Reflecting the results of two Ontario byelections that saw the Liberals completely shut out this week, a new IPSOS Reid/CTV News poll has found that the Progressive Conservatives have taken a slight lead over the Liberals and the NDP.

The poll, conducted in the week before the byelections, found that if a general provincial election were held tomorrow, the Tories would receive 34 per cent of the vote among decided voters, up three percentage points from a similar poll conducted late last year.

By comparison, the Liberals dropped three points, and are now sitting at 31 per cent of the vote. They are tied with the NDP, who would also receive 31 per cent of the vote. According to the poll, other parties, including the Green Party, would receive four per cent of the vote.

The Liberals suffered defeat in byelections held in Niagara Falls and Thornhill on Thursday, with the NDP picking up the Niagara Falls riding, and the Progressive Conservatives holding onto their Thornhill riding.

Notably, the poll revealed that 16 per cent of Ontario voters remain undecided, meaning that the next election - whenever that may be - appears to be up for grabs by any of the major parties.

Desire for change

The poll found that Ontarians are desiring of change, with 69 per cent of respondents agreeing that "it is time for another provincial party to take over and run the province." This marks an increase of six percentage points compared to November 2013.

The poll also found that 60 per cent of Ontarians believe that the province is headed in the "wrong direction."

Liberals lead in '416,' Tories lead in '905'

Each of the major political party has a disproportionate level of support in the different regions of Ontario:

  • In the Toronto region with the telephone area code "416," the Liberals lead (43 per cent) over the PCs (29 per cent) and the NDP (26 per cent).
  • In the GTA region with the telephone area code "905," the PCs lead (48 per cent) over the Liberals (28 per cent) and the NDP (20 per cent).
  • In southwest Ontario, the NDP have a comfortable lead (43 per cent) followed by the Liberals (29 per cent) and the PCs (22 per cent).
  • In central Ontario, the PCs have a sizable lead (50 per cent) followed by the NDP (25 per cent) and the Liberals (22 per cent).
  • In eastern Ontario, the Tories lead (41 per cent) followed by the Liberals (30 per cent) and the NDP (22 per cent).
  • In northern Ontario, the NDP lead comfortably (53 per cent) followed by the Liberals (28 per cent) and the PCs (19 per cent).

Ipsos Public Affairs CEO Darrell Bricker said the results indicate that the incumbent Liberals are “in trouble.”

“There’s only one region in Ontario, and that’s basically the 416, downtown Toronto, where the Liberals lead the other two parties, so they’re definitely in trouble,” Bricker told CTV’s News Channel Sunday.

Hudak lags behind his party

Despite respondents expressing a desire for change and the Tories leading with 34 per cent of the decided vote, only 28 per cent of say that PC Leader Tim Hudak would make the best premier.

By contrast, 32 per cent believe NDP Leader Andrea Horwath would make the best premier and 31 per cent believe Liberal Leader Kathleen Wynne would be best. Nine per cent believe Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner would be best to lead the province.

Bricker said the NDP “most definitely” has a shot at forming the next government, saying anti-Conservative voters are split between the Liberals and the NDP.

“As we get into the campaign, it will become obvious that in order to stop the Conservatives, these people on the other side are going to have to consolidate behind somebody, and right now, that looks like potentially, it could be Andrea Horwath,” Bricker said.

Economy, jobs most important issues for Ontarians

The poll presented participants with a list of 12 different issues and asked them to select the one they believe should receive the most attention from provincial leaders.

One-quarter of (24 per cent) said that jobs and the economy were the most important issues.

The other issues ranked as follows:

  • Healthcare/Medicare (11 per cent)
  • Government Accountability (11 per cent)
  • Taxes (nine per cent)
  • Social Services (including pensions, daycare) (eight per cent)
  • Debt/Deficit reduction (seven per cent)
  • Energy/Electricity (six per cent)
  • Education (five per cent)
  • Poverty (five per cent)
  • Environment (three per cent)
  • Public Transit (three per cent)

Debt and deficit reduction, along with government accountability were particularly important for Conservative voters.

The poll, conducted between Feb. 4 -7, surveyed 828 Ontarians from the IPSOS' Canadian online panel. It is considered accurate to within plus or minus four percentage points.