Each Friday, Yahoo! Canada News asks Canadians where they stand on the important issues of the day, and our panel of experts tackle the same question.
This week we asked:
A recent poll by the Envronics Institute showed Stephen Harper is one of the least-trusted leaders in the Western Hemisphere. Do you trust Stephen Harper?
Thomas Bink: "Trust" is a pretty subjective word. I think Harper is "trustworthy" and I think I have confidence in how he's leading the country, but it's impossible to trust politicians as a whole. I mean, it's no secret that they promise things during election campaigns that they can't deliver on once they're in office, but does that mean they can't be trusted? Not really, it's all part of the game. Let me put it this way: I would trust Stephen Harper with my wallet. But I probably wouldn't trust him on some of his environmental promises. Two different things.
Andy Radia: Call me naive, but I don't think — for the most part — politicians intentionally lie to the public. I think a lot of times, politicians promise things that they intend to deliver on. Jean Chretien promised to abolish the GST, Harper promised to never appoint a Senator and Obama promised Americans that he would 'revisit' NAFTA. None of those things happened because once the respective leaders got into office they figured out that those were unworkable ideas. Despite some broken campaign promises, Harper is indeed trustworthy. Above all he is a pragmatist who is going to do what is best for Canada.
Matthew Coutts: I would agree that Stephen Harper is doing what he believes in best for the country. I may not agree with him on all points but, thankfully, that doesn't necessarily make him my mortal enemy. I do have trouble with the games politicians play to do what they think is right. The backdoor deals, the reputation-smearing. Things like running year-round attack ads against opponents or proroguing the House of Commons to suit his fancy. Harper is certainly not alone in this (Hiya Dalton!) but he is among the best. Or maybe it just seems that way because he is on top. That said, I would take him over most, if not all, of the other leaders in the Western Hemisphere.
Radia: It's important to note that the survey shows that Canadians generally distrust all politicians — not just the PM. I think Matt hits the nail on the head when he talks about the relationship between trust and attack ads. I can't remember who said this, but what if the airline industry produced attack ads against each other just as political parties do? Imagine Airline X slogging airline Y about their safety record. How many of us would trust the airlines? How many of us would even fly?
[ Last week's POC: Should Remembrance day be a national stat holiday? ]
Coutts: I think the results of this poll probably show the disparity between living in Canada and many other countries. We have the luxury of not trusting our politicians on the grounds of political gamesmanship, or the fact that Harper has those steely, wolf-like eyes. Some of the countries in the poll have real problems. Real, gunfire-and-Molotov-cocktail problems. If I remember correctly, this poll was conducted in Canada and the U.S. over the Internet. In other countries, people went door-to-door to get responses. If someone came to my house in Bolivia and asked if I trusted the president, I would say yes. And I don't even know who that is.
Bink: Yeah, maybe this one should go under our 'silly studies' franchise because it sounds like there are lots of lingering variables in this poll. I think Canadians generally have confidence in Harper or he wouldn't be in power. That doesn't mean people trust him or any politicians, which is probably a good thing because trust is something that should be earned over time and we should generally think critically of all decisions being made on our behalves.
What do you think? Share your opinions in the comments area below.