to facilitate the responsible mining of lithium.

Note: This point is also mentioned in the section “Here for the Regions of Quebec”

Lower Industrial Emissions
  • Where we make changes, we’ll improve the system to achieve greater emissions reductions. We’ll do this by proposing to the Biden administration minimum North American standards for key industrial sectors, backed up by border carbon adjustments to prevent leakage of emissions - and jobs - to countries with lower environmental and emissions standards like China. This will allow us to raise standards for trade exposed sectors.
  • Carbon Border Tariffs
    - We will stand up for Canada in the world by insisting that major polluters like China clean up their act. We won’t hurt Canada’s growth while the worst climate offenders do nothing.
    - We will study the imposition of a carbon border tariff which would reflect the amount of carbon emissions attributed to goods imported into Canada. Producers in countries with emissions reductions mechanisms that are compatible with our own will be exempt. We will urge our American trade partners to adopt this approach as well.

A Detailed Plant to Secure the National Interest

  • Defend Our Partners in the Indo-Pacific
    - Canada currently contributes several naval vessels to operations in the region, but we don’t have a voice at the table in the larger conversation around regional security taking place in the Quad.
    - The Quad is an informal strategic alliance between the United States, Japan, Australia, and India, frequently referred to as the ‘Pacific NATO.’ Its purpose is to provide a counterbalance in the Indo-Pacific to China’s growing authoritarianism, regional influence, and military expansionism to preserve economic and national security in the region.

A Detailed Plan to Promote Canada’s Interests and Values

Canada’s Northern and Arctic Diplomacy
  • Shifting strategic interests and climate change are transforming issues related to the Arctic. Russia has expanded its claim over the Canadian North and is building its military presence in the Arctic. China has developed significant Arctic marine capacity and aims to secure critical mineral interests.
  • Canada’s Conservatives will partner with the US and NATO to prevent Russia and China from dominating our Arctic and will invest in developing our presence in the Arctic. This will include establishing a NATO Centre of Excellence for Arctic Operations, conducting Arctic exercises alongside our allies, and securing the Canadian North from the seas to space.
Canada and America - Friends and Partners in the World
  • To do this, Canada’s Conservatives will bring renewed and visible ambition to the success of a united Canadian-American partnership in the world. We will:
    - Deepen our strategic partnership with the United States in the sovereignty of our northern borders and shores, rising to the challenge posed by Russia and China’s Arctic military and economic ambitions by pursuing a shared agenda of prosperity for the people of the north, environmental stewardship, and peace.
Principled Cooperation on the World Stage including at the United Nations, La Francophonie, and the Commonwealth
  • Canada’s Conservatives will replace virtue-signalling with a real international agenda dedicated to advancing freedom, democracy, human rights, and the rule of law. We will:
    - Work with our allies to address efforts by China, Russia, Iran, and others actively undermining democratic norms, institutions, and the rule of law.
Canada as a Pacific Nation
  • Standing Up to China’s Aggression
    - We must stand up to the Communist government of China. Our quarrel is not with the people of China – part of an ancient civilization that has contributed much to humanity. We stand especially with Chinese Canadians whose contributions to Canada are immeasurable and who are enduring an appalling rise in anti-Asian hate and discrimination. And we stand with Uyghur Muslims, Tibetans, Falun Gong practitioners, Hong Kongers, and Chinese Christians.
    - Instead, our issue is with China’s communist government and leadership. The communist leadership represents a clear and rising threat to Canadian interests – and our values. They’ve abducted our citizens, targeted our economy, and intimidated members of the Chinese Canadian community.
    - For several years, Canada’s Conservatives have been the only party willing to state these obvious facts, which have been confirmed by Canada’s closest allies and numerous reports from NGOs, academics, think tanks and journalists.
    - The Liberals, NDP, and Greens don’t take these threats seriously. Trudeau’s China policy has primarily been more concerned with improving business relations for well-connected Liberals than with defending Canada’s interests and values.
    - Canada’s Conservatives will:
    * Work with our allies to build a “coalition of democracies” with the goal of decoupling critical parts of our supply chains from China.
    * As the Government of Canada, recognize the Uyghur genocide and encouraging our allies to do the same.
    * Ban imports that have been produced using forced and enslaved Uyghur labour.
    * End policies that grant special treatment to Hong Kong, recognizing that Beijing’s decision to crack down on its autonomy eliminates the rationale for the special treatment
    * Support the people of Hong Kong fighting for freedom, democracy, human rights, and the rule of law by:
    ** Supporting a “Young Talents” program to encourage young people from Hong Kong to study in Canada.
    ** Waiving records of arrest, charge or conviction related to pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong when processing visas.
    ** Providing documentation for those fleeing Hong Kong and seeking asylum in Canada who cannot obtain documentation from Hong Kong authorities.
    - Withdraw from the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.
    - Ban Huawei from Canada’s 5G infrastructure and further investigate the company’s role in providing surveillance capabilities that have been used against the Uyghur people and other persecuted minorities in China.
    - Advise universities against partnerships with China’s state-controlled companies and organizations and prohibit federal granting councils from participating in these partnerships. Join the UK proposition for a Digital 10 to protect free societies’ data and cyber sovereignty. Crack down on China’s foreign influence operations on Canadian soil by: Making it clear to China’s diplomats that any involvement in intimidation or threats to anyone in Canada provides grounds to be declared persona non grata and expelled from Canada;
    - Revoking visas of Chinese nationals identified by national security agencies as conducting espionage or stealing intellectual property. Revoking the licenses of China’s state-run and state-controlled broadcasters that spread disinformation. Banning senior public office holders for five years after leaving office (including former Prime Ministers, Ministers, Clerks of the Privy Council, Deputy/Assistant Deputy Ministers and Ambassadors) from employment or contracts with China’s government or an entity controlled by China’s government. The ban would include doing work through a consulting or law firm.
    - Ensure that Canadian development assistance will not advance the Communist Party of China’s Belt and Road Initiative.


Liberal Party Platform

Combatting Authoritarianism and Foreign Interference
  • With authoritarianism, geopolitical competition, and foreign interference on the rise, safeguarding Canada’s national and economic security requires strong action both at home and abroad. We will continue to implement domestic measures to protect Canadians and work closely with our friends, allies, and partners to respond to illegal and unacceptable behaviour by authoritarian states, including China, Russia, and Iran.
  • Launch a new comprehensive Asia-Pacific strategy to deepen diplomatic, economic, and defence partnerships in the region, including by negotiating new bilateral trade agreements, expanding FIPAs, and building stronger economic linkages.
A Principled Approach to Foreign Policy
  • Expand the broad coalition of more than 65 states that have supported Canada’s initiative to condemn and eradicate the practice of arbitrary detention and advance an action plan to coordinate collective international responses to specific incidents of arbitrary detention.
  • Defend the right to free expression and oppose the mistreatment or arbitrary detention of journalists, building on the Media Freedom Coalition that we established with the UK.
  • Promoting Democracy and Human Rights
    - With foreign threats and interference on the rise and the impact of authoritarian trends more widespread, now more than ever, it is time to place the promotion of democracy, human rights, and rule of law at the centre of our foreign policy. We stand with citizens and activists around the world who are risking their safety to demand democratic rights and freedoms and will continue to promote democracy and human rights alongside civil society and international partners.

New Democrat Party Platform

Building and Supporting Canadian Industry
  • As well, Canadian mills and workers continue to be affected by unfair foreign exports – especially from China. That’s why we will adopt measures to stabilize the Canadian steel market, and protect the sector from predatory practices of foreign producers who are shut out of other markets.
  • New Democrats will begin by strengthening and modernizing the Investment Canada Act to protect Canadian jobs and undo the damage done by the Liberal government that allows more takeovers of Canadian companies by foreign investors without national security reviews. We’ll scrap the failed Invest in Canada agency and create iCanada, a one-stop shop inside the federal government to help attract investors to Canada and turn their plans into reality – and champion Canadian industry on the international stage.
A better role in the world
  • New Democrats believe that Canadian interests are best served by a strong and principled foreign policy based on human rights, multilateralism and the best interests of global peace and security.
  • A New Democrat government will stand up to China with a strong and coherent strategy to defend Canadian interests at home and abroad. We will work with our allies to lead a robust and coordinated international response to China’s disregard of the rule of law. New Democrats will call out human rights abuses by China, stand with Hong Kong pro-democracy asylum seekers, and provide coordinated support for those facing threats by Chinese entities here in Canada.

Peoples Party of Canada Platform

No Mention of China


Green Party of Canada Platform

International Affairs and Defence
  • We must engage in more egalitarian forms of collaboration with a more diverse set of international partners. This requires re-tooling and preparing our military to support disaster preparedness and response, while maintaining combat readiness. It requires that Canada reconsider trade and diplomatic alliances that have made us overly dependent upon traditional allies and authoritarian states, while restraining our ability to take principled stands in defence of our values.
Defence Policy
  • Reinforce Canada’s Arctic sovereignty through expanded patrols, and funding for community infrastructure development, regional sustainability projects, northern research, northern culture, and other regional socioeconomic activities.


Debate Quotes

French Language Debate

(All quotes translated from French, may not be word for word accurate.)

Jagmeet Singh (New Democrat Party Leader)

Q: “Very quickly on China for example, you talk about standing up to China, what is different that you would do compared to the current government?”
A: “The difference is that when the parliament had a vote to recognize the Uyghur genocide in China, the Prime Minister and his whole cabinet were not present, which is a lack of leadership.

Erin O’Toole (Conservative Party of Canada Leader)

Q: “Mr. O’Toole, in closing, you have said that you would adopt a harder line on China, but even our allies are not going as far as what you are proposing. Do you not fear even more economic sanctions and more Canadians being held hostage?”
A: “No, we need to have a more serious approach when it comes to China. Mr. Trudeau has always mishandled this file, particularly when it comes to the genocide, he wasn’t there for the vote on the genocide in China. Our allies are opposed to having Huawei in our 5G system, we are the only Five Eyes country to be in favour of Huawei. We need to have a level playing field for international trade, for steel and aluminum, President Obama started that, but it has fallen under Trudeau.
Q: “We did see sanctions and reprisals, would there not be further reprisals?”
A: “We need to defend our values and our citizens, and the sanctions are very important. They allow us to act against the Chinese Communist Party.

English Language Debate

(All quotes transcribed from the debate, may not be word for word accurate.)

Q: “Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig have been imprisoned for over 1000 days, the next Prime Minister will have key decisions to make about our already tense relationship with China, such as telecommunication security and foreign investment. Some say this all comes down to a tradeoff between Canada’s economic growth and recognition of human rights. Where do you stand on this?” (Addressed to all leaders)

Jagmeet Singh (New Democrat Party Leader)

A: “Thank you very much for the question. We know that we can’t imagine what it must be like for Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig to be going through 1000 plus days in a prison without access to human rights. We can’t imagine what their families are going through right now. All I know is we have to be doing everything possible to secure the release of these two Canadians. We need to work with our allies, apply pressure, and make sure we return these two Canadians home. That’s what we have got to do.

Justin Trudeau (Liberal Party of Canada Leader)

A: “And that’s exactly what we have been doing. Over the past three years we have been working with international allies to put pressure on China on every single one of their meetings. We’ve worked closely with the United States. We, a few weeks ago at the G7, we worked with the international community to make sure we’re moving forward on challenging China, where necessary on human rights, competing with them economically where we need to, and holding them accountable to the rule of law as a global community, and Canada’s voice has been very strong on that.

Erin O’Toole (Conservative Party of Canada Leader)

A: “Canada’s voice has been absent Mr. Trudeau, we have not worked with our allies on Huawei, we have not stood up for the 300,000 Canadians in Hong Kong, we have not fought for the two Michael’s, we have not stood up for human rights. Sir you did not show up for a vote, declaring a genocide against the Uyghur people, you didn’t show up. Canada was a leader against Apartheid, we created the UN code. We should be leaders for our values sir. You have let the Michaels down. We need to be serious with China.

Justin Trudeau (Liberal Party of Canada Leader)

A: “If you want to get the Michael’s home, you simply don’t lob tomatoes across the Pacific, that is what Mr. Harper tried for a number of years and didn’t get anywhere. You need to engage in a sophisticated way, with our allies, every step of the way and put the pressure on, and that is exactly what we have done every step of the way.”

Erin O’Toole (Conservative Party of Canada Leader)

A: “That is what you have to do on Huawei, on steel, on cyber security, Mr. Trudeau, we are out of step, and our allies are wondering where Canada has gone.

Annamie Paul (Green Party of Canada Leader)

A: “This is an area where lines are being redrawn all across the world, and the main thing Canada has going for it moving forward is its word, if we make a promise we need to keep that promise. That’s how when we need help we get it. So when people ask us for help, whether it is COVAX, or when the Uyghurs ask us for help to declare a genocide and we don’t do that, when we don’t show up on the climate by setting targets that are ambitious but at the same time in line with our international partners, and do our fair share, our word doesn’t count for much, and it makes it hard for us to help people like the Michaels when they need it most.

Yves-François Blanchet (Bloc Québécois Party Leader)

A: “Throwing tomatoes may not be the solution, but I might submit humbly that doing nothing might not be the solution either. Mr. Trudeau’s record on human on human rights is not perfect. We might name the two Michaels, Uyghurs in Xingjian, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Catalonia, and worst of all Saudi Arabia where Raif Badawi is still imprisoned, because Canada wants to sell weapons and military supplies to Saudi Arabia, which is unacceptable. Canada’s parliament voted unanimously to give Raif Badawi citizenship and still nothing has been done.

Erin O’Toole (Conservative Party of Canada Leader)

A: “Mr. Blanchet is correct, Canada is needed back on the world stage, we may be smaller than China when it comes to population and the economy, but we are a giant when it comes to our commitments to human rights, to dignity, and the rule of law and we have to start working with our allies to take a more serious approach for human rights and standing up for our workers on fair trade, and making sure our voice is a principled one on the world stage again.

Justin Trudeau (Liberal Party of Canada Leader)

A: “The problem with Mr. O’Toole and his principles is, he says all the right sounding things and he’s working on reassuring everyone that he’s right there as a strong leader but he can’t convince his candidates to get vaccinated, he can’t convince his MPs to follow the party line.

Jagmeet Singh (New Democrat Party Leader)

A: “Leadership means standing up, it means standing up for the Uyghur is China, it means standing up to defend people around the world, and it also means showing leadership when it comes to fighting the climate crisis. We’ve got the worst record under Mr. Trudeau in the G7, so that’s not leadership, certainly not.



Sean Janke
Policy Research Assistant

Sean Janke is a Policy Research Assistant at the China Institute at the University of Alberta and a BA graduate with a major in Political Science and a minor in German Language Studies. 



Darren Choi
Policy Research Assistant

Darren Choi is a Policy Research Assistant at the China Institute at the University of Alberta and a BA graduate with a major in Political Science and a minor in history.