Eves' Ontario Conservatives (38%) Move Up In Wake of Hydro Rate Cap, But Still Trail McGuinty's Liberals (45%), with the NDP (14%) and Green Party (3%) Trailing

Eves Viewed as Leader That Would Make Best Premier (42%) Government Receives High Marks on Handling of Hydro

Toronto, ONTARIO (Friday, January 10, 2003) - According to the latest poll conducted by Ipsos-Reid for CFTO/CFRB/Globe and Mail, Ernie Eves' Ontario Progressive Conservatives (38%) have increased support by five points since October 2002, however they continue to trail Dalton McGuinty and the Ontario Liberal Party (45%, unchanged) in support among decided voters. The NDP (14%, unchanged) and the Green Party (3%, down 3 points) continue to lag far behind while just over one in ten (12%) Ontarians are undecided or would not vote. This is the first poll conducted by Ipsos-Reid on Ontario party support in the aftermath of the Eves government decision to cap spiraling hydro rates.

It is important to reflect on the volatile nature of support for the governing Conservatives throughout 2002. While support for the party has moved from a low of 32% in February (before the election of Ernie Eves as leader and Premier), steadily rising to 42% in August, followed by a tumble in October (33%), and finally a climb back up to their current level of 38%, there has been relative inertia in support for the two main opposition parties, as many Ontarians continue to park their votes. The following analysis also suggests that PC decided voters are stronger in their support of their party, their leader and various policy measures, while Liberal supporters are less-so in their commitment - on matters ranging from who would make the best Premier to hydro and long-term electricity plans. In short, the Liberal vote may be leading, but it is very soft.

Conservative leader Ernie Eves (42%) is viewed as the party leader that would make the best Premier of Ontario, despite his party trailing in popular support. Dalton McGuinty, the choice of one in four (26%) Ontarians for who would make the best Premier, `trails' his party's level of support by 19 points, while Howard Hampton is the selection of 12% which roughly matches the popular support of his NDP. One in five (21%) Ontarians say they "don't know". These results are almost identical to those recorded when last asked in April of 2002 (Eves 39%; McGuinty 27%; Hampton 13%; DK 21%).

It is significant to note that Ernie Eves receives the support of 78% of decided Conservative voters as to who would make the best Premier, while Dalton McGuinty only receives the support of 47% of decided Liberal voters, and Howard Hampton the support of only 42% of decided NDP voters on this point.

The provincial Conservative government receives high marks regarding it's recent handling of the electricity issue, with seven in ten (70%) Ontarians indicating that the government "did the right thing" in rolling back and freezing hydro rates to the pre-deregulated market rate of 4.3 cents per kilowatt hour, as well as promising a rebate on any increase consumers have paid since the opening of the market in May. One in four (26%) however believe this move was "the wrong thing" for the government to do.

Looking forward, one in four (37%) Ontarians believe that the governing Conservatives are the party they "most trust to have an effective long-term energy policy that is good for Ontario". This compares to one in five (22%) who feel this way about the Liberals, and one in ten (13%) who believe the NDP fills the bill on this issue. Among supports of the various parties, a higher proportion of Conservatives voters view their party in this light (70%) than do NDP (51%) or Liberal (48%) supporters of their own respective parties.

These are the findings of an Ipsos-Reid/CFTO/CFRB/Globe and Mail poll conducted between December 20 - 23, 2002 and January 2 - 4, 2003. The poll is based on a randomly selected sample of 1,001 adult Ontarians. With a sample of this size, the results are considered accurate to within 177 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20, of what they would have been had the entire adult Ontarians population been polled. The margin of error will be larger within regions and for other sub-groupings of the survey population. These data were statistically weighted to ensure the sample's regional and age/sex composition reflects that of the actual Ontario population according to the 1996 Census data.

As noted above, Ernie Eves' Progressive Conservatives (38%) have increased their support by five points among decided voters since October 2002, however they continue to trail Dalton McGuinty and the Ontario Liberal Party (45%, unchanged) in support among decided voters. The NDP (14%, unchanged) and the Green Party (3%, down 3 points) continue to lag far behind while just over one in ten (12%) Ontarians are undecided or would not vote.

  • The Liberals receive their highest level of support in Hamilton/Niagara (51%) and the `905' Belt (50%), while their lowest level of support is recorded among decided voters in the Southwest (39%) region of the province. The party is also stronger among younger (48%) voters.
  • The Southwest (45%) is the strongest region for the governing Conservatives, while they receive their lowest level of support in the Hamilton/Niagara area (30%). The Tories also receive higher levels of support among men (42% versus 35% of women) and upper income households (44% versus 35% of middle and 30% of lower income households).
  • Lower income households (23%), the North (19%) and women (17%) are the most fertile ground for the NDP. Support for the Green Party is consistent across regional and demographic groups.

Conservative leader Ernie Eves (42%) is viewed as the party leader that would make the best Premier of Ontario and `leads' his party's popular support by four points. Dalton McGuinty, the choice of one in four (26%), `trails' his party's level of popular support by 19 points, while Howard Hampton is the selection of 12% which roughly matches that of his party's popular support. One in five (21%) Ontarians say they `don't know'.

  • Premier Eves is the top choice of Ontarians in all regions of the province with the exception of Hamilton/Niagara where he and Dalton McGuinty are in a statistical tie. Support for the incumbent is highest among residents of the Southwest (48%), while his lowest support is recorded in Hamilton/Niagara (32%). As well, more men (48%) than women (36%) believe Mr. Eves is the party leader that would make the best Premier. Ontarians from upper income households (50%) are more likely than their counterparts in middle (41%) or lower (29%) income households to share this view.
  • Mr. McGuinty's highest support occurs among residents of Eastern Ontario (30%), the GTA (28%), and Hamilton/Niagara (27%), while it is lowest in the Southwest (20%) and the North (19%). Women (28%) are more likely than men (23%) to hold this view.
  • Support for Howard Hampton is highest in Hamilton/Niagara (17%), the City of Toronto (17%) and the North (16%), while it is lowest in Eastern Ontario (7%) and the `905' Belt (7%).

A majority (53%, down from 59% in August 2002) of the Ontario public continue to indicate that Ernie Eves and the Progressive Conservatives have Ontario on the right track, while 37% hold the opposite view.

  • Residents of Eastern Ontario (60%) are the most likely to feel that Premier Eves and the Conservatives have the province on the right track, while residents of Hamilton/Niagara (49%) and the City of Toronto (47%) are the least likely to hold this view.
  • Ontarians from the upper (59%) and middle (57%) income households are more likely to hold to this view of the government than to those from lower income households (39%).
  • Men (58%) are more likely than women (49%) to believe this to be the case.
  • Decided Conservative supporters (84%) are twice as likely as Liberal (42%) supporters and more than three times as likely as NDP supporters (26%) to hold this position.

The provincial Conservative government receive high marks regarding it's recent handling of the electricity issue, with seven in ten (70%) Ontarians who believe that the government did the `right thing' in rolling back and freezing hydro rates to the pre-deregulated market rate of 4.3 cents per kilowatt hour, as well as promising a rebate on any increase consumers have paid since the opening of the market in May. One in four (26%) however believe this move was the `wrong thing' for the government to do.

  • Regionally, residents in Northern Ontario (78%) are the most likely to say the move was the `right thing' to do, while those in the City of Toronto (67%) and Eastern Ontario (66%) are the least likely to hold this position.
  • Younger Ontarians (76%) are more likely than either their middle aged (70%) or older (61%) counterparts to hold the view that the price rollback and freeze was the `right thing' to do.
  • There is no statistical difference between the views of all support of all three main parties on this point.
  • The top reasons mentioned as to why it was the `right thing' include that "rates were too high/went up too quickly" (19%), that the "government should regulate prices to protect the consumer" (18%), that a "subsidy is a good idea" (15%), that it is generally "good for Ontarians" (15%), that the "government mishandled the deregulation/privatisation" (9%), that they "should not have deregulated" (7%) and that "people couldn't afford their electricity bills" (6%).
  • As for the reasons given as to why it was the `wrong thing' to do, the top reason cited is that "it doesn't solve anything" (20%) followed by that "it will cause problems in the long term for consumers, business" (9%), that it "creates more debt for the hydro companies" (9%), that it "doesn't encourage conservation" (7%), that it "doesn't allow the free market system to work" (6%), and that the "government mishandled deregulation/privatisation" (6%).

One in four (37%) Ontarians say that the governing Conservatives are the party they "most trust to have an effective long-term energy policy that is good for Ontario". This compares to one in five (22%) who feel this way about the Liberals, and one in ten (13%) who believe the NDP fits the bill on this issue.

  • It is interesting to note that among decided PC voters, 70% feel that Ernie Eves and the PC's are the party they trust the most on this point, while only half (51%) of NDP supporters feel they most trust their own party on this issue, and only 48% of Liberal supporters who hold this view of the provincial Grits.
  • Regionally, the Conservatives rise above the other parties on this point in all regions of the province. This view is strongest in Northern Ontario (41%), the `905' Belt (41%) and Eastern Ontario (40%), followed by the Southwest (36%), the City of Toronto (33%) and in the Hamilton/Niagara region (31%). As well men (40% versus 34% of women) and those in upper income households (43% versus 26% of those in lower income households) are more likely to hold this position.
  • Liberal support on this point is consistent across all regional and demographic groups.
  • The NDP receive their highest support on this point among residents of the City of Toronto (21%) and their lowest support level in the `905' Belt (7%).

To view the release and detailed tables, please open the attached PDF files.

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For more information on this news release, please contact:

John Wright
Senior Vice-President
Ipsos-Reid Public Affairs
(416) 324-2900

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