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RSR ROBBINS Research - Canada Politics September 1, 2007
  Sep 01, 2007

A random telephone poll of 1,240 residents of Ontario, eligible to vote in the upcoming general provincial election. These respondents were obtained over the course of the following dates August 22-30, 2007. This poll was sponsored by ROBBINS and Associates and by Conservative party and member Jim Van Rassel (contributed one-third value to cost), who can be contacted at (604) 328-5398. Glen P. Robbins can be contacted at (604) 942-3757. This poll may be used by other media and this should be considered to be permission for them to do so.

Question #1
Are rising property assessments on your home a concern to you?
Yes    15 %
No    85 %
Undecided    05 %
Question #2
How would you personally assess Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty’s performance on the education file, specifically kindergarten to grade 12, based on the choices provided?
Good    41 %
Fair    36 %
Poor    23 %
Undecided    14 %
Question #3
This question asks you about improving the health care system. This assumption is predicated on the belief that no matter how you perceive the health care system now, you would always hope it would “improve“. To improve the health care system in Ontario which of the following policy implementations would in your opinion do the most good?
Raising the health care premiums of Ontario’s wealthiest citizens    13.5 %
Investing more taxpayer dollars in the health care system    38 %
Permit the increase and/or availability of private health care    28 %
All of the Above    13 %
None of the Above    12 %
Undecided    13 %
Question #4
In your opinion has Premier Dalton McGuinty been consistent in terms of tax policy for Ontario citizens?
Yes    43 %
No    57 %
Undecided    05 %
Question #5
Of these two choices, who in your opinion is likely going to be the toughest on crime?
Stephen Harper    72 %
Stephane Dion    11 %
Undecided/Could Not/Would Not Answer    17 %
Question #6
Of these two choices, who in your opinion is likely to do the best job on the environment based on a respect for scarce taxpayer resources?
Stephen Harper    46 %
Stephane Dion    54 %
Undecided/Could Not/Would Not Answer    23 %
Question #7
Do you support the increase in the development of nuclear energy?
Yes    52 %
No    48 %
Undecided    11 %
Commentary
Observations:
Rising property assessments are a concern to a noticeable minority of respondents in Ontario. This minority takes on even greater importance when we consider that many of these, based on telephone prefixes and the manner in which the question is specifically asked are likely property owners as well. Most of these respondents are from areas of Ontario where average family incomes are in the high sixty to low seventy thousand dollars. Some of these respondents may not have built up equity in their homes to the same extent that those who have, can more easily accept rising property assessments and the higher taxes that often follow.
Respondents from regions of Ontario where incomes are likely higher are less concerned about rising property assessments. Both Conservative and Liberal parties are more popular in the wealthy areas and only slightly higher in above average income areas. Wealthier prefixes have a smattering of Green support but higher support relatively speaking for the environment. More New Democrat support has moved into above average demographics. Working poor may not support the NDP to the extent they once did. This is based on anecdotal evidence from the comments of those respondents who seem to believe that Conservative, Liberals and NDP are all mainstream parties that could care less about “others”, and only care about political power. To this extent, and to the degree with which more prominent NDP leaders deal with mainstream debate for more mainstream voters (hunkered down in the middle of the political spectrum), it may be said that the New Democrats have gained support from Liberal losses, but have lost the support of the disaffected.
Over 20% for the New Democrats in this election will mean that the disaffected have been brought on board, while other voters who can’t decide between NDP and Liberal with have to investigate the differences between the two. Where this decision ultimately goes, will depend on engagement during the election, but suffice it to say, a tie may go to the NDP. The Liberals fight the Conservatives on different ground. Ontario citizens value the health and education system. Premier McGuinty’s government excelled on the educational front, was perceived as a work in progress or average on health, and is perceived to be a little inconsistent on tax policy. If Progressive Conservative leader John Tory can convince wealthier voters that Ontario cannot afford another term from the Liberals, AND convince above average income families that he won’t balance the budget off against their children’s education or the “integrity” of the health care system, AND won’t increase their taxes than I feel he can achieve 40% or better particular if Dalton McGuinty begins to wilt under pressure relating to his approach to taxation.
If on the other hand, McGuinty can paint John Tory as a corporate proxy and have the attention put on this to the extent that undecided voters in this demographic begin to have doubt in him, than I say that McGuinty may, just may hold onto majority government. If the result of this particular exchange is zero sum, I say that Tory may realize the most significant degree of success and McGuinty the higher degree of failure in term of electoral support. Accordingly, Mr. McGuinty (at least in our opinion) is under distinguishable pressure from the left and from the right. The Ontario Liberals have a juggling act going on in what used to once be the mushy middle. This massive chunk of the electoral sea is much better able to digest political information and sales pitches into a voting decision which best reconciles their own personal ideological and policy initiative demands than they might have been even 10 years ago. They are also fearless in using their own personal experiences to advance a case of why their selections to choices offered in questions is “more valid”. How much more can we expect from voters when they are willing to take their own personal experiences, overlap them with their present ’worldview’ and extend this value to a particular candidate they probably have never met before, who will ultimately have the responsibility or indirect oversight of as much as one half of their income? The political leader who can realize how much of an advancement for democratic ideals, and ultimately for the betterment of society, a well informed public is (no matter what percentage is in the middle), and communicate to these people what he hopes to achieve through the benefit of their franchise commitment to him, and in turn commit to these people that their dollars count for all citizens including and in particular the poor and disadvantaged, with a view that everyone can help to make the province an even better place, will win the election. Herein lies McGuinty’s biggest advantage despite some obvious pressures of limited growth: The citizens of Ontario are feeling pretty good about themselves and their province. This advantage contains caveats however. His closest rival, John Tory and his Progressive Conservative Party has a relatively clean slate from which to deliver his vision of Ontario’s future. Mr. McGuinty painted some his best policy portraits on the education file. The difficulty is that Ontarians expect excellence over many files and failure on any is enough to cause a collapse in confidence.
Whoever paints the most vibrant picture of the next decade, and delivers it in Technicolor in terms of what eligible Ontario voters believe is achievable and not shallow platitudes towards policy initiatives (which insult intellectually or even instinctively if poorly conceived).
I suppose what I am saying is that this election shapes up to be a nasty battle where winners will be decided in nothing short of hand to hand combat, while the Ontario voters generally also DEMAND to hear positive convincing messages about the future of their wonderful province. This is definitely a voters election, and no they aren’t all this way. There are pockets of demographics which are going to make the difference in whether Dalton McGuinty gets a second term, or the Tory /Tory sweep moves the entire country to conservative country, OR whether (and I am becoming slightly less convinced of this) or not the voting public in the province prefers to hamstring both of the two prominent provincial parties with the NDP holding the balance of power in a minority government. This latter scenario may not hold with Mr. McGuinty’s druthers, however I expect he is better suited to the possibility than Mr. Tory, not simply because he has had one term of discernable successes and failures (he has been government in action not inaction), but more because he is accustomed to thinking in terms of being squeezed from both sides. Mr. Tory on the other hand, may not have the experience with dealing with social democrats, as his experience is vast in the corporate world where bottom lines, the hard and fast ‘facts’ of success and failure, will not easily integrate with the ever present demand for social justice that New Democrats refuse to relinquish under any condition even the environment. Working for a living is about survival. The discussion of global warming has now made the environment about survival. Real Estate prices are falling in the United States. This cannot be expected (under terms of generally recognized economic principals) to be necessarily good thing for Canadians. This is Ontario, the eldest brother of a large and eclectic family. If the message for the future from Ontario is not compelling, than our country could stall. Ontario’s message is this election message-the mainstream news needs to introduce some of this election politics more prevalently throughout the entire country. What a voter in BC thinks of Dalton McGuinty’s government is obviously meaningless in terms of election support, however it does serve to underscore how valuable the next Ontario Premier’s sense of the country is. Ontarions are not pre-occupied necessarily with their significance to the direction and sense of purpose of the entire country, but they are very aware of their place in the federation. This perception is a reflection of the cumulative sense of real politik in this province. To wit: Just the facts please.
Wealthier regions of Ontario prefer private health care to increased medical premiums or generally higher taxes for health care. More affluent voters are somewhat more inclined to be doubtful of government’s ability to properly manage health care, at least above their own ability which also includes the ability to pay. These respondents are not able to see how raising their premiums or spending more general revenues on the system will improve it. Above average wage earners are less inclined to prefer private health care but more inclined to choose more money for health care. These respondents do not have the resources for private health care and fear that the public health care system may be on the slow decline. Concern for their immediate families and their elders is a source of some disconsternation. Respondents from areas more likely to have average income earners and low income earners mixed with some above average income earners are more inclined to choose higher medical premiums for the rich and more tax dollars for health. These respondents cannot deal with higher tax rates on any front and $50.00 each month makes a difference to them. With per capita costs for health care in Canada at $4,500 (and rising) and a significant number of respondents who believe they cost far less than this average (perhaps not considering all of the related costs), debating health care during this general provincial election will have a direct influence of final election outcomes.
Respondents from all demographic regions of the province are supportive of Premier Dalton’s work on the education file (grade K-12). How education policy will emerge as an election issue is based to some extent on education’s meaning to specific voters, how this relates to other policy issues, and how voters respond to other matters involving education at higher levels as well. Education makes a difference to Premier McGuinty who scores well on this file, and can use it to counter suggestions from those respondents with above average incomes that the Premier is inconsistent on matters of tax policy. Of those who supported Mr. McGuinty on health care, these opinions were supported by the subsequent follow-up which tested the veracity of their ’positive’ choice in the 8.5/10 region (rounded to the half). Where Progressive Conservative leader John Tory is likely seen as slightly more proficient with tax dollars, McGuinty is seen as someone who is willing to invest the monies on students. Mr. McGuinty would also do well to remind Ontario voters of the drive towards private universities by the former PC government under former Premier Mike Harris.
Mr. McGuinty also has the support of many respondents on the question of nuclear energy. His difficulty with regards to the environment is that support for nuclear energy for strong, but the nearly all Green/Other supporters are against it, as are some New Democrat supporters with the collective of both of these groups also more inclined to either see the Premier as inconsistent on taxes or a tax cutter and supporter of the rich on health care matters.
John Tory leader and his Progressive Conservative Party are perceived as good money managers but must be wary of being painted as corporate subsidizers and privatizers. He needs to remind those wealthier voters that he won’t be cavalier with tax dollars and must show how his approach to health care will be the wisest. He has his foot in the door with above average wage earners on rising municipal tax rates who are watching whether or not they can save enough for Christmas. If he is too tough exploiting Dalton McGuinty’s weaknesses particularly relating to overall tax policy, he will be easily countered by all three left leaning parties as a corporate puppet who has no real connection to real people and their concerns. Mr. Tory must reveal a populist side to the people through advertising, or public policy pronouncements, or more particularly through his conduct in those areas of the province where money does not come easily. His wealthy supporters will stay with him so long as his announcements do not become too progressive on the spending side.
The NDP’s Howard Hampton is not likely to steal many votes from the Progressive Conservatives, but a message of fear of reduced funding for social programs and the possibility that the Liberals will have to support this policy to retain market Liberal voters in their own camp, may go a long way to ultimately shaking those aforementioned reform Liberals from Premier McGuinty’s possession to the NDP. It may also push some centre right progressive conservative voters who won’t vote NDP to the Green under protest vote. This may also help Dalton McGuinty, but could ultimately assist in the shaping of a left centre dominated minority government.
On the left side of the ledger Mr. Hampton may not win the Green argument but he must be no less than second on this file and must make headway into arguments about the Boreal rain forest and not just appear to be modern because he drives an ecologically friendly bus during the campaign. He must be convincing on the Green file, McGuinty’s equal or better on education, particularly post education, must be strong on health care labelling both McGuinty and John Tory as ‘privatizers’ of the system arguing that nearly 40% of Ontario public health care dollars go to some type of private health care delivery, and the number will go higher under both of these types of leaders. He ought to stay away from arguments that suggest that private health accounts for 75% of all dollars (including doctors) because for some voters this just takes away from the impact of the 40% you already had SOLID in your possession. By reinforcing this message he will affirm within the wealthier voters that the NDP is outdated on the realities of health care costs who will than reaffirm with their favourite political leaders the importance of private health care to the overall sustainability of the system. If Howard Hampton can instill a level of fear about social programs without looking like the sky is falling (who wants to buy into that depression), and he can explain his Green program within the context of realities associated with coal burning energy, nuclear energy, modern energy such as alternative wind energy, than he will see 20% and slightly more. If he is adequate in his messaging ONLY he will see 16-18%. The difference between the two could very well impact on the final constitution of the Ontario legislature.
There is a closer relationship between Ontario Progressive Conservative supporters and federal Conservative voters than between the other mainstream federal and provincial parties. There is a close relationship (relative to the whole) between the provincial Green’s and federal Green’s. Liberal leader Stephane Dion is slowly picking up support in Ontario but at a pace I would be pleased with if I were he. No large jumps, this is one voter at a time Stephane. It is steady, it is his and he knows it. As a consequence Mr. Dion is comfortably confident because he understands that he is rebuilding the entire Liberal party the old fashioned way, through hard political work on the ground, at the grassroots (we don’t plant in the air now do we?). (Respondents affirm their Dion choice with a score of “8” out of 10 while Stephen Harper also receives an “8”). This support is reform liberal in nature with a concern for the rights and needs of the people, and for a clean environment. I DO believe however that Mr. Dion’s increase in popularity is also causing a corresponding ‘bump’ for the federal Conservatives which I believe may also have a corresponding positive impact on John Tory’s Progressive Conservatives (although a subsequent coefficient not sold with any guarantee).
By numbers only, Mr. McGuinty would probably prefer a constant or weaker Stephane Dion at least for the duration of the provincial election. For his part, (and not that he even considers this) Stephane Dion will not want to maintain his new success with stunts or products of too much political theatre. Canadians no matter how sophisticated, are very intuitive, intelligent people who are likely far more humble than should be reasonable expected under any prognosis (Freudian or otherwise). They will cheer Stephane Dion based on Canadian values of the underdog making a comeback on the basis of sacrifice and hard work. However Canadians don’t like Corporations because they are not perceived to be an individual thing. It is easier for an individual to understand and empathize with another individual's experiences, far more than any empathy can ever be derived from thoughts of a Corporations’ needs, save when we see the negative impact of those corporations who downsize, resulting in job losses to individuals. A new Progressive Conservative government in Ontario may improve Stephane Dion’s chances in Ontario with a view to an upcoming federal election. Stephane Dion has a bit of momentum going his way, and he cannot take time off if he wants back in the hunt with Prime Minister Harper.
There are wealthy woman in Ontario who like Stephane Dion and John Tory, an unlikely combination for some, but an intoxicant to a few, who could ultimately make the difference in an election more likely to be directly determined by respondents with above average family incomes who aren’t sure how they intend to vote right now. There are wealthy men and above average families who like Stephen Harper, who are less inclined to support Stephane Dion. John Tory will be helped by Stephen Harper in the above average younger (30-40) age demographic. The Prime Minister is not perceived to be as ‘Corporate’ as the press makes him out to be, however it is our opinion that John Tory can be ‘colored’ this way.
I didn’t check whether Progressive Conservative leader John Tory would be throwing out the game’s first pitch at a Blue Jay’s Game, but the split finger fast ball the federal Liberals have thrown at Stephen Harper’s Conservatives over election spending may not at the end of the day impact on federal support to the same extent it may ameliorate some of the doubt wealthier voters and some above average voters have of his inability to be trustworthy over money issues. On the other hand, if John Tory can convince a larger pool of voters in the centre of the pond that he is a man not only of compassion, but a man with a vision for society, for everyone, including the poor, and the downtrodden, he will envelope himself in the righteous sanctity of progressive man’s sense of duty to his brother and sisters, while demanding more of himself for the betterment of his family, and not just his immediate one. To wit: Jesus Christ was a man among people, not JUST the Son of Man. At least we get the sense that's how a large number of Ontario voters see it.

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