Three-quarters of Ontarians are opposed to the province’s cuts to Legal Aid Ontario, a new poll found.
Among those who voted for Premier Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservatives last year, 44 per cent said they oppose the cuts, according to Environics Research, which surveyed 1,332 people by phone last week.
The poll was commissioned by the Society of United Professionals, a union representing 350 legal aid lawyers across Ontario. It comes after the province announced it was cutting Legal Aid Ontario’s budget by 30 per cent ($133 million), and will further reduce annual funding by $31 million by 2021-2022.
Legal Aid Ontario provides legal support and representation for residents with little to no income, at family and criminal court, and to refugee claimants, among other services.
The province said in its recent budget that it’s “streamlining the delivery of legal aid to promote long-term sustainability.”
But the cuts are influencing Ford’s popularity, according to the poll. Fifty-five per cent of Ontarians are strongly opposed to cutting legal aid’s budget, and 62 per cent said the issue makes them less likely to vote PC in the future. Twenty-eight per cent of people who voted PC in 2018 are also less likely to support Ford’s government, while 40 per cent said it makes no difference.
“Premier Ford and Attorney General (Caroline) Mulroney have tried to deflect from their catastrophic legal aid cuts by claiming that they are protecting what matters to Ontarians,” said Dana Fisher, a spokesperson for the Legal Aid Ontario Lawyers’ Local in a statement to HuffPost.
“These poll results show that, in fact, legal aid matters to Ontarians. The Society of United Professionals is calling on the Premier and Attorney General to reverse these cruel cuts immediately.”
The poll also found that 75 per cent of Ontarians believe Ford’s government is on the wrong track, including 37 per cent of PC voters.
Six in 10 Ontarians were aware of the funding cuts to legal aid, the poll found, with 33 per cent “very aware” and 26 per cent “somewhat aware.”
These results follow another set of polling data Environics released Tuesday that found the province’s decision to combine 35 public health units into 10 and cut their budgets by $200 million is unpopular. Eighty-three per cent oppose the cuts, including 56 per cent of Tory voters.
The poll’s margin of error is 2.7 percentage points 19 times out of 20.