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Editorial cartoon by Brian Gable

Brian Gable/The Globe and Mail

Allan Gregg wants politicians to stop lying.

To bolster his thesis, the veteran pollster and strategists asserts that Stephen Harper is less identifiable to Canadians than Snooki, the over-tanned Jersey girl, because he is less authentic and interesting than she is.

Mr. Gregg's warning to leaders is smarten up and start telling the truth. Canadians aren't buying the political-speak any more; they want honest and truthful politicians.

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The risk of continuing to lie to Canadians, he suggested in the annual Gordon Osbaldeston Lecture, is further erosion of our democratic institutions.

"Speaking the truth is not bad politics," Mr. Gregg argued. "We may all have the right to our opinions but we do not have the right to our own facts."

The Public Policy Forum sponsors the annual event, which recognizes the former public servant's contribution to Canadian policy-making. Mr. Gregg delivered his lecture last week.

He noted that in 2005 some 62 per cent of Canadians did not believe politicians shared their view of what the most important problem facing the country was. Asked the question this year, 76 per cent responded the same way.

"Our faith in our political leaders continued to decline," he said. "Most often short of outright lies, our elected leaders seem to have become congenitally unable to speak the unvarnished truth – and everyone knows it."

Mr. Gregg asserts that the advent and embrace of social media and the immediacy of information has made us "saturated with authenticity" and as a result Canadians crave that in their politicians.

"In this new environment, truth has become the oxygen and artifice is the kryptonite of public life," he said.

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Such is the lack of public trust in politicians that Mr. Gregg says the entire political class is blamed for the sins of a few.

"Even if reason might indicate that bad behaviour is the work of the few, citizens no longer believe that their leaders speak the truth," he said.

Recently, Mr. Gregg posed a question on a Harris-Decima poll: "If a Canadian politician promised to be truthful 100 per cent of the time and you were confident that they were going to keep that promise, how likely is it that you would vote for them?"

That proved to be quite an attractive concept: Three quarters of Canadians said they would vote for that politician.

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About the Author
Ontario politics reporter

Jane Taber is a reporter at Queen’s Park. After spending three years reporting from the Atlantic, she has returned to Ontario and back to writing about her passion, politics. She spent 25 years covering Parliament Hill for the Ottawa Citizen, the National Post and the Globe and Mail. More

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