A new poll by Forum Research has found that most Ontarians of all political stripes support the government's decision to force an end to the college strike, which sent teachers back to work on Nov. 20.
The poll of 861 randomly selected Ontario voters conducted Nov. 29 and 30, provided exclusively to QP Briefing, asked if respondents approve or disapprove of Queen's Park forcing striking college staff back to work. Nearly seven-in-10 (68 per cent) said they approve. Nearly half of all respondents (47 per cent) said they "strongly approve," while 21 per cent said they "somewhat approve."
About one-in-five (19 per cent) said they disapprove, with 12 per cent of total respondents saying they "strongly disapprove." Eight per cent said they neither approve nor disapprove, while five per cent said they do not know.
MPPs ended the strike after 35 days — the longest since the college system emerged in 1967 — with back-to-work legislation passed in a rare weekend sitting of the House last month. The Liberal government and opposition Progressive Conservatives supported the legislation and the NDP opposed it, forcing the weekend sitting and extending the strike by one school day.
“Ontarians overwhelmingly support the decision of Queen's Park decision to force striking college workers back to school," said Lorne Bozinoff, president of Forum Research, said in a press release. “There is clearly a strong ideological divide, with respondents that identify as Progressive Conservative or Liberal voters most likely to approve of the action, with NDP and Green Party supporters most likely to disapprove of it. It's worth noting, however, that more NDP and Green Party supporters approve of forcing striking college workers back to work than don't."
Approval for forcing an end to the strike was lower among NDP supporters than other voters, but still a majority favoured doing so. Of New Democrat supporters, 52 per cent approved of forcing an end to the strike, 25 per cent "strongly" and 27 per cent "somewhat," while 35 per cent disapproved, 23 per cent "strongly" disapproved and 12 per cent "somewhat."
Meanwhile, 79 per cent of PC supporters approved, 78 per cent of Liberals and 42 per cent of Green supporters.
NDP MPP Gilles Bisson said that he still believes the party did the right thing. He criticized the government for not stepping in to get a negotiated resolution to the strike earlier, and said it was the government that created the conditions for precarious, part-time work at colleges in the first place.
"You shouldn't be surprised that New Democrats stood with workers rights and the constitutional right of individuals in this country," Bisson said. "You cannot abrogate a constitutional right of an individual, that's how we felt and that's how we still feel today."
He brushed off the suggestion that the college strike issue will be a problem for the NDP and a win for the Liberals going in to the next election.
"Oh my god there are so many things that the public is concerned about (with Liberal Leader and Premier) Kathleen Wynne, I think at the end of the day she has a problem going into the next election, hydro bills, the state of our schools, the state of health care — you can't get into an emergency (room), there's hallway medicine — all kinds of things people will be thinking about," Bisson said.
The margin of error on the total sample size is +/- 3 per cent, 19 times out of 20, with a larger margin for subsample results.