With a year to go until the next provincial election, less than half of voters know what matters most to the three main party leaders, a public-opinion survey suggests.
Ontarians are better versed on Liberal Premier Kathleen Wynne's policies compared to her counterparts on the opposition benches, according to a Forum Research poll provided to QP Briefing Tuesday.
Of the 1,003 Ontarians surveyed, 41 per cent said they could explain Wynne’s policies to a friend with confidence – although nearly as many, 40 per cent, said that would be no easy feat.
Respondents were even less familiar with the policies of Progressive Conservative Leader Patrick Brown and NDP Leader Andrea Horwath.
Only 30 per cent believed they could hold forth on Brown’s policies, with another 44 per cent less certain. Just as many, 44 per cent, aren’t able to speak to Horwath’s platform, which is familiar to only 28 per cent of Ontarians, the poll said.
That could provide Wynne a much-needed edge ahead of the general election, scheduled for June 7, 2018, said Lorne Bozinoff, president of Forum Research.
"She's the Premier, so of course she's better known than the other two; being in opposition, it's hard to get your message out there," Bozinoff said. "That gives an opportunity to Kathleen Wynne to define the other leaders' position and take advantage of that fact ... I think, especially with Patrick Brown, she’s got a possibility of doing that."
Brown and the PCs have led a stream of opinion surveys in recent months, a trend that doesn’t seem hampered by the fact the Tory leader has yet to unveil key policy planks – something he’s promised to do after the party’s convention in November.
Until then, Brown will likely continue to take flak from the other parties, which have branded him "the man with no plan." He remains elusive even within his own camp – not quite half, 47 per cent, of those with an understanding of his policies plan to cast their ballots for the PCs, the poll found.
The findings "suggest the Tory strength may not be that deep," Bozinoff said.
"Is it that they're supporting the Tories, or are they just opposed to the Liberals," he said. "It might be the Liberals have fumbled the ball, and the Tories are there and they've picked it up."
The poll may also be received coldly by Horwath, who consistently beats out the other leaders when it comes to personal popularity, but is relatively unknown to the electorate, in policy and name (ditto Brown). The veteran politician will have led the provincial NDP for nine years by the time voters go to polls next spring; yet, she remains as mysterious as Brown, who won the Tory leadership about two years ago.
Bozinoff chalked up Horwath's obscurity to "huge confusion" surrounding tandem Grit and NDP policies, with the caveat that the leader of the third party typically garners less attention. Horwath has previously accused the Grits of taking ideas from the NDP’s arsenal, pointing to a $15-an-hour minimum wage and pharmacare, which both parties unveiled within days of each other.
"Right now, I don't think there's a huge amount of difference on a lot of policy, especially in the last couple of months, that the Liberals have come out with compared to the New Democrats. You have to be a policy expert to go into the minutiae to look at the differences," Bozinoff said.
There are notable differences between the two pharmacare brands: the Liberals' OHIP+ will cover prescription medication for everyone under the age of 25, while the NDP are offering all Ontarians coverage for 125 commonly-prescribed drugs.
Forum churned out another poll Tuesday morning, reported on by the Toronto Sun, that shows the Liberals lag far behind the Tories and slightly trail the New Democrats. That’s despite yet another poll showing most support the Grits’ proposed labour law reforms, among the latest in a slew of progressive policy goodies announced with much fanfare, including hydro and housing affordability packages.
Speaking to reporters at Amazon Canada’s headquarters in Toronto Tuesday morning, Wynne insisted the gloomy poll numbers were not a metric for the popularity of her policies.
“Those are all things that are designed not to increase my personal popularity, but designed to help people in their lives,” the Premier said after an unrelated announcement. “Whether that has an impact on one poll or even a number of polls is actually beside the point.”
Forum’s poll was conducted over the phone from June 12 to June 14, and is considered accurate within three percentage points, 19 times out of 20.6ddadb3a-5e22-4bc4-acc4-a09aa10dd709Ontario Leaders by knowledge of what they stand for
With files from Christopher Reynolds
This story has been updated from its original version.