The House

Midweek podcast: Canadians' trust in political institutions is dwindling, says survey

This week, The House is all about trust. An annual survey of Canadians conducted by Proof Strategies suggests that overall trust in Canadian institutions is deteriorating. Senior vice president with Proof Greg MacEachern is here to break down where Canadians are losing trust.
(Left to right) NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer and Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. (Canadian Press)
Listen to the full episode30:02

Canadians' trust in their democratic institutions is deteriorating, according to the new results of an annual survey.

This year saw a sharp decline in overall trust in Canadian institutions since Proof Strategies began conducting the survey in 2016.

Trust in governments has dropped 4 per cent this year after holding steady for the last four. Only four in 10 of those surveyed said they trust the prime minister, while just over a third said they trusted their premiers.

Greg MacEachern, Proof Strategies' senior vice president, said this trend was reflected in recent elections which saw five provincial legislatures change hands in the last year.

"We've seen a lot of results in provincial elections that may suggest that there's some disruption, some change wanted by Canadians," he said.

Municipal leaders enjoy the highest trust level among Canadians, with just over half saying they trust their mayors.

MacEachern suggested the difference might be due to accountability, or at least to the appearance of a broad system of checks and balances at the municipal level.

Hospitals and universities — two institutions that scored high in the survey — have boards to hold them into account. MacEachern makes a comparison between these institutions and local mayors.

"If the mayor tries to do something, he's going to have to respond to a city council," he said.

What does this mean for the federal election?

With the federal election just around the corner, the survey also found only about half of Canadians think Canada's electoral system is fair and representative.

Coupled with the overall decline in trust in politicians, what does this mean for parties gearing up for their campaigns?

MacEachern said he thinks trust comes down in part to a sense of authenticity.

"This is, I think, where communication and communication skills start to come in," he said.

MacEachern said he thinks Canadians want to hear less-scripted politicians, citing criticisms his organization heard of both Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Conservative leader Andrew Scheer.

"If you're overly scripted, I think people start to wonder whether or not this is how you truly feel," he said.

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