Fifth Annual Proof CanTrust Index Reveals Make-or-Break Trust Moment for Canadian Leaders

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Montreal (Quebec), April 23, 2020 – Canada’s trust story is in many ways stable and strong. However, the 2020 Proof CanTrust Index, one of the largest and deepest studies of trust in Canada and commissioned by Capital-Image’s English Canada partner agency Proof, suggests there is significant room for improvement in many areas. The current period of disruption and uncertainty due to the pandemic amplifies both the positive and the negative aspects of leadership in the country.

“The current crisis is putting trust to the test because business leaders have never before had to face challenges of this scope,” said Silvie Letendre, President and General Manager of Capital-Image. “We know that credibility increases the level of trust when it is based on integrity. In this regard, the 2020 CanTrust Index shows that 64% of Canadians believe that having a leader who communicates openly is fundamental.”

Low trust in Canada, but higher for Quebecers and those over 50

Once again, this year Quebec ranks among the Canadian regions with the highest level of overall trust (44%), just behind the Atlantic provinces. Those two regions together lead the other Canadian provinces by a huge margin when it comes to having confidence in the not-for-profit organizations, the media, small and medium size companies, governments and large corporations. This may be due to a deeper feeling of attachment toward their communities, businesses and institutions.

However, it is concerning that Canadians’ overall trust remains low in many areas. This year, the CanTrust Index sits at 38% across Canada, a one per cent drop from last year and down 7% from the initial survey in 2016. Nevertheless, overall trust reaches up to 55% among those who have a higher disposition to trust (for example, newer Canadians and people of over the age of 50).

Trust in senior executives declining

A particularly concerning fact, especially now, is the diminishing level of trust in business leaders. Trust in CEOs has fallen 17 percentage points from 55% in 2018 to 38% in 2020. Employees give their employer just a C grade when asked about CEOs’ efforts to build trust internally and the further removed employees are from the C-suite, the lower they rate their employer. In addition, when Canadians were asked who they trust as sources of reliable information, senior business executives were trusted by only 28%.

Although senior management must always remember to walk-the-talk, employees are generally more inclined to trust their direct manager. This means that it is in senior executives’ best interest to earn the trust of middle managers and then empower them to build the trust capacity throughout the organization. The way leaders and businesses act now will hold a lot of weight in determining the public’s level of confidence going forward. The most agile teams will be better prepared to navigate uncertainty and thus generally will be the ones with the highest trust level. Therefore, our leaders have a responsibility to better understand the mechanism of building trust in order to be more adept at establishing it.

Trust in essential services is relatively strong

Trust in essential services remains strong. With the pandemic on the horizon, hospitals reached a 66% trust level, grocery stores 58%, our healthcare system 57% and banks 48%. Over the course of the past five years, Canadians have continued to place enduring trust in key services and institutions. For example, trust in the RCMP remains at 61%, trust in our healthcare system is at 57%, and the education system at 55%. Another area of note is that newcomers to Canada arrive with higher baseline levels of trust, serving to raise the national average.

We trust science and our media trust is climbing

As sources of reliable information, Canadians trust medical doctors (76%) and scientists (70%) more than all other sources except for their own friends and family (78%). As the need for reliable and credible information has never been greater, the situation is particularly encouraging for the media, with trust towards them having increased by four percentage points since last year to reach 44%. It is possible that the recent reliance on media for pandemic information has already increased this even more. More than half of all Canadians say they trust Canada’s free and independent press.

Bloggers/influencers and celebrity endorsers had lower trust levels than traditional media, at 18% and 16% respectively. However, the influence of these sources of information cannot be discounted as their trust levels are doubled among those 25 and under.

About Capital-Image

Capital-Image is among Montreal’s six largest communication agencies, with its operations certified A+, the standard of excellence in professional quality and service for public relations firms in Quebec as determined by l’Alliance des cabinets de relations publiques du Québec. Founded 30 years ago, Capital-Image provides services in media relations, content development, social media, corporate communications, reputation and crisis management, special events as well as internal communications. The team has recently added a new online training component to its offering. Over the years, the agency has won multiple awards of excellence in public relations. It was also one of the first Montreal agencies to be certified carbon neutral. For nearly 24 years, Capital-Image has been partnering with Proof Inc., which has offices in Toronto, Ottawa and Washington DC.

About the Proof CanTrust Index

Now in its fifth year, the Proof CanTrust Index is a leading source of research and understanding of trust in Canada. It studies and analyze topics, events and population segments unique to Canada – Quebec residents, newcomers to Canada, seniors, political party supporters and where people reside. For 2020, it surveyed 1,500 Canadians in January (17-27) as COVID-19 began to sweep around the world. The sample is representative of Canadian population statistics by region, age and gender and has a confidence interval of +/- 2.5 percentage points.

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