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Saturday, 21 January 2012

New Ontario poll puts Tories ahead of Liberals

The Progressive Conservatives have regained the public-opinion poll lead that they squandered to the governing Liberals last fall, according to a new Forum Research survey.


In the first major poll since the Oct. 6 election, the Conservatives, led by Tim Hudak, have moved ahead of Premier Dalton McGuinty’s Liberals.


The Tories, who held a 15-point lead last summer, are at 41 per cent to the Liberals’ 33 per cent. The New Democrats, led by Andrea Horwath, are third with 20 per cent and Mike Schreiner’s Greens are at 4 per cent.


But in terms of approval rating, Horwath leads with 40 per cent, McGuinty is at 33 per cent, and Hudak trails with 26 per cent.


Forum’s interactive voice-response telephone poll of 1,041 people, conducted on Wednesday, is considered accurate to within 3 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.


“Just remember last year. The Tories were ahead right around now. That’s the only caveat,” Forum president Lorne Bozinoff told the Star on Friday.


Indeed, Forum’s June survey, which jolted the Liberal campaign, had the Tories at 41 per cent, the Grits at 26 per cent, the NDP at 24 per cent, and the Greens at 8 per cent.


In the Oct. 6 election, the Liberals had 37.6 per cent of the popular vote, the Tories 35.4 per cent, the NDP 22.7 per cent, and the Greens 2.9 per cent.


This latest poll comes as the minority Liberal government faces service cuts to eliminate a $16-billion deficit without the luxury of political stability.


“Last year, the (majority) Liberals knew when the election was going to be, so they had a lot of time to get ready. This is going to be harder for them,” said Bozinoff, noting the minority government could be defeated, forcing an election before 2015.


“I don’t think the talk of restraint has gone that well. And they haven’t actually announced anything, but they’re scaring everybody. People are getting very uneasy about this restraint program.”


That’s a reference to former TD Bank chief economist Don Drummond’s looming report on government reform, which will help shape Finance Minister Dwight Duncan’s March budget.


Bozinoff said the austerity chatter is hurting the Liberals, coming as it does against the backdrop of revelations in the Star about the ORNGE air ambulance service.


“It’s just the wrong image right now,” he said.


As a result of an ongoing Star investigative series, the board of ORNGE has been replaced and forensic auditors have swooped in.


ORNGE’s founder and president, Dr. Chris Mazza, who earned $1.4 million and used to have a cold smoothie delivered to him at 3 p.m., has since gone on indefinite medical leave.


“All that stuff just brings it right home to people,” said Bozinoff. “It’s one thing to talk about cutbacks, it’s all very vague to people. Then you hear about these real-life examples and I think it’s turning some people.”

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