We’re suffering from a lack of trust

Justin Trudeau used to tell crowds that one of his goals as prime minister would be to reconnect Canadians with politics and government.

That mission remains unaccomplished, judging from a large look into the state of Canadian trust. The CanTrust Index, as it’s called, has been released annually in each of the past four years Trudeau has been in power, and the 2019 edition is particularly dismal.

Trust is down nearly everywhere – not just in the prime minister, but in the democratic system overall – and faith in our basic institutions is fragmenting along political and geographic lines.

“I’m sure he didn’t set out to do this, but he’s polarized trust in Canada,” says Bruce MacLellan, head of the Proof marketing and communications firm that conducts the survey.

“Now we’re seeing a picture of a country that’s regionally divided on trust and politically divided on trust, which is not good.”

In other countries, trust tends to vary across socio-economic divisions, but what makes these latest results “troubling” to MacLellan is the way in which trust is being decided by where you live or which party you support. Welcome to election year 2019.

For the first three years that this index was conducted, Trudeau’s trust numbers hovered around 46 per cent. But that dropped to 40 per cent this year, accompanied by similar plunges for the news media and large corporations.

In 2018, a reasonably healthy 51 per cent of people expressed trust in the media, while 28 per cent said they trusted big business. In 2019, it’s just 40 per cent for the media and 20 per cent for large corporations.

If these results are correct, we’ve become a very skeptical nation – not even sure whether we should trust each other.

Only two out of every five Canadians agreed with the statement that “most people can be trusted” and three out of five endorsed the idea that “you cannot be too careful in dealing with people.”

Alberta looks to be ground zero for crumbling trust, and Edmonton in particular, where only one in five respondents from that city said people could be trusted.

“Only 22 per cent of Albertans trust governments, compared to 36 per cent of Canadians overall and 39 per cent of Ontarians,” Proof reported in the release accompanying the study.

Trust is now a partisan matter, too. Only 21 per cent of Conservatives said that overall, people could be trusted, compared to 50 per cent among Liberals.

Only 21 per cent of Conservatives said they trusted governments, compared to 63 per cent of Liberals.

The results were gathered over the last three weeks in February, which also coincided with the outbreak of the SNC-Lavalin affair for Trudeau’s government and all the talk of “erosion of trust.”

But this was also before former minister Jody Wilson-Raybould delivered her bombshell testimony at the Commons justice committee, so MacLellan suspects that that trust may have further plummeted for Trudeau since these already-bleak numbers were amassed.

On the other hand, this was also long before the recent Alberta election, which saw a Conservative government come to power, so it could be that Albertans are feeling a bit better about governments these days.

Oh, and how are Canadians feeling about the immigration and refugee system? Forget those heady days of late 2015, when a newly elected Trudeau government opened its arms to Syrian refugees and proclaimed Canada a haven for newcomers.

Only 43 per cent of respondents to this online poll agreed that the immigration system was fair and a scant 36 per cent said the refugee system balanced “the plight of refugees with the needs of the country.”

Maybe people are connected to politics in 2019 – just not the way Trudeau intended.

Susan Delacourt is a columnist with Torstar Syndication Services.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Red Deer County residents decry lack of public consultation over ‘enormous’ river water withdrawals

Noise, light, diesel emission complaints were made to the Alberta Energy Regulator

UPDATE: Seven-year-old dies and her mother and two brothers are injured in trailer fire

Fire started shortly after 1 a.m. and took four hours to put out

Charges dropped against woman accused of being involved in 2019 Red Deer murder

Preliminary hearing of co-accused in murder began on Friday and resumes next month

Red Deer Mayor says city council’s advocacy isn’t over with shelter and hospital funding gains

Additional Crown prosecutors are still at the top of Tara Veer’s list

Red Deer joins provincewide protest on Saturday

Protesters encouraged to wear red

Fashion Fridays: Tammy’s big makeover

Kim XO, helps to keep you looking good on Fashion Fridays on the Black Press Media Network

Your community calendar

Feb. 19 A Liberation of Holland event is being held at the… Continue reading

Canadian-Indians worry for their families as riots break out in India

Naila Saeed could do nothing but worry from afar when rioters descended… Continue reading

Public health agency weighs stronger COVID-19 protection for front-line workers

OTTAWA — The Public Health Agency of Canada says it will consult… Continue reading

Ukraine pledges help for airline compensation for Iran plane crash victims

OTTAWA — Ukraine’s ambassador to Canada says his government will help Foreign… Continue reading

Saskatchewan premier won’t commit to fall election; cites national unrest

ESTEVAN, Sask. — Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe says rail blockades and the… Continue reading

Suspect charged with first-degree murder in death of 13-year-old Quebec girl

ST-JEROME, Que. — Friends and family of a teenage girl whose body… Continue reading

Tories call on government to compensate dairy farmers ‘left behind’ in new NAFTA

OTTAWA — The Conservative opposition says the government must compensate dairy farmers… Continue reading

Red Deer Construction Association honours local builders

5th annual Commercial Construction Awards took place on Thursday evening

Most Read