The results are troubling for public trust: nearly half (49%) of the 1,524 adults surveyed are dissatisfied with government transparency on the factors that influence policy decisions.
“This work expands on the research E4D has been conducting on how transparent governments in Canada are about the evidence they use in policy-making, and this time we posed our questions to the public,” said Dr. Caitlin Fowler, Senior Research Associate at E4D. “The results are striking – 81% of Canadians surveyed want to see the key evidence used in government decision-making. The public is saying very clearly that they want the opportunity to understand the rationale behind policy decisions that are affecting their lives.”
Transparency in policy-making allows citizens to scrutinize the factors behind government decisions and to hold their elected officials accountable for making policy decisions informed by the best available evidence.
The survey also revealed that half of Canadians feel governments pay too little attention to evidence (53%) and public opinion (50%), and too much attention to political priority (52%) when making decisions. Relatedly, Canadians are more confident in government decision-making if a change in policy is based on new evidence or the advice of experts, compared to if the change is based on information shared by affected stakeholders or popular opinion.
“Our findings show that Canadians want governments to take a transparent and evidence-informed approach to policy-making,” said Dr. Vanessa Sung, E4D’s Interim Executive Director. “The pandemic demonstrated how badly trust in institutions can be damaged when the public cannot understand the rationale behind government policies – this is an important lesson we have to take action on. In a healthy democracy, government transparency and public trust go hand in hand. ”