Ontario Premier Wynne’s ‘chickens have finally come home to roost’ as personal popularity hits new low: poll
Have the “chickens have finally come home to roost” as Premier Kathleen Wynne’s personal approval rating hits an all-time low?
Just 16 per cent of Ontarians approve of Wynne’s job performance, according to a new Forum research poll. Lorne Bozinoff, the firm’s president, said in a statement: “It appears Premier Wynne’s chickens have finally come home to roost, and voters have started to notice the controversies surrounding her government.”
Patrick Brown, the leader of the Ontario Progressive Conservatives, is still an unknown to many Ontarians.
From the scandals left over by her predecessor — deleted gas plant emails, a bungled green energy act and the troubled air ambulance system among them — to more recent exposés of cozy, high-priced Liberal fundraisers, the weight of the party’s nearly 13 years in office is dragging Wynne down.
After bringing the Liberals back to majority power in the party’s fourth-straight election victory in 2014, Wynne is now as unpopular as Dalton McGuinty was before he resigned in the fall of 2012, the last time Forum had a leader as low as 16 per cent approval. (And she has openly debunked rumours she was planning her own retirement before the next vote.)
New Democrat Andrea Horwath remains the most popular leader at Queen’s Park, at 34 per cent support, compared to 26 per cent for Patrick Brown, the PC leader, which is actually a slight drop from the 29 per cent support he earned in July.
To make matters worse for the Liberals, only 14 per cent of respondents said Wynne would make the best premier, with 25 per cent preferring Brown and 17 per cent Horwath. The biggest chunk, 27 per cent, wanted someone else entirely.
The survey of 1,097 was teeming with bad news for the provincial Liberals, who secured just 28 per cent support, compared to 23 per cent for the New Democrats, six per cent for the Green Party and 41 per cent for the PCs — enough to potentially take the premier’s office back from the Liberals for the first time since 2003.
“The beneficiary, however, appears to be the NDP, rather than the PCs, although a majority would be theirs if the election were held today,” Bozinoff said.
But the election isn’t today; it’s still two years out, with the vote expected to be set sometime in the late spring or early summer of 2018. The survey shows that nearly half — 49 per cent — of voters still don’t know much about Brown.
That can both work for and against him: it means the Liberals have yet to frame him in voters’ minds as another big bad Tory, but it also means he has yet to spark their imaginations. Yet, given Wynne and the Liberals’ low approval, Brown might be best to fly under the radar until election time in order to present himself as the best possible alternative.
Too much can also be made of horse-race numbers between elections. The Liberals trailed going into both the 2011 and 2014 election and emerged victorious. Ontarians are also notorious for paying too little attention to provincial matters between votes, something Wynne’s Liberals may be counting on as they embark on an ambitious, but costly and controversial cap-and-trade program. That’s going to add about four cents a litre at the pump, money the government says will be offset in other areas but that’s a tough argument to sell when a cash-strapped family sees their costs going up in such a visible way.
Wynne seems aware of the near-time pain, however, and may believe the controversies will again fade from recent memories once the books are balanced as promised in the spring of 2018, just in time for the writs to be drawn up. As she said in an interview with the National Post in June:
“I’m not surprised that there’s criticism coming at us because we’re building things that are going to have an impact on people’s lives and whenever there’s change, whenever there’s that move forward, there’s going to be people who say — kicking and screaming — ‘We don’t want to go there.’”
“The reality is we’ve put our big plan out in to the public. We’re implementing it. So over the next two years, people are going to see the roll out of that plan. They’re going to see the implementation,” she said, two years almost exactly from when the next provincial election is expected to take place. “Those building blocks that we’re putting in place, people are going to start seeing the benefits of them.”
The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus three per cent, 19 times out of 20.
Ashley Csanady | August 19, 2016 6:28 PM ET