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Canada’s Most-Trusted Influencers, 2015

Reader’s Digest hired market research firm Ipsos Reid to poll Canadians to determine in whom we place our confidence. Here, the top 20 movers, shakers and opinion makers, as chosen by you.

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1. David Suzuki

The éminence grise of environmentalism continues to rage against the warming of the Earth and the poisoning of our air and water. Recently, Neil Young and Margaret Atwood, among others, joined the tireless David Suzuki on his Blue Dot Tour, a campaign to enshrine the right to a healthy environment within the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Upcoming in May: his new book, Letters to My Grandchildren, which shares the wisdom of a lifetime spent ensuring all of our descendants have a future.

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2. Chris Hadfield

You became famous by flying three space missions and showing the world you could exist in zero-gravity conditions for an extended period of time. But do you have a sense of why people trust you the way they do?
I think it’s delightful that people look at the things I’ve done and find them interesting or inspirational. I was given a huge level of responsibility when I commanded the spaceship. It’s immensely complex and expensive; it’s the fruit of the world’s labour. I’m the manifestation of this shared accomplishment. Of course, I’m just a person like everyone else. Sometimes I do stupid things or get frustrated, or I inadvertently treat somebody badly. But when your picture is basically on the five-dollar bill, you have to try to comport yourself responsibly.

Who do you trust most in the world?

Myself. And my family. My crew. If you really want to know whether you can trust someone, you have to see all of their flaws, and you have to see how they respond to stressful situations. I’ve spent lots of easy and hard times with all of those people. I’ve spent stressful times with them, gotten drunk with them; I’ve played music with them; I’ve gone flying with them; I’ve sung with them. That’s as close as you can get to understanding another human being.
Who-or what-do you trust least?

Ignorance and luck.

Is there any utterly mundane activity that seems revelatory now that you’re back on Earth?
Looking up and watching the International Space Station move overhead. You can see it with your naked eye at dawn and dusk. I’ve lived on the station, so I know intimately what it’s like to be there. But I have yet to be able to link the two, the depth and breadth of the experience of living on a spaceship with the experience of standing out in my yard and watching the brightest star in the sky go across the horizon.

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3. Peter Mansbridge

Calm. Unflappable. Thoughtful. That’s how the face of CBC News-and the anchor since 1988-was described after coverage of the shooting at the National War Memorial and on Parliament Hill last October. In the midst of trauma, Peter Mansbridge offers a level of professional journalism admired by media crit­ics at home, south of the border and across the Internet. And if you need more-and more lighthearted-reasons to like the guy, check out his blow-by-blow tweets of his last-min­ute holiday shopping. Talk about grace under pressure.

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4. Mike Holmes

Home-repair expert Mike Holmes is always telling people to trust their instincts-whether choosing a contractor or assessing if a kitchen makeover is going according to plan. Perhaps one of the reasons the host of a series of TV reno shows counts among the country’s most-trusted public figures is because he trusts us right back.

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5. Rick Mercer

“It’s not hard to understand why so many politicians, entertainers and athletes sign up for a chance to be roasted by Rick and go along with his stupid human tricks. In person as well as on camera, the man’s a complete charmer, at once witty, laid-back and fundamentally real. You don’t need to take my word. Take the opinion of his producers, cameramen, writers and editors, who have all been with him for a minimum of 10 years-some of them for 20.”-The Globe and Mail reporter Michael Posner in a review of Rick Mercer’s 2012 anthology of monologues, A Nation Worth Ranting About

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6. Justin Trudeau

The hair may be Clintonian and the charisma Clooneyesque, but it’s the family name that remains the Liberal leader’s greatest asset. While Trudeau père had never told his son to run for office-“Our family has done enough,” he had said-Canada’s 15th prime minister had also never seen his party in such a shambles or, for that matter, his own legacy so neglected. For anyone who’s concerned about the Charter, the environment, the vanishing middle class or, more importantly, who misses the kinder, gentler country Pierre Elliott Trudeau presided over, le dauphin offers a familiar promise. If Justin Trudeau still hasn’t quite convinced us that he has his father’s smarts and substance, he has transformed himself into a politician of decency, optimism and honesty. Rarely is the word “dynasty” spoken with such delight-or hope.

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7. Don Cherry

Known for his high collars and even higher bombast, Don Cherry is one of the country’s most notable and enduring opinionators. He isn’t out to win hearts, but amid the tough talk the hockey commentator and king of “Coach’s Corner” is capable of the occasional moment of humility: “I think I’m a good Canadian, but I’m not the greatest Canadian.”

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8. Stephen Harper

Love him or hate him, our prime minister has held fast to his administration’s rudder for the past nine years. If Stephen Harper’s words to Peter Mansbridge in a sit-down interview last December are anything to go by, we can trust in a continued trajectory: “We’ve been in a period of profound economic uncertainty across the globe. We’ve just had another wave of that with some recent developments, and I think we’ve got the country on the right track, but I’d like to take some more time to really put it on that track in a very permanent way.”

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9. Lisa LaFlamme

Since Walter Cronkite held court, news anchors have been the gatekeepers who connect us with the truth. At a time when our faith in public figures has been rattled, the CTV News chief anchor maintains the standard set by the titans in her field. A broadcast news veteran who’s worked her way up through the ranks, Lisa LaFlamme brought the same combination of empathy and thoughtful analysis to her dispatches from the 2012 Summer Olympics as she did to her coverage of the 2001 attacks on the World Trade Centre. As a parliament­ary reporter and a foreign correspond­ent, she earned our respect; now her steady presence behind the news desk brings us peace of mind every evening.

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10. Roméo Dallaire

“You have made us all more human, more feeling, more emotionally attached to people and situations half a world away….We know one thing: you will not quit. And this, in itself, is a reason for all of us to remain hopeful, to keep looking for reasons for optimism…. Through all your trials and sorrows, you have come to exemplify the greatest ideals to which we can aspire. You move us to come together and express our common humanity.”-Former governor general Adrienne Clarkson, presenting the Pearson Peace Medal to Roméo Dallaire in March 2005

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11. George Stroumboulopoulos

During his 10-year run as the host of CBC’s flagship late-night talk show, George Stroumboulopoulos instituted his signature phrase. As the program opened, he’d greet viewers, pause briefly and, with the flicker of a grin, introduce himself: “I’m your boyfriend, George Stroumboulopoulos.” To some, this might be a cutesy throwaway line, but for the show’s faithful, it neatly summed up his appeal. Even when he’s gazing out from an LCD screen, he radiates warmth and reliability. Those qualities serve Stroumboulopoulos well in his new gig as the host of Hockey Night in Canada, where he brings a combo of impishness and credibility to the job. While hockey fans may not be interested in Strombo’s boyfriend appeal, they’re doubtless eager to sign the guy up as their new BFF.

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12. Kevin Vickers

It was the shot heard around the world, though most loudly in Parliament’s Centre Block. On October 22, 2014, a mentally ill religious extremist named Michael Zehaf-Bibeau shot and killed Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, a sentry at the National War Memorial. Zehaf-Bibeau’s rampage took him to the House of Commons, where the Prime Minister and the Conservative and NDP caucuses were hiding behind closed doors. He stopped just beside the Library of Parliament, a few metres away from the office of 58-year-old Kevin Vickers.

As the House’s sergeant-at-arms, Vickers typically spends his days in a largely ceremonial role, but he had also been Parliament’s chief of security and had worked 29 years in the RCMP. Hearing the gunshots, he grabbed his semi-automatic pistol, entered the hall where Zehaf-Bibeau had concealed himself in an alcove and, diving and spinning, fired several shots at the gunman, killing him. Then, as seen on a video that quickly went viral, Vickers walked calmly back to his office to reload.

When the smoke cleared, he went to the Conservative caucus room and said to the PM, “I engaged the suspect, and the suspect is deceased.” Vickers’s humility, grace and stoicism would become a leitmotif in the ensuing media coverage, even as Mother Jones magazine called him “Canada’s badass national hero.” Vickers, for his part, preferred to go about his job, crediting his security team whenever possible and only showing the slightest emotion when he received a standing ovation the next day in the House.

When Stephen Harper appointed Vickers ambassador to Ireland in January, it was a surprising but fitting reward for the sergeant, who has Irish heritage. His response was characteristically self-effacing: “I am humbled by the invitation to serve my country in this way…. You have my word that I will do my best to represent you in Ireland with pride and dignity.”

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13. Thomas Mulcair

He may not have moved the needle on the NDP’s electoral expectations, but few doubt Thomas Mulcair’s importance as the nation’s conscience. Since becoming leader of the opposition in 2012, he has held Stephen Harper’s feet to the fire with tenacity. Only a handful of politicians of any stripe have managed to turn question period into such a showcase for their intelligence, sincerity and fearlessness.

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14. Chantal Hébert

“No political commentator working in Canada today is read with as much anticipation as Chantal Hébert. She’s obviously the class of the field.”-Political editor Paul Wells in Maclean’s in October 2010

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15. Craig Kielburger

“As Canadians, we need to ask ourselves, What kind of country do we want to live in? Do we want a Canada where every child has the opportunity to succeed? If so, it’s time to come up with a plan that will fulfill the promise we made 25 years ago to end child poverty.”-Craig Kielburger, co-founder of Free the Children, in a December 2014 Metro op-ed about the rising rate of children living below the poverty line

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16. Kevin O’Leary

He may be a shark-and he is partial to business analogies that involve killing-but the media darling of cutthroat entrepreneurism has a sweet side, too. Kevin O’Leary’s recipes for success in the workplace read like mantras from a life coach. As he told viewers of CTV’s daytime talk show The Social: “You know what you’re doing. Feel it in your heart, have it in your gut to say, ‘Look, I’m going to make it no matter what happens.'” After eight years on Dragon’s Den, O’Leary-also a regular on ABC’s Shark Tank and Good Mor­ning America-recently left CBC to join Bell Media and bring his trusted business savvy to broader audiences. The shark is on the move.

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17. Margaret Atwood

The grande dame of Canad­ian literature, Margaret Atwood could also be considered its compass. Since her earliest days as a member of Toronto’s bohemian poetry scene, she’s used her work to explore some of humankind’s most important questions, tackling everything from feminism to reproductive rights to environmentalism to global debt. Through it all, she’s retained both the searing, wry wit and the glorious, striking descriptions in her prose, proof that art with a sense of duty needn’t sacrifice its sense of beauty.

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18. Elizabeth May

Could this be the Year of the Greens? They received record-breaking donations in 2014, and the possibility of both a minority government this fall and an eventual shift to proportional representation could mean big things for Elizabeth May’s party. The hard-working Saanich-Gulf Islands MP remains a force of inspiring integrity. May released a memoir-manifesto last year titled Who We Are, but it was really a book about who we, as Canadians, should and could be. And, crucially, how she can get us there.

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19. Marilyn Denis

Whether she’s promoting awareness of mental illness or sharing naturopath-approved life hacks, the daytime pro has been a trusted figure on Canadian airwaves for close to 30 years. As a voice of Roger, Darren & Marilyn (5:30-9 a.m.) on CHUM FM and the face of her eponymous CTV show (10-11 a.m.), Marilyn Denis spends more hours engaging the public than most people spend talking to their spouses or children. We trust her unique brand of sally and wisdom and her work ethic, which puts Type As and ants to shame.

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20. Galen Weston

Market watchers were nervous when the 33-year-old scion of the billionaire Weston clan became the face of the family business in 2006. Could this silver-spoon sophisticate maintain the profound connection with customers that his predecessor, Dave Nichol, had forged? Galen Weston deftly soothed frayed nerves by preserving the brand’s hallmark folksy touches and starring in a series of awkward but endearing TV ads. By placing himself front and centre, Weston conveys that Loblaws is listening to-and cares about-regular Canadians. It doesn’t hurt that he looks good in a snappy blue sweater.

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Methodology

With the help of news monitoring and informal surveys, Reader’s Digest selected a long list of 25 prominent Canadians from a variety of fields. The criteria for selection included holding important responsibilities and/or influence over public life and opinion. We then commissioned Ipsos Reid to conduct an independent poll
of 1,200 English-speaking Can­adians. Respondents were asked to choose the five people they trusted the most from the long list. Their answers were weighted to make the survey sample reflect Canada’s current demographic makeup according to the latest census.