There’s nothing more important than a good public image, especially in the age of the internet, and that’s why the political class has been struggling to come up with good ways to put it into words.
The public’s image of politicians has suffered, as it has for decades, because of the corrosive effect of the digital age on our democratic institutions and how they operate.
In 2016, for example, the CBC released a study showing how the digital divide in media had impacted Canadians’ perception of how well the country works.
A large percentage of Canadians believe that the media are biased in favour of the Conservatives and against the NDP, while more than a third believe the media is biased against the Liberals.
In the past year, as well, a new report from the Angus Reid Institute found that Canadians believe the political parties are more biased against their political opponents.
It also found that while Canadians want the media to be neutral, they are less likely to say they trust them to hold politicians to account.
“There’s an incredible amount of cynicism about how the media operate and how the system works and how people should vote and how much influence they can have in politics,” says University of Toronto political scientist Stephen Greenberg.
“So it’s a really important issue to have a dialogue about and how you build a more open, more transparent media landscape.”
While there is plenty of information available online, it’s not always easy to find.
There’s no easy way to get a quick look at who is in power, for instance.
And it’s easy to get caught up in a partisan narrative, especially as we’re dealing with a government that is struggling to govern.
The CBC’s new study, released last week, found that “in 2016, when Canadians were asked which political leaders they trusted the most, they were most likely to believe the Liberals were more trustworthy than the Conservatives.”
It also looked at how Canadians perceived which politicians were likely to “hold accountable” the next president.
A third of Canadians believed that their next president will hold the next Conservative accountable for their actions.
The next question asked was, “Who is most likely responsible for the next election in 2020?”
The results showed that in 2016, “the Liberals and NDP were the most trusted of the three.”
When it came to holding political leaders to account, however, Canadians were far more likely to put a party in power in the next federal election.
“That’s why you see people like [Liberal leader Justin] Trudeau and [NDP leader Tom] Mulcair being blamed for things that they actually didn’t do,” says Greenberg.
They weren’t held accountable for things like the bombing of the B.C. Parliament building in June 2018, the killing of Canadian Forces members in Afghanistan or the use of chemical weapons in Syria.
And there are many other examples of how the political system has eroded trust.
For example, Canadians believe they’re more likely than other Canadians to say that politicians are honest and trustworthy, and it’s why so many of them are unhappy with how the Liberal Party has governed the country.
“We’ve got a system where people are constantly under attack, and we don’t really want that to continue,” says Sarah Reimer, the director of the University of Guelph’s Centre for Canadian Policy Studies.
Reimer says that, while the current system is not perfect, it is “a more representative of what Canadians believe.”
And it should be.
There are plenty of reasons to trust the public and politicians, including their integrity, ability to hold elected officials to account and ability to be accountable.
“I’m not saying that you can’t trust the media, but I think that there’s a reason that we have a free and fair media, and the reason that there are so many people who work in politics is that they want to know how the country is run and how its working,” says Reimer.
“If you’re not happy with that, you’re going to vote for somebody else.”
To make matters worse, some Canadians are already expressing a desire to vote differently in 2018.
“In a lot of places, they’re starting to vote in smaller numbers,” says Greenwood.
“The [NHL] season is just starting and they’re looking for the middle ground.”
And, of course, there are a number of issues that have been dominating headlines in recent weeks.
The Conservative government has made the controversial decision to cut funding for the public broadcaster, the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan (OTPP), which has long been a key source of income for the province’s education system.
The Liberals have also cut funding to the provincial child care agency, the Child Care Benefit Program (CCBP).
The Liberals also announced they would eliminate the tax break that gives people with a child under 18 who are eligible for a public-school tuition subsidy an extra $200 a month, in addition to their regular tuition.
There have also been calls for the Conservatives to cancel the government’s decision to allow the federal government