If we can’t trust our leaders, at least trust each other

BY ALEX GREGORY

Let’s talk about trust.

We are heading into our second “COVID-relaxed summer” with a lot of hope placed on a mass-vaccination program that will ostensibly relieve the restrictive guidelines the province has kept us under since December — perhaps in a bid to claw back some of the freedoms we took for granted. You couldn’t escape the messaging. “Doses After Dark.” The pop-up clinics being announced week after week.

Advocacy programs targeting vulnerable communities. The rise of the “hockey hub” model. The constant back-and forth between whether you should take the AstraZeneca vaccine or not. I’ll say this much – education and advocacy on the part of our community groups has certainly gone a lot further than the province’s misguided attempt to police their way out of the pandemic, at least within Peel Region.

Who knew that actually talking to communities and letting them know what their options are might work better than trying to publicly shame them? Yet, I still feel like we’ve learned very little from the last year, despite the successes navigating our way through the pandemic so far.

The moment the provincial belt loosened — which would have happened regardless of whether the NDP shamed the Ford government into it or not — hordes of residents took to the streets in my neighbourhood partying, grouping up for photos and mobbing the sidewalks in front of local takeout restaurants without masks on.

Once again, mass protests have become commonplace in the GTA and other cities throughout the country, this time with increasing frequency over lockdown restrictions and awareness of the Israel Palestine conflict. Stateside, the Center for Disease Control has effectively given 40 per cent of the U.S. population carte blanche to run around unchecked by claiming that anyone who is vaccinated doesn’t have to wear a mask, effectively putting the future of the U.S. reopening in the hands of a glorified honour system. Whose fault is this?

A population confused (or ignorant) of the current guidelines, or politicians who appear to be sleepwalking through this whole debacle? If the results from some recent polls are any indication, we may have an answer.

A poll of 1,500 Canadians conducted by PR/strategy group Navigator in early May found that approval of provincial and federal leaders fell sharply across the board, with 51 per cent of respondents reporting they had less trust in Doug Ford, while 44 per cent of respondents in the same poll reported having less trust in Prime Minister Justin Trudeau since the start of the pandemic. (The one caveat to the poll — Quebec Premier Francois Legault’s trust level improved significantly since last April, with a 43 per cent increase, perhaps buoyed by a lack of credible opposition and more consistency when it came to taking responsibility for his mishandling of the pandemic in long-term care homes.)

A similar poll, commissioned by Postmedia through Leger polling a similar number of respondents, found that attitudes concerning both provincial and federal responses to the pandemic dropped sharply across the board, with an average of 60 per cent of respondents saying their trust had been eroded at both levels in some fashion. But what about news media in Canada?

After all, they’re the “fourth estate” we trust to bring us objective viewpoints, right? The situation doesn’t look much better for them, either. A sobering report released in March by communications firm Edelman found that nearly half of its 1,500 respondents believe that reporters and journalists are purposely trying to mislead them, while 52 per cent believe that news organizations are more concerned with pushing political ideology instead of trying to present the facts of a story.

The same report claims that one in four respondents have good “information hygiene,” which includes such factors as “verifying information,” “avoiding echo chambers” and “not amplifying unvetted information.” The latter is easier said than done. We’re currently living in a time when a majority of the population is cooped up at home and social media engagement on those “echo chambers” is higher than ever. (Nevermind how subjective columns are now presented as fact — that’s a column for another time.)

The blogs and newsletters masquerading as journalism — some funded by Google, no less — aren’t helping matters. It’s one giant feedback loop. No wonder a large chunk of our population are completely disillusioned with the ones who represent them and the ones who claim to speak for them. At the end of the day, it’s still on all of us to be informed, question everything we read at all levels, and make sure we protect our friends and family. Even if we can’t put our trust in the ones elected to lead us, we could at least try putting our trust in each other.

That’s a novel thought, isn’t it?

About the author

Asia Metro Editor

Surjit Singh Flora
[email protected]

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