IOG and Environics Institute research generates healthy debates across the country
In 2014, the IOG partnered with the Environics Institute to conduct a landmark national public opinion survey on governance and the public service. Our goal was to better understand what the public expects from governments, and how well citizens believe their country, province and local municipality are governed.
The results of the research were originally released in late December in a series of in-depth articles written by Ottawa Citizen journalist Kathryn May and subsequently published in several national newspapers. The articles have stimulated good healthy debates from readers across the country.
All articles are available below:
- Ottawa Citizen story for December 27: Mistrust between bureaucrats and politicians bad for Canada
- Ottawa Citizen story for December 27: Majority of Canadians worried about potential election fraud, study finds
- Ottawa Citizen story for December 28: Local government gets better marks than other levels
- Ottawa Citizen story for December 29: Canadians ready let government departments share personal data
- Ottawa Citizen story for December 30: Canadians satisfied with life if they have enough money
- Ottawa Citizen story for January 1: Some say PM could justifiably shut down Parliament in crisis: survey
Governments have played a central role in building modern-day Canada, and in past generations the Canadian public has supported the role and place of government as important institutions to collective well-being and economic security. Such confidence has been eroding over the past several decades, in part through broader socio-cultural trends (e.g., a general decline in deference to authority), and political trends (the emergence of a movement defining government as the problem rather than the solution). Governments at all levels are now facing increasing scrutiny and political pressures while at the same time contending with increasing expectations for accountability and performance.
Most of the public discussion about the role of government has focused on policies and spending decisions, with little if any attention given to the process of governance and how our governments should operate. Elected officials are front and centre as the leaders who take responsibility for government policy and making the important decisions, but behind the scenes it is the public service that is responsible for making government run and implementing policies. Politicians come and go as different political parties take over the reigns of power, but the public service plays an essential non-political role of ensuring that the institutions of government function effectively, efficiently and with continuity.
These issues raise important questions about what exactly Canadians know and think about how their country, provinces and municipality are governed, and about the people who carry out these responsibilities. Anecdotal evidence is helpful, but the only way to provide definitive answers is through properly designed survey research. Such research accurately reveals current public awareness, knowledge, perceptions, expectations and priorities of the Canadian public generally, as well as by important segments of the population (e.g., across regions, generations, and socio-economic status). This empirical evidence is essential to understanding the extent to which there is underlying stability or a pending crisis in public confidence in our government institutions, and what might be required to address it.