McGuinty's Ontario Liberals Lead (48%) As Eves' Tories (31%) Fall to Lowest Level of Support Since Pre-1995 Election, Hampton's NDP Trails (16%)

Eves (35%) and McGuinty (32%) Vie for Who Would Make the Best Premier with Hampton Distant (19%) Two Thirds (64%) Say McGuinty Would Do a Good Job as Premier Compared to Eves (58%) and Hampton (48%)

Toronto, ONTARIO (Wednesday, April 23rd, 2003) - It would appear that the Ernie Eves' Government has sunk to their lowest level of voter support for the governing Progressive Conservative party in eight years according to a new Ipsos-Reid/Globe and Mail/CFRB/CFTO poll released today. In fact, one would have to go back to before the 1995 election campaign, when the Conservatives first came to power under former leader Mike Harris, to find an even lower ranking among the electorate in the province. The governing Tories currently sit at 31% in the polls - down five points from February.

Meanwhile, the Liberals under the leadership of Dalton McGuinty top the polls at 48% (up 5 points since February) as Howard Hampton's NDP trail at 16% (up one point from February). The Green Party captures 4% of the vote (down one point), while 9% of the population remains undecided.

The Eves' government has until the spring of 2004 to call an election and observers have raised various timing scenarios related to the next number of months. With the SARS concern it's also likely that public health issues may pre-empt such an immediate campaign. So as Premier Eves and his Cabinet met in London, Ontario for a pre-Throne Speech gathering on Wednesday, given these numbers, it's unlikely that Premier Eves will be going to the people soon.

These are the findings of an Ipsos-Reid/Globe and Mail/CFRB/CFTO poll conducted between April 12th and April 19th, 2003. The poll is based on a randomly selected sample of 1,000 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 Ontario 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 2001 Census data.

Ontario's Tories Sink to Lowest Level Since Pre-1995 Election

As noted above, the Ontario Progressive Conservatives have sunk to 31% support in the polls - their lowest level of support attained since just prior to the 1995 election, when the party was at 27% under the leadership of Mike Harris. In that election campaign, Ontarians chose the Tories with their "Common Sense Revolution" platform over the incumbent NDP (who were sitting at 20% in the pre-writ polls) and the Ontario Liberals (at 45% support in pre-writ polls).

While there may be some who say that this is an underdog place visited by the Tories before and that the Conservatives may still win the next election given similar numbers, it should be put into context: the last time the Tories won from this far back, a government was being thrown out and the Common Sense Revolution brand was fresh. Further, based on the Ipsos-Reid poll released on February 27th, 2003, the Ontario P.C. brand is damaged and in need of significant repair, and now it is the Tories that two-thirds of the Ontario electorate wish to dump.

The Liberals (48%) lead in every region of the province - by as much as 21 points over the Conservatives in the GTA, by 19 points in Eastern Ontario, by 13 points in the Southwest, by 11 points in Hamilton/Niagara and by 6 points in Northern Ontario - the latter being the only place where there is a tight three party race. Within the GTA, the Liberals lead by 15 points in the once-Tory bastion of the `905' Belt and by 26 points within the City of Toronto.

In terms of how certain decided voters are with their support choices, 80% of decided PC voters say they are certain they will vote this way, compared with 73% of Liberal supporters and 73% of NDP supporters. In the alternate, one in five (19%) of Tory supporters are not certain of their vote, as is the case with 26% of Liberal supporters and 27% of NDP supporters.

Two Thirds Say it's Time for a Change . . . The Highest Level for the Conservatives Since Taking Power

Two-thirds (63%) of Ontarians now say it's time for a change in government - up six points from February - as now only one in three (34% - down three points) say that the Tories deserve to be re-elected. Virtually every region and socio-demographic, with full majorities, believe that it is time for a change from the current government. This is the highest level of sentiment recorded under Conservative rule - the previous high being 60% last recorded in the summer of 2001 under former Premier Mike Harris.

Ernie Eves and Dalton McGuinty Vie for Best Premier Status

When asked to choose (without party affiliation) as to who would make "the best Premier of Ontario" among the three main party leaders, Ernie Eves is the choice of 35%, followed closely by Dalton McGuinty at 32% with Howard Hampton trailing at 19%. One in seven (14%) indicate that the "don't know" who would make the best Premier. As the numbers for Mr. Eves and Mr. McGuinty lie within the poll's margin of error (+3.1%), the results should be viewed as a statistical tie.

Support for Mr. Eves is fairly consistent in virtually every region and socio-demographic group - however, bright spots appear to be in the Southwest (40%), the `905' Belt (42%) and among households with incomes of over $60,000 per year (40%). However, it's instructive to note that even among committed Conservative voters only 84% have Mr. Eves as their top choice.

There appears to be no major socio-demographic, economic or regional differences for Dalton McGuinty or Howard Hampton - except to note that Mr. McGuinty's highest level of support is recorded among the residents of the City of Toronto (37%), while Mr. Hampton's highest recorded regional support is in his home area of Northern Ontario (27%).

Rating of the Three Main Party Leaders As to What Kind of Job They Would Do as Premier

Respondents were asked to rate the kind of job that each of the three main party leaders would do as the Premier, if their respective party won the next provincial election. In this regard, two thirds (64%) of Ontarians believe that Liberal Leader Dalton McGuinty would do a "good job". In comparison, the incumbent title holder, Tory leader Ernie Eves, receives a the top rating from 58% of the public, and NDP leader Howard Hampton receives the top rating from 48% of Ontarians.

So, What Throne Speech Initiative Could Make a Difference to the Tories Chances?

The last number of elections appear to suggest that in order to attain a majority government, a winning party has to achieve somewhere between 43% and 45% of the provincial vote. Using this as a high water mark, the Eves' Tories, currently sitting at 31% in the polls, would have to pick up at least 12 to 14 points to achieve this end.

A number of potential policies that could be included in next week's Throne Speech have been subject to "trial balloons" recently - musing by "sources" as to what might be considered as part of a going forward platform. Those tested in this survey include making a portion of the interest in mortgage payments tax deductible against provincial income tax; barring teachers from striking during the school year; eliminating the mandatory retirement age of 65; and, banning homeless people from sleeping on the street or in parks.

Each decided voter was asked if they would be more likely, less likely, or would it not make any difference to them in voting for the Conservatives if any of these proposals were put forward by the Eves government. When the "net" calculations are performed (subtracting the loss of P.C. voters from the Conservatives and adding the gains picked up from the Liberals and NDP), it would appear that the following potential point pick-up occurs on each policy "balloon":

  • Mortgage interest deductibility: the "net" effect for the Tories could be a pick up of 21 points - a potential of moving the Conservatives from 31% to 52% in the polls.
  • Barring teachers from striking during the school year: the "net" effect for the Tories could be a pick up of 13 points - a potential of moving the Conservatives from 31% to 44% in the polls.
  • Eliminating the mandatory retirement age: the "net" effect for the Tories could be a pick up of 6 points - a potential of moving the Conservatives from 31% to 37% in the polls.
  • Banning homeless people from sleeping on the street or in parks: the "net" effect for the Tories could be a pick up of 1 point - a potential of moving the Conservatives from 31% to 32% in the polls.

There is a significant caveat to all of the above machinations. Each one of these proposals is suggested in a vacuum without the dynamic of either an issue (such as teachers' proposing a work disruption), another issue taking precedence (such as SARS or Hydro) or an actual election campaign. Further, they're also in the absence of opposition and third party reply. In some cases, a Liberal "net" loss may be mitigated by an endorsement of a similar plank for their own campaign platform - or a realistic reflection on the potential costs involved. The bottom line -- the governing Conservatives have a lot of work to do between now and the end of their mandate.

To view the media 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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