As trust declines across Canada, Quebecers surprise with the highest trust levels of any Canadians in one important institution – the Parliament of Canada

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The 2022 Proof Strategies CanTrust Index™ shows 46 per cent of Quebecers have trust in Ottawa ‘to do the right thing’ compared to 38 per cent in Canada overall

 After almost two years of the pandemic, trust is wearing thin in Canada with Omicron, anxiety and political divisions taking a toll on this precious commodity, according to the findings of the 2022 Proof Strategies CanTrust Index from Proof, the longtime partner agency of Capital-Image in Montreal.

The 2022 CanTrust Index puts overall trust among Canadians at just 34 per cent, down from 37 per cent a year ago and 45 per cent in 2018. The overall decline was driven mostly by a sharp 10 per cent decline in trust in government in the past year. COVID-19 has also made Canadians feel more divided, with 37 per cent reporting they feel less “together and united” – an 11-point increase from 2021.

In Quebec, the overall trust score remains the highest of any region in Canada but also dropped, to 40 per cent, down from 44 per cent in 2021, a level it had roughly maintained for three years. The 2022 score for other regions was 34 per cent in Ontario and Atlantic Canada, 32 per cent in British Columbia and 30 per cent in the Prairies.

Quebecers still have higher trust levels in several institutions than for Canada as a whole. Most surprising, perhaps, is that 46 per cent of Quebecers have trust in the Canadian Parliament “to operate competently and effectively and to do the right thing,” the highest such score of any region of the country, compared to 38 per cent in Canada overall and in Ontario and a low of 30 per cent in the Prairies.

Quebecers also have higher trust levels than other regions for traditional media (newspapers, radio and television at 45% versus 41% for all of Canada) and in their provincial leaders and “politicians in general.” In Quebec, 42 per cent expressed trust in “your Premier” compared to 30 per cent in Ontario, 23 per cent in the Prairies and 33 per cent in both BC and the Atlantic region.

On the other hand, Quebecers have the lowest levels of trust for religious leaders at just 21 per cent compared to 29 per cent in Ontario and 27 per cent in all of Canada. The only category of people Quebecers have less trust in are bloggers (17 per cent) and celebrities (16 per cent). In Quebec, politicians (25 per cent), business leaders (30 per cent) and bankers (35 per cent) are all more trusted than religious leaders. Ranking highest in trust for Quebecers are scientists (80 per cent) and medical doctors (79 per cent).

“The findings of the 2022 CanTrust Index demonstrate again some of the key differences among Quebecers and other Canadians that should have an impact on how companies, institutions and politicians present themselves to Quebecers,” said Silvie Letendre, President of Capital-Image. “The findings also show that there is a lot of room and a necessity for all influencers to build trust through responsible actions that strike meaningful chords with Quebecers.”

These findings come from the 2022 CanTrust Index, one of the largest annual studies on trust in Canada, which examines trust in leaders, sources of information, institutions and more. The survey of 1,536 Canadians and Quebecers was conducted January 4-16, 2022, during the wave of illness and new restrictions caused by the Omicron variant.

“Almost half of Canadians, at 46 per cent, report they continue to feel anxiety and stress from the pandemic, and we are seeing what we refer to as the mistrust variant emerging as COVID-19 evolves,” said Bruce MacLellan, President & CEO of Proof Strategies. “Frustration and inconsistent decision-making from the top-down has weakened trust in our political leaders far more than it has in our scientific and medical advisors.”

In Quebec, however, a lower 39 per cent said they continued to be stressed by the pandemic and 33 per cent said it never increased their stress, compared to just 24 per cent of Canadians overall who felt that way.

The three most trusted sources of “reliable information” continue to be doctors at 78 per cent, scientists at 75 per cent and family members at 65 per cent. “In an age where leadership and truth have decoupled, the vast majority of Canadians still trust science and facts,” MacLellan added.

Trust is dropping in government and public leaders

Trust in government is at an all-time low. Only 22 per cent of Canadians trust government to do what is right for Canada, a 10-point drop from 2021. When asked about sources of reliable information, trust in politicians remains at an extremely low 22 per cent.

This year’s study also gauges respondents’ level of anxiety at distinct stages of the pandemic and finds striking correlations between anxiety levels and trust. 

Approximately one-third (30 per cent) of Canadians who say they did feel anxious about the pandemic at first but now feel better show higher levels of trust in most areas of the survey, compared to the almost half (46 per cent) of respondents who say they remain stressed and anxious.

Trust in provincial Medical Officers of Health to manage Omicron is at 64 per cent for the “no longer anxious” and only 50 per cent for those people who report remaining anxious and stressed. Regarding the Canadian healthcare system, trust by anxious and stressed people is 56 per cent compared to 64 per cent for people who feel better.

“In Canada today, the most trusting people are those who have overcome anxiety and stress (30 per cent) and the least trusting are those who are still worried (46 per cent) and those who never worried (24 per cent),” said MacLellan. “The trust muscles of those who are still worried are fatigued, and the trust muscles of those that never worried atrophied long before the pandemic.”

Trust in healthcare

Canadian healthcare remains a trust leader but is seeing erosion in this year’s study. With more COVID cases and postponed surgeries and services, trust in the Canadian healthcare system has declined to 58 per cent in 2022, a five-point drop from last year. The most noticeable drops in trust are among older generations – those most likely to need health services during the pandemic and perhaps those who are experiencing service cancellations in hospitals due to COVID-related admissions. Trust in healthcare among Boomers dropped eight points to 62 per cent in 2022. Older Canadians (age 75+) recorded a nine-point drop, down to 69 per cent. 

Trust in local hospitals remains steady across the country at 64 per cent, compared to 67 per cent in 2021. The 2022 figure is similar in Quebec at 63 per cent.

Omicron and trust…

The Omicron variant has forced Canadians to grapple with ever-changing public health restrictions – despite Canadians being divided on its severity.

Almost half of Canadians (48 per cent) see Omicron as less of a health risk -- or a similar health risk – to the public compared to COVID-19 and prior variants. But if Canadians view Omicron as less of a health risk, it hasn’t improved their economic outlook and pandemic anxiety levels. 36 per cent of Canadians (32 per cent of Quebecers) say they are more pessimistic about the economy in 2022 due to Omicron.

Personal satisfaction plummets

With the proliferation of Omicron, as well as declining trust in government and public institutions, personal satisfaction among Canadians has dropped. When asked about their own lives, just 44 per cent of Canadians feel “socially satisfied,” down 10 points from 2021. Similarly, just 49 per cent feel “personally satisfied,” down five points from 2021; and 47 per cent feel “satisfied educationally,” a seven-point drop from 2021. More Quebecers ranked themselves as satisfied in each category: 49 per cent said they were socially satisfied, 55 per cent said they were personally satisfied and 51 per cent said they were educationally satisfied.

Trust in employers goes up

Canada’s employees have given higher grades to employers about their capacity to build trust during this pandemic. Overall, employees give their own employers a “C” grade in 2022, up from a “D” grade in January 2021. With trust growth among employees in all sectors, this improvement suggests employers have adjusted to become more sensitive and supportive as the pandemic has unfolded.

Other Survey Findings

  • The Canadian Red Cross is the most trusted organization by Canadians at 61 per cent (59 per cent in Quebec, still the highest) compared to Facebook, which remains among the least trusted at 23 per cent (23 per cent in Quebec). 
  • Trust in the Canadian military has dropped from 58 per cent in 2021 to 52 per cent in 2022 (55 per cent in Quebec), pulled down by low trust in Canada’s military leadership at 39 per cent (same in Quebec).
  • The Canadian financial and stock markets are trusted by 40 per cent (45 per cent in Quebec), similar to 43 per cent in 2021. Trust in the Bank of Canada is at 53 per cent, similar to 54 per cent in 2021 (59 per cent in Quebec).
  • Trust in NGOs (registered charities and not-for-profits) is stable at 47 per cent, halting a worrisome drop in 2020 (49 per cent in Quebec).
  • Trust in Canada’s Chief Medical Officer of Health has dropped slightly from 63 per cent in 2021 to 58 per cent in 2022 (62 per cent in Quebec), and Provincial Medical Health Officers have dropped from an average from 61 per cent to 57 per cent (still 61 per cent in Quebec).
  • Canadians have more trust in “ordinary citizens” to address racism and inequality (68 per cent, 65 per cent in Quebec) than provincial governments and the federal government, both at 62 per cent (58 and 63 per cent respectively in Quebec).

About the 2022 Proof Strategies CanTrust Index

The Proof Strategies CanTrust Index, now in its seventh year, is a leading source of research and understanding of trust in Canada. We study and analyze topics, institutions, events and population segments unique to Canada and surveyed 1,536 Canadians between January 4-16 by online panel.  The sample is representative of Canadian population statistics by region, age and gender.

About Proof Strategies

For leaders responsible for managing, protecting, and building organizations and brands, Proof Strategies is a public relations, government relations and communications partner that “asks better questions” to create insight, grow trust and support clients. Founded in 1994, the independent agency has earned more than 300 awards for client work and industry leadership, including Best Workplace in Canada in 2010 by Great Place to Work™, Agency Team of the Year in 2020 by the Canadian Public Relations Society and Caring Company Certification in 2022 by Imagine Canada. Proof has been carbon neutral since 2008.

Follow Proof at getproof.com and on Twitter and Instagram at @get_proof.

About Capital-Image

Founded more than 30 years ago, Capital-Image is a Montreal-based integrated communications agency with a versatile, bilingual team of professionals. Over the years it has won more than 25 awards for its excellence in communications and was one of the first communications agencies in Montreal to be certified as carbon neutral.

Capital-Image is one of the six largest public relations agencies in Montreal and its operations have been certified with an A+ ranking according to the standards of excellence in professionalism and service for Quebec public relations agencies.

For 26 years, Capital-Image has been a partner of the agency Proof Strategies, with offices in Toronto, Ottawa and Washington, DC. Since 2015 it has been a member of the WE Network (Waggener Edstrom Communications) which has more than 21 offices around the world. capital-image.com

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