Ontario’s Liberals and Progressive Conservatives are in a statistical dead heat among decided voters, suggests a new poll, which shows Liberal support up despite the ongoing gas plant controversy.

The CTV News/CP24/Ipsos Reid poll found that if an election were held tomorrow, 34 per cent of decided voters would cast a ballot for the Liberals, up six points from last month.

That same percentage would vote for the Progressive Conservatives, down three points from last month. And the NDP are also down three points among decided voters, with 26 per cent saying they would vote for the third party.

Five per cent of voters said they would vote for another party, such as the Greens, while 13 per cent were undecided.

The poll results also suggest that Premier Kathleen Wynne’s decision to meet NDP Leader Andrea Horwath’s budget requests has also resonated with voters.

“If you look at all the numbers here and you step back, you say, Ms. Wynne has done a very good job in her first 100 days of stabilizing her government, moving it up in terms of its political preference and making it competitive again,” John Wright, senior vice president of Ipsos Reid, said in a telephone interview.

“And she has another year before there’s going to be a confidence vote on yet another budget to determine whether they go to the polls. So she’s bought herself a whole lot of time.”

The poll was conducted online between May 15 and 21, and is considered accurate to within +/- 2.9 percentage points.

On the one hand, the results suggest the Liberals are so far escaping any serious pushback from voters over the ongoing controversy about cancelled and moving two gas plants, which will cost taxpayers more than $600 million.

“We have to remember that the gas plant issue is more likely a metaphor for how governments make bad decisions,” Wright said, adding that Ontarians would rather go to the polls over “broader issues,” such as the strength of the economy, and making improvements to health care and other social programs.

On the other hand, the results of another question suggest Ontarians may be ready for change.

The results suggest 64 per cent said they believe it’s “time for another party to take over,” while only 36 per cent of respondents said they believe that the “Wynne government has done a good job and deserves re-election.”

On the question of which party and leader are most likely to provide the most transparent, open and accountable government to Ontarians, the NDP was on top at 32 per cent, but the Grits were a close second at 29 per cent and the Tories right behind at 28 per cent.

Nearly 40 per cent of respondents said the Liberals would be most likely to waste taxpayers’ money, while 35 per cent said that of the PCs. Only 16 per cent said the NDP would be most likely to waste taxpayers’ money.

The poll found that the NDP’s fortunes shot up when voters had the opportunity to select a second choice. Among the 60 per cent of respondents who were open to having a second choice, the NDP received 25 per cent support, compared to 16 per cent for the Liberals, 12 per cent for the Tories and 9 per cent for another party, such as the Greens. Thirty-eight per cent said they didn’t know which party they would choose second.

Wright said that Horwath’s negotiations with Wynne for budget concessions allowed the NDP to “reposition itself,” and the party now appears ready to start wooing those undecided voters, or those who selected them as a second choice.

“The NDP has the largest growth opportunity,” Wright said. “Despite the fact that some people would lament the dancing that took place over the budget with Andrea Horwath and Ms. Wynne, it would appear that it has paid off in one way, and that is that Ms. Horwath is seen as a very effective opposition leader who is holding the government to account.”

Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak, on the other hand, appears to have put himself at a disadvantage by removing himself from the budget process altogether. Hudak declared that he would not support the Liberals’ next budget months before it was unveiled.

“Mr. Hudak has probably squandered some of that by just not being engaged with the process of the budget, by ruling it out before even getting to it,” Wright said. “It’s hard to hold somebody to account when you basically say it’s not worth it.”

Asked which party leader would make the best premier for Ontario, 33 per cent said Wynne, up one percentage point, 31 per cent said Hudak, down one percentage point, while 29 per cent said Horwath, up one percentage point. Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner received 7 per cent support.

Meanwhile, when looking at voter intentions by region:

  • In the GTA, the Liberals have 40 per cent support, the Progressive Conservatives 32 per cent, the NDP 21 per cent.
  • In Southwest Ontario, the PCs have 35 per cent support, to the NDP’s 34 per cent and the Liberals’ 25 per cent.
  • In Central Ontario, the Tories have 36 per cent support, the Liberals 31 per cent and the NDP 26 per cent.
  • In Eastern Ontario, the Conservatives have 42 per cent support to the Liberals’ 32 per cent and the NDP’s 24 per cent.
  • In Northern Ontario, the NDP have 39 per cent support, the Liberals 38 per cent and the Tories have 22 per cent.

And demographic support breaks down as follows:

  • Among men, the Progressive Conservatives have 37 per cent support, the Liberals 35 per cent and the NDP 23 per cent.
  • Among women, the Liberals have 34 per cent support, and both the Tories and the NDP have 30 per cent support.
  • Among voters aged 18 to 34, the Liberals have 40 per cent support to the NDP’s 32 per cent and the Tories’ 21 per cent.
  • Among Ontarians aged 35 to 54, the Liberals have 37 per cent, the PCs 33 per cent and the NDP 24 per cent.