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Fractured Foundations: Distrust and democratic decline in Canada

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This paper investigates the declining levels of trust in government and its impact on Canada’s democracy. Trust is foundational for the rule of law, economic growth, government stability and the development of political capacity in citizens. The extent of the trust deficit in Canada is determined by analyzing data recently collected by the Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue’s national survey on democratic culture. The primary causes and consequences of distrust are identified using the survey data and interviews with academic experts. The research results suggest increasing citizens’ opportunities to meaningfully participate in government is the strongest approach to improving trust in government. Citizens’ reference panels, participatory budgeting and reforming to a proportional representation system are the specific options evaluated using standardized criteria and measures. The policy analysis demonstrates that implementing national participatory budgeting and citizens’ reference panels would both be effective steps towards rebuilding trust and increasing citizens’ capacities.
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