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Trust in Canada's democracy, justice and media down post-election

Last Updated Oct 28, 2019 at 3:16 pm PDT

FILE - People walk near Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

One week after the federal vote, it seems trust in Canada's democratic institutions has gone down

A study by Proof Incorporated finds over the last week, 48 percent of people in our country say they trust elections

Trust in news media and the justice system are also down

OTTAWA (NEWS 1130) – It seems trust in Canada’s democracy is down one week after the federal vote.

A poll by Proof Inc. found that just under half (48 per cent) of Canadians believe elections are fair, down from 52 per cent in February, and 56 per cent a year before in February 2018. The number is even lower in the Prairie provinces, where just over a third of those polled in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba believe the system is fair.

When it comes to whether the election system adequately represents their votes, trust is also low: only 44 per cent have faith in Canada’s electoral system, with just 29 per cent trust in the Prairies.

“In a healthy democracy, citizens should feel confident in how the electoral system operates and how it reflects their votes in the outcome,” Proof Inc. CEO Bruce MacLellan said in a press release. “After this 2019 election, we’re seeing troubling signs of mistrust – especially in Western Canada’s Prairie provinces.”

Trust in the media is also declining: around 51 per cent said they trust the media in February 2018, but post-election 2019, it’s down to 36 per cent. Quebec sees the highest level of trust at 45 per cent, and the lowest is in the Prairies at 24 per cent.

Canada’s justice system is also seeing a decline in public trust, with just over half of Canadians saying they trust in the court system and judges, and lower in the Prairies.

There is a notable gender difference as well, with women seeing a larger decline in trust in the news media, justice system and elections system. However, women had more trust than men in Green Party Leader Elizabeth May.

“We need to see more women elected to the House of Commons and in other positions of leadership to build trust,” added MacLellan. “We also need more civility in politics, to restore faith and optimism in the democratic system.”

Trust in Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is recovering after declines over the SNC-Lavalin affair, but Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer’s support is going down. Meanwhile, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh has seen a dramatic 21-point rise in trust from 18 per cent to 39 per cent following the campaign.

“The national leaders’ debate and the greater overall attention being paid to politics in the lead-up to Election Day gave Jagmeet Singh an opportunity to showcase his strengths to the nation – and he performed well,” said MacLellan. “Between his engaging use of social media, and the clear contrast he drove with other leaders on a crowded debate stage, Singh effectively built on a previously middling score. While those skyrocketing trust levels are impressive, the party’s reduced seat count suggests the NDP didn’t have the resources to channel that surge into results at the ballot box.”

Trust in Canada’s institutions also varied by party affiliation, with Conservative supporters having the lowest trust in election systems and parliament.

The Proof Inc CanTrust Index: 2019 Post-Election Study is based on an online survey sample with 1,000 Canadians, 18 years and older, and was conducted Oct. 21 to 25. It is nationally representative by region, age and gender.