Tim Hudak managed to slay the dragons stalking him at the Progressive Conservative Party's convention last month, but the polls have yet to show he has maneuvered the Tories into a position to form Ontario's next government.
The latest survey from Nanos Research, conducted the week after the London convention and interviewing 500 Ontarians, found Kathleen Wynne's Liberals still ahead of the pack with 36 per cent support, down only one point from where the party stood in a Nanos poll from July. The Progressive Conservatives hardly budged, managing 31 per cent support. The New Democrats under Andrea Horwath brought up the rear with 26 per cent, down one point from July.
Voting intentions have been holding steady in Ontario for some time. Nanos also polled back in February shortly after Wynne became leader of the Ontario Liberals, and pegged the party to be in a tie with the PCs at 34 per cent apiece, with the NDP at 27 per cent. Considering the sample sizes, no party has shifted significantly from where they were over seven months ago.
The longer view, however, is negative for Hudak. Looking back over the last 12 years of polling from Nanos makes it clear that the PCs are currently at around an all-time low over that period, while the NDP is still polling well above where they have normally been over the last dozen years. It makes it difficult to see how the Tories will prevail in the next election with Hudak's numbers being so stubborn.
On leadership, Hudak polled behind both Wynne and Horwath on questions of trust and competence, though he was narrowly ahead on having a vision for the province. But Hudak's numbers on these measures remain below where they stood around the 2011 provincial election, suggesting he will be hard-pressed to improve upon them if an election occurs in the spring.
Nevertheless, the premier is not making it easy on herself either. She dropped on all three measures, putting her in a tie with Horwath on trust and ahead only on competence. And Wynne is generally where Dalton McGuinty was polling on both competence and vision after he announced his intention to resign as leader. As McGuinty was one of the least popular premiers in the country at the time, that is hardly a feather in Wynne's cap.
To complete the trifecta, Horwath herself has taken a bit of a hit as well. Though she was up on the questions of trust and competence, she was down significantly on having a vision for Ontario. She managed only 12 per cent here, down from 18 per cent back in February. It is possible that her party's general lack of strong policy proposals has hurt her on this issue. The Liberals, by contrast, have their governing agenda and the PCs have been very policy-heavy. Horwath's support for the Liberal budget and her negotiating tactics may have left Ontarians scratching their heads on what the NDP actually wants to do.
But the parties are still in a relatively close race, and each party leader has his or her strengths that could turn a campaign on its head once it gets rolling. The Liberals have all the advantages of incumbency, but seemingly no one stands to benefit from pulling the plug and sending Ontarians to the polls.
Éric Grenier taps The Pulse of federal and regional politics for Huffington Post Canada readers every week. Grenier is the author of ThreeHundredEight.com, covering Canadian politics, polls and electoral projections.
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