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Politics No convention bump for Ontario's Hudak, poll shows

Ontario PC leader Tim Hudak speaks during an interview with The Globe and Mail following the party's policy convention in London, Ont., on Sept. 22, 2013.

Geoff Robins/The Globe and Mail

Ontario's Progressive Conservative convention didn't give leader Tim Hudak a popularity bump, but the province's political landscape remains wide open, a new poll shows.

A Nanos Research poll, published Saturday, shows Premier Kathleen Wynne's Liberals are still ahead, though not on pace for a majority government, pollster Nik Nanos said. The Liberals sit at 36.0 per cent, ahead of the PCs at 31.3 per cent, the NDP at 26.1 per cent and the Greens at 6.3 per cent.

Mr. Hudak, however, essentially tied Ms. Wynne when respondents were asked which party leader had the best vision for the province. Mr. Hudak earned 19.5 per cent, while Ms. Wynne got 19.2 per cent and NDP Leader Andrea Horwath got 12.1 per cent.

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Ms. Wynne and Ms. Horwath, however, beat Mr. Hudak on a question of trust. Each were found to be most trustworthy by roughly 20 per cent of respondents, followed by Mr. Hudak at 15.8 per cent. Ms. Wynne was viewed as the most competent by 22.4 per cent of respondents, followed by Mr. Hudak at 16.7 per cent and Ms. Horwath at 16.1 per cent.

It all leaves the three leaders bunched together.

"Although Wynne has the advantage on competence – which most incumbent premiers or sitting premiers have – she's actually tied with Andrea Horwath for trust and tied with Tim Hudak on vision," Mr. Nanos said. "… This is quite an unusual circumstance, because usually there's one leader that has a bit of what I'll say is a slam-dunk advantage. In this particular case, all three leaders are competitive with each other, depending on what Ontarians are thinking about."

Health care continues to be the top issue, with 22 per cent of respondents saying it was most important to them, according to the poll, with jobs and the economy found to be the second-most-important issue, followed by education. "It's pretty clear that it's going to be very important for all of the provincial parties to have some sort of vision or plan related to the future of health care in Ontario," Mr. Nanos said.

Mr. Hudak's PCs held their convention last month, days before polling began, but saw no bump for it. His competence and trustworthiness scores have actually slid since August, according to Nanos polling. "Usually there is a convention bump, but in this particular case I think it might be fair to say Tim Hudak did well in terms of vision, but not necessarily enough to help him get the upper hand over the Liberals," Mr. Nanos said.

The poll is based on live telephone interviews with 500 Ontarians in the final week of September. It's considered accurate within 4.4 per cent, 19 times out of 20.

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