Exclusive: How Ontarians feel about hot-potato policies
PCs vulnerable on health, housing and more
ABOVE THE FOLD
First in Observer — POLL WATCH II — Just over a year out from their second majority mandate, more than half of Ontarians believe the province is headed in the wrong direction under Premier DOUG FORD.
But there’s nuance when it comes to certain hot-potato policies, including bulldozing the Greenbelt, jolting the electricity grid, boosting private health clinics, empowering strong mayors and more.
Today, we’re delving into Part Two of our exclusive poll series from Counsel Public Affairs, which is all about policy. Catch up on Part One, featuring horse-race numbers for the Liberal leadership and a look at how the Ford government is faring after a year of bold policymaking. And get the full deck below.
The Ford government is sitting pretty in the polls — but there could be trouble ahead as Ontarians aren’t satisfied with their handling of major files, including cost of living, housing, health care, public safety, the environment and more. A bright spot (sort of): People are more happy with the Ford government’s performance on public transportation, roads and highways — but overall approval is still in the dumps.
On the Greenbelt and housing: Half of Ontarians don’t believe the government should be able to build homes on the protected lands — something Premier DOUG FORD is plowing ahead with anyway, in the name of housing supply. Thirty-eight per cent want to open it up to development, while 13 per cent don’t know.
Dig deeper: Interestingly, those more likely to say that building homes on the Greenbelt is A-OK were decided PC and Liberal voters, at 49 per cent and 45 per cent, respectively. Ditto folks aged 25 to 34, men aged 18 to 34, and those born outside of Canada.
Those more likely to oppose building on the Greenbelt include decided NDPers (60 per cent) and Greens (59 per cent), as well as people over 55 and those living in Eastern Ontario.
More: 52 per cent of respondents said greater housing density was a problem in their community. 77 per cent agree that the province should restrict foreign buyers. Another 74 per cent want to force developers to designate a certain number of new units as “affordable.”
On strong mayors: They’re going strong. More than half of Ontarians — 55 per cent — are aware of the move to give sweeping new powers to the Mayors of Toronto and Ottawa, and they’re liking what they’re hearing. Of those who are aware, 55 per cent support the policy, while 34 per cent don’t.
Dig deeper: PC and Grit voters were more likely to back the move — at 71 per cent and 61 per cent, respectively — versus NDPers (40 per cent) and Greens (46 per cent).
(Caveat: This survey was conducted before strong-mayor powers were expanded beyond the 416 and 613.)
On health care: When it comes to expanded private clinics, Ontarians are pessimistic. A whopping 71 per cent believe the move will wind up in easier health access for those with deeper pockets, while 64 per cent are worried it will lead to staffing shortages in the public sector.
That said, about half believe increased use of private clinics will help shorten wait times at hospitals and ERs. But the same amount say it will result in lower quality of care for patients. Meanwhile, half are willing to cough up more in taxes to improve the health care system — but it isn’t clear how much. And one in three are willing to pay out of pocket for health care.
Top priorities, ranked: 27 per cent picked staffing shortages as their most pressing issue, followed by wait times at 18 per cent. In third, a tie: mental health and paying out of pocket at 13 per cent. At the bottom of the list is building more hospitals or clinics, at 4 per cent — something the ruling PCs have underscored.
“It’s not so much, ‘Do we have enough hospitals being built?’ — more is a good thing, of course, we can all agree on that. But one of the findings here is that it’s about who’s staffing these hospitals, who’s working at them, and do we have enough trained, qualified people to help patients out,” said Counsel’s pollster ADRIAN MACAULAY.
On electricity: Gas plants are all the rage for the Ford government — which is staring down a surge in electricity demand — but Ontarians are split.