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Trust in governments shows signs of life as pandemic starts to fade: survey

‘I think we’re kind of getting back to a more normal Canada’
The Parliament Hill Peace Tower is framed in an iron fence on Wellington Street in Ottawa on Thursday, March 12, 2020. An annual survey on how trusting Canadians are suggests their faith in governments is rebounding as the COVID-19 pandemic begins to fade. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

An annual survey on how trusting Canadians are suggests their faith in governments is rebounding as the COVID-19 pandemic begins to fade.

The 2023 CanTrust Index published by Proof Strategies surveyed 1,502 adults online between Jan. 5 and Jan. 13 but cannot be given a margin of error because internet polls are not considered random samples.

Last year’s survey suggested after two years of pandemic anxiety, lockdowns and ricocheting COVID-19 rules, trust in governments had plummeted to new lows with just 22 per cent of those surveyed saying they trusted governments.

This year that rose to 37 per cent, the highest it has been in this survey since 2018.

“I think we’re kind of getting back to a more normal Canada,” said Proof CEO Bruce MacLellan.

“And you know, nowadays it’s not common to find increases in trust in a trust survey, so it’s definitely a good sign.”

He said what struck him from the results is that Canadians don’t think very highly of political parties.

When asked whether they see political parties as a “unifying force” or “divisive force” in Canadian society, 56 per cent of those surveyed said they were divisive.

NDP supporters were the most likely to say parties are divisive, at 65 per cent, compared with 62 per cent of Conservative supporters. Liberals supporters were the least concerned about it, with 52 per cent listing political parties as divisive.

Some organizations that had bad press in 2022 took a hit in the trust factor. CTV, whose high-profile firing of longtime national news anchor Lisa LaFlamme was met with a swift public backlash, saw its trust fall from 50 per cent to 43 in 2023.

Trust in Hockey Canada, which saw its entire board of directors resign amid investigations of their handling of sexual misconduct allegations against players, sat at 30 per cent. There was no 2022 reading for Hockey Canada.

Rogers, the telecom giant that had a massive outage that left millions of Canadians with no internet access or phones for 19 hours in July, saw its trust level fall slightly from 32 per cent to 29 per cent.

McLellan said there are concerns that trust is low among young people. While overall 47 per cent of Canadians surveyed said they feel most people can be trusted, that fell to 39 per cent among Generation Z, or those under 26 years old. That compares with 52 per cent of baby boomers, and 76 per cent of people over 75.

McLellan said trust often gets stronger as you get older and have more life experience, but the survey suggests younger people feel far less positive about how Canada is doing and how they’re faring in the economy, and whether government is working for them.

“So if you have a group of your population who feel that both the economy and the electoral system aren’t working for you, this is a problem,” he said.

He also said politicians and public servants are on the trust hot seat, after months of stories about governments struggling to deliver basic services, such as passport renewals.

While 64 per cent of those surveyed believed government plays an important role in making Canada better for its citizens, but only 27 per cent said politicians “do their best” to deliver government services “efficiently and on time.”

While 40 per cent said that of public servants, 48 per cent said they could do a better job.

—Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press

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