As confusion over restrictions mount around the province, Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s popularity and that of his ruling Progressive Conservative Party has continued to drop with just over a year to go before the next election.
Polling by Abacus Data shows the number of people having a favourable impression of Ford dropping, to 28 per cent on April 21 from 34 per cent a week earlier.
About 46 per cent of the 1,007 Ontario adults from April 16 to 21, with a plus or minus 3.1 per cent margin of error, report an unfavourable view of the Premier. The survey found 23 per cent described themselves as being neutral.
That is a complete reversal from May 2020 when Ford enjoyed a favourable view of 46 per cent of Ontarians surveyed soon after lockdowns began in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
That peak was maintained for eight months, but Ford began to slip to within four points of being in the negative, sitting at 39 per cent in favour.
In the wake of Ford announcing new restrictions and wider police powers last week, Abacus Data found 44 per cent of Ontarians surveyed had a negative impression of the premier on April 17.
Numbers on April 21 found the trend continuing and, as scrutiny continued to build over his handling of the pandemic, some 46 per cent of Ontarians surveyed had a negative outlook while 28 per cent were in approval.
The survey showed the Liberals in the lead with 35 per cent support among committed voters, an increase of 16 per cent since the 2018 election and a sign of a potential change in leadership.
The Progressive Conservatives hold 34 per cent, a drop of seven percentage points since the election, and the NDP at 23 per cent, a drop of eight per cent in the same time period.
For Opposition politicians such as Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner, the dropping support for the premier only makes sense.
“There’re a lot of members of the public that are angry and frustrated that the Ford government is making a number of decisions around addressing the pandemic that do not follow the science,” Schreiner told Et Cetera.
The Guelph MPP said Ford ignoring the advice of the coronavirus advisory table was just one example of many during the course of the pandemic when the premier has failed to act on suggestions backed by scientific evidence.
“The people of Ontario are now paying the consequences for that with spreading COVID cases and extreme pressure on our healthcare system,” Schreiner said.
Some, like Humber College student Michel Johnson, believed in Ford’s approach from the outset but their view has changed over time.
“Doug’s clear ambition and drive to control the pandemic early on and his international comments towards U.S. President Donald Trump regarding mask supplies raised hopes of a fighter,” Johnson, a third-year photography student at Lakeshore Campus, told Et Cetera.
“But over the last several months that hope has diminished, many young people are growing impatient,” he said. “Constant information and reminders of other countries being on track for summer openings is lowering morale and hope in the premier.”
For many politicians across Canada, the first election they face following the outset of the pandemic will be a test of how they handled COVID-19.
For Ford, that reality is right around the corner with an election taking place by 2022.
Schreiner wants to have more Green legislators join him at Queen’s Park, but the party had five per cent of the survey’s committed voters, no change since the last election.. He explained his party approaches other areas of governance the same way they do the pandemic.
“One of the things that separates the Green Party from any other party is that we work very hard not to be hyper partisan and to really follow the science and the evidence to guide our decision making processes in a way that puts people on the planet first,” he said.
“And I think that certainly applies to dealing with the public health and economic crisis and the fallout of that, and I think it equally applies to addressing the climate crisis which is still barreling down on us,” Schreiner said.