Exclusive poll reveals 'Doug Ford factor' a big problem for Scheer's Conservatives in Ontario


Le plus grand problème de Scheer n'est pas Trudeau, mais son allié Doug Ford

The “Doug Ford factor” that some federal Conservatives worried would hurt their chances in Ontario this election appears to be very real, and especially significant, suggests a new survey conducted in partnership between the Angus Reid Institute and Postmedia.

The poll shows that half of Ontario’s population sees their federal vote being swayed by the performance of Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservative government in that province — and most are not being influenced in a way that will benefit the federal Tories.

Among those Ontarians who say their federal vote will be affected by their impressions of Ford’s government, a whopping 85 per cent say the “policies and actions” of the provincial PC government will make them less likely to support Andrew Scheer’s federal Conservative party.

The same questions were asked across the country, but the effect of a provincial government on people’s federal voting intentions was the strongest by far in Ontario, which has been governed by Ford’s PCs since they were elected in June 2018. The second-strongest impact was seen in Alberta, with 36 per cent of Albertans saying that Premier Jason Kenney’s United Conservative government was influencing their vote, although in that case, most of those people were being swayed towards more likely supporting the federal Conservatives. In Quebec, 27 per cent said the Coalition Avenir Québec government led by Premier François Legault would have either a moderate or massive impact on their federal vote, although, in that province, respondents seemed less likely to vote for all three major national parties as a result.

In most provinces, a strong majority, at least two-thirds, said the performance of the provincial government would have little or no bearing on their federal vote. Ontario was a clear standout as the only province where a majority said the provincial government effect would have an impact on their vote. The impact in Ontario was spread relatively evenly across all age groups and among males and females.

Twenty-eight per cent of those Ontarians who claim their vote will be impacted this way qualified the impact of the provincial PC government on their vote as “massive.” The next-highest “massive” impact reported was in Quebec, but with only 12 per cent describing it in such strong terms.

In B.C., the provincial NDP government’s performance seems to be leading to at least some additional support for the federal NDP under leader Jagmeet Singh. Only 25 per cent of people said Premier John Horgan’s record would have at least a moderate impact on their federal vote, but most of that group now say they are less likely to vote Conservative and Liberal. Just over 50 per cent of them are now more likely to vote NDP.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal party has clearly sensed an opportunity to exploit the impact Ford is having in Ontario on federal Conservative support. Liberals have tried throughout the campaign to link Scheer to Ford. This week the federal Liberal leader lambasted Ford, calling him “Exhibit A” in Trudeau’s grim description of what he says Canada would look like under Conservative rule. “Families here in Ontario have seen just how far they are willing to go to help the wealthiest few,” he said in Hamilton, Ont. “How quickly they will make cuts to public health and to the services people rely on most.”

Trudeau’s Liberals have been the biggest beneficiaries from the Ford factor: Among Ontarians whose federal voting decisions are being affected by Ford, 71 per cent say they’re likelier to vote Liberal on October 21. But the Liberals would be wrong to assume they have those votes sewn up: 66 per cent of those provincially impacted Ontarians also said they were likelier to vote for the NDP.

The poll was conducted September 16 to 18 among a representative randomized sample of 3,817 Canadian adults among respondents online at the Angus Reid forum. For comparison purposes, a probability sample of this size would carry a margin of error of plus or minus 2.0 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

Another Angus Reid Institute poll this week found that the Liberals are essentially currently neck-and-neck with the Conservatives in the battle for Ontario, with around 35 per cent of voters’ support each. The NDP has support among 16 per cent of voters in the province, according to the poll, and the Green party has 12 per cent.

Scheer hasn’t been seen with Ford during the campaign and Ford scheduled a longer legislative break that extends past the day of the federal election. Trudeau mentioned Ford more than a dozen times in his Hamilton press conference on Monday.

“It’s little wonder Doug Ford appears to be, in this campaign, the political equivalent of Conservative kryptonite and Andrew Scheer is treating him like the estranged cousin he never knew, while Justin Trudeau is taking every opportunity to invoke his name,” said Shachi Kurl, executive director at the Angus Reid Institute. She points out that four years ago, Conservative leader Stephen Harper tried to save his party’s re-election bid by making a public appearance with the Ford family that raised some eyebrows. “Four years later, Andrew Scheer seems to be mindful of the impact for better or for worse, in this case worse, that the Ford name carries,” Kurl said.

However, Scheer has lately begun fighting back against Trudeau’s attempts to link him to Ford. The Conservatives recently launched an ad campaign reminding voters of Trudeau’s links to his former ally, Kathleen Wynne, whose Liberal government went down to devastating defeat in last year’s Ontario election. The ad says, “Justin Trudeau will do to Canada what Kathleen Wynne did to Ontario.” And on Monday, Scheer invoked the troubled records of former Ontario Liberal premier and her Liberal predecessor Dalton McGuinty and used them to attack Trudeau.

“The architects of the failed Kathleen Wynne/Dalton McGuinty government that raised taxes, ran massive deficits, mired in scandal and corruptions are now working for Justin Trudeau,” Scheer said. “I think it’s important for people in Ontario to know that Justin Trudeau will follow the exact and has been following the exact same playbook that Kathleen Wynne and Dalton McGuinty ran here in Ontario.”

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