Ontario PCs more popular than Liberals: Poll
Progressive Conservative Part leadership candidates, from left, Patrick Brown, Christine Elliott and Monte McNaughton. (Toronto Sun files)
Ontario Liberals lag behind the Progressive Conservative Party in popularity even though the Tories don't have a permanent leader, Forum Research has found.
A new Forum Poll obtained by the Toronto Sun shows Ontarians now put the party led by Premier Kathleen Wynne only two points ahead of Andrea Horwath's NDP, a statistical tie with the third party.
Of those polled, 34% favoured the PCs, 29% backed the Liberals, 27% gave the nod to the NDP and 8% would cast their ballot for the Green Party.
This level of support -- if it held across the province -- would provide the PCs a minority government with 52 seats, make the NDP the official opposition with 32 seats and leave the Liberals in third place with 23 seats, Forum projected. The Liberals currently enjoy a majority government with 59 seats.
"The Liberals' agenda this winter has been pretty lacklustre and hasn't resonated with voters," Forum Research President Lorne Bozinoff said. "And Sudbury by-election allegations have further reinforced the perception that the Liberals are plagued with scandals."
The PCs remain in front of the Liberals even under Interim Leader Jim Wilson, whose mandate is to keep the party functioning without making waves until a permanent replacement is chosen for former leader Tim Hudak.
Three people are currently vying for the PC leadership -- Patrick Brown, Christine Elliott and Monte McNaughton. A winner will be announced at a May 9 convention.
Forum Research found sharp differences in public support for the PCs based on the leadership candidates.
The pollster focused on three groups -- Ontarians, just PC supporters and paid-up party members -- and in all three categories, Elliott was the most popular choice of the three candidates.
"Christine Elliott is viewed more favourably because she is perceived to be more centrist, is better known and is one of the few PC members from the GTA," Bozinoff said.
Support for Elliott, the widow of former federal finance minister Jim Flaherty, ranged from 24% among all Ontarians polled to 35% of PC voters to 51% of party members.
Brown, a federal MP who has reportedly signed up the most new party memberships, trailed Elliott and McNaughton with the support of 6% of all Ontarians, 11% of PC voters and 10% of PC members.
McNaughton fared slightly better with 7% backing from all Ontarians, 15% of Tory voters and 14% of party members.
Support for the PC party among all voters would increase to 36% with Elliott as leader and drop to 30% with Brown and 29% with McNaughton, the poll says.
It is not a sudden public love affair with the PCs that is forcing down Wynne's popularity numbers, though, but rather an increasing attraction for Horwath and the NDP.
"Voters are turning to the NDP rather than the PCs because of their lack of a leader; and because of the positive perception of Andrea Horwath," Bozinoff said.
Forum Research looked at two hot button issues at Queen's Park to determine what might be stoking voter misgivings about the Liberal government.
It found that Ontarians were far more concerned about the gas plants scandal, which is costing them about $1 billion, than the Sudbury job bribery allegations that have dominated Question Period during the current session of the legislature.
OPP are probing both scandals -- the alleged destruction of gas plant government records by senior staff and the alleged offer of a public job or appointment to a Sudbury byelection candidate.
About three in four Ontarians are aware of the gas plant and 29% said it has changed their vote.
About half of people polled were aware of the Sudbury byelection scandal and 27% believe it's a game changer for them when they head to the ballot box.
Of those who are aware of both scandals, five times more list the gas plants as more scandalous than Sudbury's byelection.
"The gas plants trumps Sudbury because it involves taxpayers money and Sudbury does not," Bozinoff said.
The Forum Poll can be found online at http://poll.forumresearch.com/post/255/liberal-voters-moving-to-ndp-parties-tied/
Forum Research recently surveyed 881 Ontario voters and its findings have a 3% margin of error.