Premier Doug Ford is enjoying a political honeymoon with Ontario voters, a new poll suggests.
The Campaign Research survey found Ontarians like Ford’s plan to do a “line-by-line audit” of government spending with 69 per cent in favour, 12 per cent opposed, and 20 per cent having no opinion.
His decision to impose a hiring freeze across much of the public service was embraced by 55 per cent of those polled with 26 per cent disapproving and 19 per cent unsure.
And Ford’s move to hold the line on civil service executive compensation by freezing raises until the audit is done was approved by 61 per cent, opposed by 19 per cent with another 19 per cent having no opinion.
“He is having a honeymoon,” Campaign Research CEO Eli Yufest said Friday.
“The early policies of Premier Ford’s mandate have been met with widespread support among Ontarians,” Yufest said of the Tory leader who defeated former premier Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals in the June 7 election.
Using an online panel of 1,480 Ontario voters, the Campaign Research poll was conducted Monday and Tuesday. A probability sample of that size would have a margin of error of plus or minus 2.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.
The survey found Ontarians are torn on Ford’s controversial decision to exit from the province’s cap-and-trade environmental alliance with Quebec and California.
Asked whether they agreed with his cancelling of cap-and-trade, 37 per cent were in favour, 38 per cent opposed, and 25 per cent had no opinion.
The pollster expanded upon that in a follow up question that found Ontarians similarly split between the view that cap and trade drives up energy prices and those who feel it is critical to reducing carbon emissions to fight climate change while bringing in revenue.
When framed in that way, 54 per cent support the decision to abandon the greenhouse gas reduction system while 46 per cent oppose the move.
“It requires a bit of explanation, a bit of context. So the opportunity for the government right now is to communicate the reason for cancelling it,” said Yufest.
Similarly, when asked if they buy Ford’s assertion that cancelling cap and trade will reduce gasoline prices by 4.3 cents a litre, 46 per cent of respondents said that’s “believable” and 54 per cent said it is “unbelievable.”
Those surveyed were also queried on whether the premier should challenge the federal government’s upcoming carbon-pricing law that will affect Ontario because the province no longer has its own climate-change plan.
Opinion was divided with 38 per cent in favour of fighting the law in court and 41 per cent opposing the legal challenge with 21 per cent unsure.
Ford’s scaling back of the OHIP+ pharmacare plan for those aged 24 and under, which will now only provide free prescriptions to those who do not have private health coverage benefits, was more popular.
Two-thirds — 66 per cent — agreed with only covering children and youth who do not have insurance through their parents or employers.
Only 16 per cent disagreed with the cost-saving changes that have been criticized as undermining the universality of pharmacare coverage. Another 18 per cent had no opinion.
As well, 67 per cent agreed with Ford that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s federal government — and not Queen’s Park or the city of Toronto — should pay to house asylum seekers seeking refuge here.
Some 33 per cent disagreed that Ottawa alone should shoulder the costs.
The Campaign Research poll was done before Thursday’s throne speech and the government’s decision to scrap the updated 2015 sex-education curriculum and return to teaching the 1998 syllabus that predates same-sex marriage, Google, and social media until a revamped lesson plan is finished.
“That will be an interesting one to see how that resonates with the public,” said Yufest, referring to the outcry over the move.
Robert Benzie is the Star's Queen's Park bureau chief and a reporter covering Ontario politics. Follow him on Twitter: @robertbenzie