Premier Doug Ford bills himself and his government as “for the people,” but a new poll suggests a clear majority of Ontarians do not believe he cares about people like them.
The Corbett Communications survey for the Star indicates the cronyism scandal engulfing Ford’s office appears to be damaging the premier’s carefully constructed image as a champion for the little guy.
Asked whether “Doug Ford cares about people like me,” 67 per cent of respondents disagreed with that statement.
Only 19 per cent agreed he does care about them while 14 per cent were not sure.
“There’s a whole theme in there that people aren’t buying the Ford story anymore,” pollster John Corbett said Tuesday of his monthly tracking poll.
Corbett said the nepotism debacle that forced the premier to part ways with his chief of staff Dean French is not a complicated thing for voters to grasp.
“It’s even easier to understand than gas plants,” he said, referring to the previous Liberal government’s controversial decision to cancel two gas-fired power plants in Oakville and Mississauga before the 2011 election.
“This one’s very easy to relate to because people can say: ‘I know all about that, my boss hired his nephew. You’re doing all the things that an insider does.’”
The Corbett Communications survey of 936 voters was conducted July 9 and 10 — about two weeks after French’s departure and the same day Ford revoked the appointment of his ex-chief’s wife’s niece and his son’s lacrosse buddy to six-figure Ontario government posts.
Done using Maru/Blue’s Maru Voice Canada online panel, it is an opt-in sample. For comparison purposes a randomly selected sample of this size would have a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.
Corbett said the cronyism imbroglio, which continues to transfix Queen’s Park, “may have put a bigger bite in his image, in his framing, than anything else that’s happened to him.”
“This nepotism scandal is not going away. People don’t think it’s ended. Every other day there’s a new one,” he said, noting 59 per cent of respondents do not believe the affair is over while 10 per cent do and 31 per cent weren’t sure.
So far, seven people have lost their posts, including French, a long-time Ford friend and adviser.
Indeed, 63 per cent of those polled agreed that “the Ford government has given jobs to too many of the premier’s cronies” while 14 per cent disagreed and 23 per cent don’t know.
The poll also highlights some other policy-related challenges for the government.
About three-quarters of respondents — 74 per cent — agreed with the statement that “catastrophic climate change is happening and it’s caused by human activity” while 13 per cent disagreed and 13 per cent didn’t know.
At the same time, 68 per cent believe “the Ford government is wasting $30 million by advertising against the federal carbon tax” while 15 per cent disagreed and 16 per cent were not certain.
But 43 per cent support the federal Liberal government’s carbon-pricing measures compared to 38 per cent who oppose them and 19 per cent aren’t sure.
“Even the plurality agreed with the national carbon tax so they think something’s got to be done (about curbing greenhouse gas emissions) and they don’t appear to be buying Doug Ford’s claim that the carbon tax is a tax grab,” said Corbett.
As the Progressive Conservatives wrestle with austerity measures to tackle a $10.3 billion budget deficit, there does not seem to be much appetite for belt-tightening.
Some 69 per cent of respondents agree “Ontario is a wealthy province and shouldn’t have to cut services to its most vulnerable residents” while 18 per cent disagreed and 13 per cent didn’t know.
Corbett says that suggests Ontarians feel “the economy is healthy and the sky hasn’t fallen” despite Ford’s frequent claims that he inherited a “bankrupt province” from the Liberals last year and has to make cuts.
“That goes totally against the whole Ford shtick,” the pollster said.
Robert Benzie is the Star’s Queen’s Park bureau chief and a reporter covering Ontario politics. Follow him on Twitter: @robertbenzie