Liberals lead in Northwest Ontario after debate

| Filed under: Ontario

All incumbents safe; jobs and growth key campaign issue

In a random sampling of public opinion taken by the Forum Poll™ among 704 voters in the three northwestern Ontario ridings of Kenora-Rainy River, Thunder Bay-Atikokan and Thunder Bay-Superior North on the evening of the afternoon northern Ontario debate, the Liberals have a comfortable lead across all three ridings, supported by 4-in-10 who will vote for them in the election June 12 (42%), compared to one third who will vote NDP (32%). Fewer than one quarter will vote PC (22%), and very few will vote Green (3%) or for other parties (1%). The Liberal vote is characteristic of the oldest (49%), females (46%), and the wealthiest (50%). The NDP vote is common to Gen Y (35 to 44 - 40%) and Gen X (45 to 54 - 41%), while the PC vote is centered on the youngest (30%), males (27%) and mid-to high income groups ($60K to $100K - 29%). Of note, one fifth of past NDP voters will support Liberals this time (21%), as will 1-in-7 past PC voters (14%). One-in-seven past Liberals will vote NDP this time (15%).

Kathleen Wynne with highest approvals

More than a third approve of Kathleen Wynne (36%) but her net favourable score (approve minus disapprove) is a negative -10. Andrea Horwath has the approval of 3-in-10 (30%), and her net is even lower than Wynne's (-16). Tim Hudak brings up the rear with scarcely one fifth approval (21%) and a truly abysmal net rating of -38.

Wynne seen as best Premier

Kathleen Wynne gathers the most support as best Premier (34%), about twice that of her competitors (Hudak and Horwath - 19% each) and a similar proportion who say none of these will do the job (19%). Both Wynne and Horwath encounter their strongest support among the youngest (42% and 24%, respectively), while females are especially unlikely to see Tim Hudak in the role (13%).

Wynne wins debate

Among the one third who saw or heard all or part of the debate (32%), the consensus is that Kathleen Wynne won (40%), or no one did (40%). Andrea Horwath is not seen as the victor (20%). Of note, one fifth of NDP voters thought the Premier won the debate (19%), and just half think their leader did (51%).

Wynne has best understanding of northern issues

More than a quarter agree Kathleen Wynne has the best understanding of northern issues (28%), compared to less than a quarter who think this of Andrea Horwath (22%) and about half this proportion who think Tim Hudak fits the description (12%). One quarter say none of the leaders has the required northern insight (23%).

Jobs and growth most important campaign issue across the northwest

A third select jobs and growth as the key issue in the campaign (32%), three times as many who say government corruption (14%) or eliminating the deficit (10%) are the key issues. Among Liberals, jobs and growth lead (39%), but transit and transportation is also important (14%), followed by the Ontario Retirement Pension Plan (ORPP) and government corruption (10% each). Among New Democrats, key issues are jobs and growth (30%), followed by government corruption (16%) and the gas plants controversy (11%). Notably, New Democrats are especially likely to say something not listed is a key issue (20%). Among PC supporters, eliminating the deficit (26%), jobs and growth (25%) and government corruption (20%) are relatively equally important.

Wynne leads for being able to deal with key issues

Kathleen Wynne is seen to be the best able to promote jobs and growth (30%) compared to her competitors (Hudak - 19%, Horwath - 18%), for her transit and transportation plans (27%) compared to the others (Hudak - 12%, Horwath - 13%) and for her plans for the Ring of Fire (Wynne - 34%, Hudak - 14%, Horwath - 11%). It is only for tackling government corruption that there is seen to be a balance (Wynne - 21%, Hudak - 22%, Horwath - 19%).

Three quarters say Hudak should have debated

Fully three quarters of northwestern Ontario voters agree Tim Hudak should have attended the debate (76%), and just more than one tenth think he didn't have to (13%). The majority of PC voters also agree he should have attended (56%). As a result of his absence, close to half of northwestern Ontario voters will be less likely to vote PC (44%), and this includes one fifth of current PC supporters (17%) and as many as 3-in10 past PC voters (29%).

If these results hold up until election day, Kathleen Wynne will have improved on the Liberals' fortunes in the Northwest, which has always been seen as fertile NDP territory. Although the debate was not that widely watched, it had an impact on those who saw it and most agree the Premier won. The fact that this kind of exposure is important is reinforced by the strong majority who think Tim Hudak should have taken part, and the negative effect his absence has on voting intentions, even among Progressive Conservative partisans," said Forum Research President, Dr. Lorne Bozinoff.

Lorne Bozinoff, Ph.D. is the president and founder of Forum Research. He can be reached at or at (416) 960-9603.