Ontario: PC ahead despite Greenbelt scandal

TORONTO – If a provincial election were held today, Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservatives would probably win with 40%, obtaining a majority government, followed by the Ontario Liberals and the NDP, joint second with 24%. The Greenbelt scandal has not, therefore, affected the premier’s approval. On the contrary: if the vote had been held a month ago, the Progressive Conservatives would have obtained 34%, so in recent weeks the popularity of the premier’s party even increased. 

This is what emerges from a survey conducted by Abacus from October 10 to 15 on a sample of 1,000 Ontario adults. A survey that reveals, yes, the clear dominance of the Progressive Conservatives (PC) in Ontario but at the same time highlights how this strength derives above all from the weakness of others. The approval rating of the Ford government, in fact, is actually very low: 30% of voters approve of it, 47% disapprove of it. Furthermore, only 20% of Ontarians believe that Doug Ford and his PCs deserve to be re-elected: 47% think it’s time for a change and that there is a good alternative, while 33% believe it’s time for a change but he doesn’t think there is a good alternative, a clear indication – this last one – that neither the NDP nor the Liberals have established themselves as a possible alternative government.

Digging deeper into the Greenbelt saga, Abacus then asked respondents whether the decisions the Ford government has made are primarily about what is in the best interests of Ontarians or whether they are primarily in the interests of its friends and supporters: a majority (56%) continues to believe that Ford is making decisions primarily in the interests of his friends and supporters. However, Ford himself’s choice to backtrack on the opening of the Greenbelt to construction (and therefore to the alleged “builder friends” of the premier himself: an RCMP investigation is underway on the matter) was appreciated: 62% believe the decision was right and only 16% believe it was a wrong decision.

According to David Coletto, CEO of Abacus Data, “the Progressive Conservatives led by Doug Ford appear to have halted a decline in their popularity, which could be attributed in part to Ford’s reversal and subsequent apology over the Greenbelt affair. Although the PCs have witnessed an increase in vote share among voters, this increase is more a consequence of declining support for both the Liberals and NDP and an increase in undecided voters, rather than an inherent increase in PC popularity”. Indeed, “neither the NDP nor the Liberals have been able to position themselves as a credible alternative, reflecting a potential void in opposition leadership, which could be resolved once the Liberals elect their new leader by the end of the year”.

Furthermore, there is another not irrelevant fact: public awareness of the RCMP investigation into the Greenbelt agreements remains relatively low, so much so that almost a quarter of Ontarians are still unaware of it and only 27% are “closely monitoring developments” in the investigation. If charges were brought following this investigation, it is therefore unclear “how this could further influence the position of the PCs and whether this – concludes Coletto – would provide the necessary impetus for opposition parties to gain ground”.

In short: whatever happens, Doug Ford will land on his feet.