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The Canadians You Trust


You know them, you watch them, you love them—but do you trust them? We asked, and you gave us some surprising answers. Because when it comes to trust, glamour isn't everything.


In our society—supposedly obsessed with youth and glamour—age and wisdom usually get short shrift. But while this may be true in the realms of entertainment and fashion, when
it comes to trust a touch of grey is the furthest thing from a handicap.

An exclusive Reader’s Digest poll conducted by the independent research firm Harris/Decima shows that we place our trust in a wide array of public figures, but almost all have one thing in
common: Experience.

So Whom Does Canada Trust Most?


David Suzuki

The foremost environmentalist in Canada, and a man who has gained international recognition in the fight against global warming, David Suzuki received more first-place rankings than the second and third places combined.

When asked his thoughts about placing first, Suzuki displayed the trademark humility that no doubt helped him take the top spot. “I am flabbergasted,” he said. “It is an enormous responsibility to live up to that trust. It is a tribute to the integrity of The Nature of Things and the CBC, which has stuck by me when there were calls for my head when we did shows on logging, economics, mega­dams, etc.”

The Top 20

Canadians also place their trust in institutions—whether the game of hockey (so close to our hearts) or the CBC. Among the top-20 most trusted were four hockey personalities—Wayne Gretzky, Don Cherry, Ron MacLean and Jean Béliveau. Of the eight television personalities in the Top 20, seven—David Suzuki, Peter Mansbridge, George Stroumboulopoulos, Rick Mercer, Rex Murphy, Don Cherry and Ron MacLean—appear on Canada’s national network.

“We admire those who stick to the same job forever and ever, like Peter Mansbridge and Lloyd Robertson, doing over and over what they have already proven they can do,” says social critic Robert Fulford, a veteran journalist and author. “What we feel for them is a deeper-than-politics conservative instinct. In this sense, Wayne Gretzky is the perfect Canadian athlete. The Queen qualifies in the same way.”

It is important to note, however, that measuring “trust” can be an inexact science. In our survey, the term was not defined—so respondents were permitted to read in their own definitions.

“I think some of the ratings reflect certain stereotypes of the roles we see these people in,” says Steve Joordens, a University of Toronto Scarborough psychology professor. “Actors? Well, we know they never stay married because they have illicit relationships outside of marriage sooner or later—it seems to happen all the time. On the other hand, those with passionate causes…well, passion comes across as honesty.

Like with David Suzuki.

“That Suzuki is first does not entirely surprise me,” says John Moore, a Toronto radio host and print journalist known for his unsentimental take on Canada’s political icons. “In spite of his apocalyptic message these days, he’s a very comforting person who exudes a certain Lorax-like grandfatherly compassion.”

Two other passionate Canadians, Stephen Lewis, former UN Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa, and Michael J. Fox, actor and crusader for a cure for Parkinson’s disease, were ranked fourth and fifth respectively.

Moore adds, “It’s delightful that Canadians still recognize that, in spite of his Machiavellian tendencies, inside Stephen Harper is a well-meaning boy trying to get out. And it is distinctly Canadian that we even think of the Auditor General, let alone hold her in such high regard—though her proximity to Canada’s court jester Rick Mercer—and ‘Strombo’ [George Stroumboulopoulos]—offers more questions than answers.”

Indeed, Mercer’s inclusion at the No. 10 spot in our Top 50 is noteworthy, and not only because of his youth—he’s 39, making him the second youngest in the Top 20, after Stroumboulopoulos, age 36—but because his stock-in-trade is sardonic commentary. What does it say about Canada that we’d place our trust in a master of the comic put-down?

“I have no idea what it means, other than it’s evidence that those surveyed are highly intelligent people with exquisite taste,” Mercer told Reader’s Digest. “When it comes to talking politics, I don’t have to toe a party line. I can simply state my opinion. Also, there are very few rules on The Rick Mercer Report, but we are unapologetically Canadian and we don’t make stuff up. I think that resonates with the audience.”

David Foot, a professor of economics at the University of Toronto, agrees that there is generally a correlation between perceived independence and trust. “Anyone with a perceived conflict of interest—like business leaders—will generally not be near the top of this sort of list,” he says. “Civil servants, academics and activists don’t necessarily have conflicts of interest—David Suzuki is an obvious example. People who are retired from office are also usually free of conflicts—as in the case of Rick Hillier.”

The same phenomenon may also explain the large number of journalists in the top ranks of the most-trusted list. “Journalists tend to keep some distance from politics and big business,” says Jack Jedwab, executive director of the Montreal-based Association for Canadian Studies. “The media tend to fill the vacuum when people seek sources of information they can trust.”



This article was originally published in the June 2009 issue of Reader's Digest. Subscribe today and never miss an issue!




Adapted from: Reader's Digest Canada, June 2009



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