Canada was ranked ninth on a list of the world's least corrupt countries, losing out to Denmark, Finland and Sweden, which occupy the top three spots. And while we beat nations including the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia, there's still a lot of room for improvement.
"Top performers share key characteristics," writes Transparency International in a press release. These characteristics include "high levels of press freedom; access to budget information so the public knows where money comes from and how it is spent; high levels of integrity among people in power; and judiciaries that don’t differentiate between rich and poor, and that are truly independent from other parts of government."
So how can Canada improve its rating? Here's what we can learn from the countries above us on the list:
Finland, the second least corrupt country, according to the list, beats Canada when it comes to freedom of the press. In 2015, Reporters Without Borders ranked Finland number one in its World Press Freedom Index. Canada slipped to number eight on the list, largely because our former PM Stephen Harper didn't embrace the media with open arms: He "presided over the country with a very clear negative attitude towards freedom of the press and freedom of information," wrote Delphine Halgand, Reporters Without Borders' U.S. director. She says he had a "closed door policy" when it came to media requests. Hopefully, Trudeau can make Canada a more media-friendly environment. Let's wait and see how his Transparency Act plays out, as it aims to help citizens access information about the workings of government.
Canada ranked 29th on a recent Financial Secrecy Index — way below the United States, which ranked 3rd. The index authors warn that Canada has become a haven for anonymous shell corporations. What's a shell corporation, you ask? It's a tricky way companies can hide behind a made-up business, known as a "mailbox," sometimes in an effort to evade taxes. Switzerland topped the list as the least financially secretive country, with the study authors pointing out a "sea change" in Switzerland in recent years as a new generation demands financial transparency from banks, businesses and governments.
When it comes to bribery amongst the powerful and the elite in our nation, we're not doing as well as countries like the Netherlands and Switzerland. According to the 2011 Bribe Payers Index, Canada ranks sixth when it comes to bribery. The study found that no country is immune to corporate bribery, but some are clearly doing better than others. According to EY's Global Fraud Survey, one in five Canadians thinks corporate bribery and corruption are real issues in the workplace.
So while we may not be down in the mud with countries like Somalia and North Korea, which took the bottom of the "least corrupt" list, there's still room for change. What can ordinary Canadians do? Contact your elected official and push for more transparency in government.
Interested in knowing how other countries stacked up? Here's the top 10 "least corrupt" countries:
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