LILLEY: Poll shows high support for election spending limits — just don’t mention Ford

Poll demonstrates political outrage is driven not by the issue, but by who’s behind it

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The majority of Ontario voters like the idea of restricting third party election spending, including for unions, but they like it even more if they don’t know Doug Ford is behind the plan.

A new Maru Public Opinion survey finds that two-thirds of voters back the current rules limiting spending but that drops to a bare majority when Ford’s name is announced.

This is hardly surprising. 

In fact, the day after Ford announced that he was invoking the notwithstanding clause, also known as Section 33 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, I said as much.

On June 10, the day after the Sun broke the news that Ford would use the clause and outrage erupted, I said that outrage “is driven not by what is being done but who is doing it.”

Now the Maru poll proves it.

A group of 1,087 randomly-selected Ontario voters were asked their opinion about this issue between June 21 and June 22.

At first, they were just told about the concept, then they were told who was behind it.


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In the first question, voters were told that former Liberal Premier Kathleen Wynne had set a spending limit for third parties at $600,000 for the six months prior to election day.

Voters were then asked if they found this acceptable or unacceptable and 66% said they found it acceptable.

In the next question, voters were told that the time for spending limits was extended from six months to 12 months and were asked if they found that a reasonable limitation or a Charter violation.

With that question 67% said they found it a reasonable limitation.

Interesting, isn’t it that something described as so controversial was seen as acceptable and supported by two-thirds of the population?

Then the poll told people that Progressive Conservative Premier Doug Ford had done this very thing and asked if they found it acceptable or unacceptable.


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Suddenly, just 53% of voters said they found it acceptable.

When voters were told that Ford had invoked the notwithstanding clause to bring about these same changes they had supported just moments earlier, the level of support dropped to just 48%.

Women, specifically university educated women, were the least likely to support these changes once told of Ford’s involvement and the use of the notwithstanding clause.

Could it be members of the teachers’ unions who oppose Ford at every move?

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The poll doesn’t give us that level of detail, nor does it tell us the voting intentions of those who support or oppose the idea of spending limits. 

What the poll does tell us is that 77% of university educated voters backed the idea when it was Kathleen Wynne’s six-month proposal and 70% university educated respondents supported the 12-month proposal when they didn’t know when Ford was behind it.


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That support dropped to 52% among the university educated when Ford’s name was mentioned and 44% when the notwithstanding clause was mentioned. 

That seems like opposing an idea over who is behind it rather than the merits of the idea itself.

Canadians don’t like the idea of wealthy interests, be they union or corporate, buying elections. That is what has arguably happened in Ontario in the past.

We’ve had federal spending limits for more than two decades at the federal level, the 2018 election was our first in Ontario.

Unions, who have outspent political parties in the past to get their way, would prefer it was the last.

Two-thirds of Ontario voters support what Doug Ford is doing but about 15% don’t like that it’s him doing it.

That’s not enough reason to go back to the days of unions with agendas buying elections and reaping their rewards from the public treasury.


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