Since I began to study politics and then to write about it, there have been 10 prime ministers, nine Ontario premiers and nine Alberta premiers that I have interviewed or written about.
Five decades ago, a politician rarely lied. Exaggerate and embellish, yes. Rhetorical licence came with the trade. Make campaign promises that died, yes.
Award jobs to partisan loyalists and raise party funds by “taxing” highway paving contracts? Well, in some provinces, that was just expected.
We knew which elected leaders were corrupt and which ones not, because the corrupt ones didn’t hide it.
The venality was transparent and kept to a set of unwritten rules, for example, beware the backroom boys.
But boldface lies or corruption were outside a narrow set of rules.
That was crossing a line and when an elected official did and was caught out, the consequences were career-ending. I’m not sure when the line was crossed, but cross it we have.
In 2018, compared to the rest of the world, the majority of Canadians still trust key institutions like government, academics and business.
According to the Pew Institute in the most optimistic of recent studies, 67 per cent of us trust the government to do the right things and 78 per cent believe the mainstream media accurately reports news.
But the numbers are slipping.
According to the Gallup polling organization, 47 per cent of us think pastors and priests have high moral standards. In 1985, the number was 67 per cent.
Pew found that only 36 per cent of those polled had a favourable view of pastors and priests, compared to 32 per cent for newspaper reporters and 23 per cent for television reporters.
In the 2018 independent Edelman Trust Barometer, relied upon by many journalists, 63 per cent of adults trust academic experts but only 47 per cent trust “a person like themselves,” 43 per cent trust their employees and 37 per cent trust government officials and business chief executive officers.
The Edelman study found that 43 per cent trusted journalists in general with journalists in traditional media scoring 61 per cent and people reporting through social media news sources only 28.
But half of those surveyed indicate that they interact with mainstream media less than once a week, while 25 per cent said they read no media at all because it is too upsetting.
The Association for Canadian Studies reports that 67 per cent trust people who are religious but 76 per cent trust people who are not religious
Organized religion of all faiths – Christianity, Judaism and Islam – are now minority commitments.
Trust in faith, politics and news has become the narrow gate that is found by few, as the Gospel of Matthew warned.
Frank Dabbs is a veteran political and business journalist and author.