Trust issues: How a new government should deal with the far right on climate change

ANALYSIS: Data shows that far-right voters don't trust the government on climate change — but tailoring policies to satisfy them could bring severe consequences for the party that wins the federal election
By Brad Graham - Published on Sep 13, 2021
Since August 15, social-media engagement on the issue of climate change has been high. (acilo/ istockphoto.com)

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The Governance Monitor, an initiative from the Institute on Governance and Advanced Symbolics, tracks the impact of the election campaign on Canadians’ trust in government, going beyond the horse race to produce informed insights and analysis.

This is the second in a series of articles jointly produced by the Institute on Governance and Advanced Symbolics for TVO.org and iPolitics. Throughout the federal-election campaign, these articles will analyze the extent to which Canadians trust in government — and what that trust could mean for the future of our country.

The Governance Monitor focuses on what the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development has identified as “strong predictors of public trust”: responsiveness, reliability, integrity, openness, and fairness.


Data trends: 

      • Our Daily Trust Tracker shows an increase in trust in government since Labour Day. Onchart: daily trust tracker September 9, trust in government was at 56 per cent, up from 51 per cent on September 6. 
      • Since the start of Election 2021 on August 15, trust in government’s ability to get the job done has averaged 58 per cent, the same level seen during the 2019 federal election.
      • The IOG/ASI Governance Monitor tracks social-media activity across five ideological cohorts (far left, left, centre, right, far right). Social-media engagement is highest at the far ends of the ideological spectrum.
      • Since August 15, social-media engagement on the issue of climate change has been high.
      • Eighty per cent of Canadians show positive trust in government’s ability to tackle climate change.
      • When considering government’s role in most policy areas, including climate change, the far right exhibits the lowest level of trust and is consistently negative
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      What it means

      Even though most Canadians show positive trust in government’s ability to tackle climate change, the level is moderate and is most positive in the centre-left and centre-right ideological cohorts.  

      chart: engagement by ideology

      While still positive, trust in government is weaker for the left and right cohorts — but for different reasons. The left has less trust that government will deliver on climate-change commitments. The right worries about the economic impact of government action on climate change. The 5 per cent on the far right is the most negative and questions the very premise of addressing climate change and the motives for governments for doing so.

      chart showing levels of trust sentiment

      Why it matters

      In terms of climate change, the overall level of trust in government is important if a new government is to effectively meet its objectives. A new government will need to understand the impact of its actions on trust across all ideological cohorts so that it can influence behaviours that will lead to its desired policy outcomes —which could include, for example, reducing fossil-fuel use, choosing greener alternatives, and accepting increased carbon taxation.

      chart: trust in government

      It is important to note that the 5 per cent on the far right remain distinctly and consistently negative regarding trust in government action on climate change. A new government will need to remember that this fringe is unique and not exaggerate its influence on public discourse across the ideological cohorts. Tailoring policies to satisfy this extreme will accelerate further declines of trust among the majority, undermine policy objectives, and — if there is a minority Parliament — potentially trigger another election.  

      chart: trust in government image widget
      chart showing levels of trust sentiment image widget
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