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Confidence in Parliament – Conference Board Report

The Conference Board of Canada recently released their latest report card on an aspect of Canadian society or its institutions. This time they have focussed on Social performance.

I personally like these reports. The Conference Board is by and large a non-partisan group that truly tries to analyze aspects of Canadiana from an arms-length perspective.  From a guy who makes a living analyzing stuff (I don’t want to be too specific) and looking at how others analyze stuff, I do take what these folks say seriously.

The study is based on the World Values Survey; a project based in Stockholm, Sweden that aims to assess the state of sociocultural, moral, religious and political values of different countries around the world.

I find one of the indicators developed from these results to be of special interest: Confidence in Parliament.  While it is generally acknowledged that public confidence in government institutions has waned in recent years (to put it mildly), some of the conclusions reached by the Board are particularly thought-provoking.

Respondents were asked the question:

“Could you tell me how much confidence you have in parliament: is it a great deal of confidence, quite a lot of confidence, not very much confidence, or none at all?”

Canadians today have less confidence in parliament than they did in the past. The share of respondents reporting a high level of confidence fell from 42 per cent in 1982 to 38 per cent in 2006. That is not a huge drop, but still should be noted.

Overall, Canada is given a “C” grade. Kinda like in elementary school when you went home and said, “well, I didn’t do as bad as Mikey – who got an “F”! Not great but not as bad as Mikey.

In this case, The U.S. is Mikey (Thanks Dubya!).

How have the grade results changed over time?

Trust in Parliament

While Canada’s relative grade improved to a “B” in the current decade, it did so only because recent data are not available for Norway.

As much as I would like to blame the Harperites for this seeming lack of confidence in our top national institution, to do so would be wrong. It is not only the fault of the current government but it is really a phenomenon that began with (IMO) the election of Mulroney in 1984 and has worsened through to the current day.

People are lacking confidence because government have done little to inspire it.  I like to use the “politics of cynicism” to describe the current regime, and I don’t take that back. But nor do I only confine that moniker only to the ReformCons – they have simply perfected it.

It is important that Canadians regain this sense of trust in their elected leaders’ ability to make wise decisions.  As the report points out, the loss of confidence in a this institution may have more serious ramifications.

According to University of Toronto researchers Neil Nevitte and Mebs Kanji, “Occasional citizen dissatisfaction with a particular government is neither unusual nor necessarily problematic.”2 But “more problematical is the possibility that deep and sustained dissatisfaction might corrode regime support. The worry is that dissatisfaction with particular governments might turn into dissatisfaction with the workings of democracy more generally.”3

I have given up on Harper as a source of inspiration as a way to augment our levels of confidence, but please, Mr. Ignatieff or Mr. Layton… please break this pattern and give us something to re-engage us.



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  1. XUP says:

    I think C is a fine grade as far as public confidence goes. The public should view its leadership with a healthy dose of cynicism. It keeps them on their toes and keeps them from become too corrupt and self-serving. Anything higher than a C and we put too much trust in them. Anything lower and we do start to have some problems. I think we’re at a good point. Leaders need to be continually poked and prodded and slapped around a bit. I’ve never been keen on this Canadian mentality that says “we elect them and then we should leave them alone to do their job”

  2. trashee says:

    I think Ed would have made a great PM.
    As the lefty of this little troika, I have to defend the ON NDP… they handled the things the best they were able considering the mess they were left by the Tories… I don’t begrudge the hard-line they took with the unions nor most of the other measures… they did what they had to do…
    That being said, I cannot support an NDP with Jack as the leader… dunno what I’m going to do… still waiting for Iggy to inspire, but man, It’s getting a bit late in the game…
    And, like Lawrence Martin pointed out in the G&M this morning (or maybe it was Jeffrey Simpson), aside from their stances on the status of Canucks incarcerated abroad, where are the big policy diffs between the two? It is becoming more and more difficult to differentiate – aside from the leaders…one of which is a wo-bot.

  3. I always wondered what Prime Minister Ed Broadbent, as leader of a red tory party, might have been like.

  4. While Igman might be able to restore confidence (I doubt it, because historically, Liberal governments have been awash with incompetence and scandal just like Conservative governments), I am certain that NOTHING the NDP can do would restore any confidence in Parliament. All hope of the NDP restoring confidence evaporated when the NDP became overlords of Ontario 14 years ago. Nobody trusts them with the reins of power.

  5. Ken says:

    We’re on the same page, then.

    I just wish Ignatieff would stop mouthing platitudes. He just keeps giving cliches and talking without saying anything. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – NDP will never get my vote. The CPC has to replace a few of their ministers: Flaherty is useless, Baird (whom I once respected as an MPP) has just become a yeller, and get rid of toadies like Poilievre.

    What ever happened to the Libertarian party? Weren’t they based out of the Ottawa area?

  6. trashee says:

    Not arguing with you Ken.
    I think some mistake my anti-Harperism as partisan Liberalism… not the case.
    It is more the case that I am crying out for a leader that can inspire… Jack sure cannot do that so I am imploring Iggy to step up.
    Whoever succeeds will not only gain a vote but my unabashed partisan support complete with my experience and enthusiasm as a campaign volunteer.
    But thus far… sadly… nada…

  7. Ken says:

    Perhaps it started with the PCs with Mulroney, but it was definitely continued by the Liberals.

    Hate to say it, Trashy, but from 1993 to 2006 – so for 13 of those 22 years from 1984 to 2006, the Liberals were in power. That’s 59% of the time in office.

    And of those 13 years, Chretien was in charge for 11.

    I don’t disagree with you, however, that our current & past politicians leave a lot to be desired. It takes a true leader to stand up and inspire. Unfortunately none of our current leaders do that. None of them.

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