National Newswatch

TORONTO — Ontario's Progressive Conservatives under Doug Ford are set to head into voting day Thursday essentially tied with Andrea Horwath's New Democrats, a new poll suggests.

The Leger online poll, released Tuesday, indicates the Tories have the support of 39 per cent of decided voters, with the NDP just a single point behind.

Christian Bourque, executive vice-president of Leger, says the seeming dead heat, if it holds on voting day, will likely favour Ford given the distribution of the Tory vote.

"A statistical tie in the popular vote is to the advantage of the Conservatives," he said.

The Liberals continue to trail badly with just 18 per cent support, according to the survey. Of interest, however, is that the survey found Liberal Leader Kathleen Wynne's dramatic "I will no longer be Ontario's premier" announcement on the weekend had little effect on voters, Bourque said.

Wynne has been pleading with Liberals since then to still back the party — ostensibly to keep Ford or Horwath from forming a majority government.

The results of the survey, conducted between June 1 and June 4, are similar to those Leger found about two weeks ago, when the NDP and the Tories were also statistically tied.

Despite failing to produce a costed platform and allegations of wrongdoing against several of their candidates, Ford has managed to hang on as a front-runner, the poll suggests. The Tory decline that marked the first phase of the campaign has stopped, Bourque said, and the party's support has stabilized.

"They do look solid heading into voting day," Bourque said.

A big difference with the previous survey is that voting intentions appear much firmer now, with under 20 per cent of responders saying they have yet to make up their minds — down from more than one third last time.

Like the previous poll, the New Democrats remain the favourite second choice, but far fewer voters are still looking for an alternative to their first choice.

In other survey results, Horwath continues to enjoy the highest approval rating — 25 per cent of respondents indicating she would make the best premier — just ahead of Ford at 23 per cent.

Wynne remains deeply unpopular, with just 14 per cent holding her up as best premier, the poll suggests.

Ford, who took over the Tory party earlier this year after his predecessor Patrick Brown resigned amid sexual harassment allegations he denies, is backed more by men than women, while the opposite holds for Horwath.

The survey heard from 1,008 people eligible to vote in the Ontario election. Leger says it used 2016 census data to weight the results by age, sex, mother tongue, region and education to ensure what it says is a representative sample of the population.

However, the polling industry's professional body, the Marketing Research and Intelligence Association, says online surveys cannot be assigned a margin of error as they are not a random sample and therefore are not necessarily representative of the whole population.

Colin Perkel, The Canadian Press

The Canadian Press
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