Public Engagement as a Driver of Trust in Democracy

The OECD’s inaugural cross-national survey on Drivers of Trust in Public Institutions highlights the importance of enhancing public participation as a central pillar for a strong Canadian democracy.

Levels of Trust in Canada

In 2021, less than half of Canadian respondents expressed trust in the national government.

Feelings of disempowerment and distrust are compounded by systemic inequities in society, with Canadian youth, women and individuals with lower incomes and levels of education all expressing lower levels of trust.

Conducted at the end of 2021, the OECD Trust Survey offers a unique insight into the strength of Canada’s public confidence in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, when the initial uptick in trust seen at the start of 2020 gave way to increased frustration and polarization.

Public Participation as a Key Driver of Trust

The availability and responsiveness of public participation opportunities are highly associated with increased trust in government

  • People who feel they have a say in what the government does are more likely to trust government
  • People who are confident that their governments would adopt opinions gathered in a public consultation are more likely to trust government

Levels of trust in government amongst...

Perspectives on Public Engagement in Canada

Many Canadians are not satisfied with our current level of public participation in decision-making—or not fully aware of the opportunities.

Does the Canadian political system allow people like you to have a say in what government does?


How likely is that the government would adopt the opinions expressed in a public consultation on reforming a major policy area?

If the local government was making a decision affecting your community, how likely are you to have an opportunity to voice your views?

In light of these findings, the Centre for Dialogue proposes four foundations for strengthening democracy in Canada, including:

  1. Increasing opportunities for engagement between citizens and government institutions
  2. Expanding civic education
  3. Fostering respectful public discourse and addressing misinformation
  4. Enhancing social connection

To learn more about the Centre’s research and practice on democratic engagement, please contact Nicole Armos at

To learn more about the OECD’s Trust Survey, see their 2022 report, Building Trust to Reinforce Democracy.