It must be the air conditioning or the soft chairs
A recent poll suggests that Canadians have a much lower level of confidence in government than their American counterparts.
You may find this surprising and you may not. What is discouraging to me is what the numbers say about how the public feels about our politicians.
The poll concluded that 68 per cent of Americans polled said they trust their federal government led by George Bush but only 46 per cent of Canadians trust the Jean Chretien government. When it comes to spending your heard-earned tax money, 33 per cent of American felt Bush spends their money wisely compared to only 22 per cent of Canadians.
Provincially, 65 per cent of Americans trust their state government while only 51 per cent of Canadians trust their provincial government.
It is interesting to note that Canadians are most likely to trust their provincial governments when it comes to spending money. Alberta Premier Ralph Klein and his counterparts should not pop the bubbly yet, however. The pool showed only 29 per cent of Canucks believe they get the best value for their dollar from provincial governments while the number drops to 24 per cent for American state governments.
Those are horrific numbers and they get worse. In Canada, only 21 per cent of respondents feel that municipal governments make the best use of their tax money. So, just over one in every five people feel the Town of High Prairie or M.D. of Big Lakes spends its money wisely.
Ouch! That's a lot of dissatisfaction.
Why the distrust toward our local governments? I always used to joke that their brains went dead from the air conditioning or the soft chairs they sit in. I think the answer simply lies in the fact that people care most about their local governments. They follow them more closely and scrutinize them more carefully. After all, people care more about what their neighbour is up to (John Brodrick, Ken Killeen, David Marx, Rick Dumont, etc.) than Chretien, Klein, Athabasca MP David Chatters or Lesser Slave Lake MLA Pearl Calahasen. In turn, they always remember the bad decisions rather than the successful ones. The media, of course, fuels and stokes the fire because people tend to be more negative than positive.
The poll also showed that 20 per cent of Canadians feel that no level of government provides a decent return for tax money spent. Only seven per cent of Yankees feel the same way.
Here's one final stat to share with you. In Canada, 46 per cent dislike sales tax the most, 20 per cent dislike federal income tax the most, 11 per cent dislike provincial income tax the most and only eight per cent dislike local property tax the most.
At least the people feel the local municipalities tax fairly. They may not like how the money is spent, but they agree the taxation system seems fair.
The survey was conducted in April of 2002 and is considered accurate within three percentage points, 19 times out of 20.
Politicians can probably take heart, however. In fairness to them, they might wonder what the approval rating or trust is for journalists. Would it be any better? We'd like to think so but then again, we're not dealing with public money, are we?
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