Wynne’s road-toll rejection backed by Ford Nation, but blasted by cyclists: poll

Wynne’s road-toll rejection backed by Ford Nation, but blasted by cyclists: poll

New polling numbers suggest Premier Kathleen Wynne’s rejection of road tolls in Toronto earned her a split decision with the city's voters, going over well with Ford Nation but snubbed by the cyclist set.

The Forum Research survey, conducted in the aftermath of the Liberal Premier’s decision to block tolls, found 43 per cent of Toronto voters disapproved of the call Wynne made, while 42 per cent approved. Another 15 per cent said they didn't know what to make of it.

The poll, which was provided exclusively to QP Briefing, showed support for Toronto Mayor John Tory's proposal for tolls on the Don Valley Parkway and Gardiner Expressway sat at 43 per cent, while 48 per cent of respondents disapproved and 9 per cent had no opinion. Forum’s last poll on the subject, in November, found 46 per cent of voters were supportive of tolls and 45 per cent disapproved.

“With public opinion shifting negatively toward road tolls, one could assume that support for preventing them would be strong; however, opinion on the Premier’s decision to block them is mixed at best,” said Forum Research president, Dr. Lorne Bozinoff, in a release.

A deeper dive into the poll's numbers shows Wynne's denial of Tory's road tolls was welcomed by Doug Ford supporters, as 56 per cent of those who said they would vote for the former mayoral candidate and city councillor approved of the rejection. A majority of Mayor Tory supporters, 58 per cent, disapproved of Wynne's decision.

Of those voters supporting another candidate, 54 per cent approved of the move. Undecided support for blocking tolls was at 49 per cent.

Stopping the road-toll proposal earned the disapproval of 54 per cent of people living within the borders of the former, pre-amalgamation city of Toronto, the strongest objection shown by any neighbourhood. Meanwhile, Etobicoke residents who were surveyed were the most supportive of the Premier's decision, with 50 per cent backing Wynne's move (York was close behind at 49 per cent).

When broken down by mode of transportation, private vehicle owners were the most approving of the road-toll blockade, as 51 per cent sided with Wynne. Cyclists were the commuters left angriest by the Premier's decision, with 71 per cent disapproving.

The Forum poll surveyed 1,090 random Toronto voters by phone from Jan. 31 to Feb. 5. It has a margin of error of three percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

Wynne officially kiboshed road tolls on Jan. 27, when she announced municipalities would instead be getting more provincial gas tax money to fund transit projects. As her Liberal government continues to try to show voters they’re hearing their concerns about everyday expenses, Wynne said her decision was based on a lack of affordable alternatives for commuters.

However, Mayor Tory was less than ecstatic about the move. While grateful for the extra gas tax cash, Tory was clearly irritated by the province overruling a decision of Toronto city council – in venting to reporters shortly after Wynne's announcement, the mayor compared himself to “a little boy going up to Queen’s Park in short pants” to ask permission of the Premier. Toronto required the province's sign-off to officially start tolling.

As well, there was reportedly tension within the Ontario Liberal caucus over tolls. The Grits have most of the Toronto-area seats, but tolls had been panned by some mayors in the Greater Toronto Area, part of the 905 belt that contains a considerable number of ridings.

Mike Colle, the Liberal MPP for the Toronto riding of Eglinton-Lawrence, told QP Briefing Thursday that tolls are a good idea — until the rubber hits the road.

“The thing is most people aren’t in favour of it,” Colle said. “They don’t like tolls. They think they are punishing selective people, and they’re not fair. In theory, yeah, sure they’d be great, but in practice people say they’re not fair and they don’t want them.”

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath and PC Leader Patrick Brown are also opposed to road tolls.

Horwath is scheduled to meet with Mayor Tory at Toronto City Hall on Thursday, "to discuss ways in which the Province can and should be helping the City of Toronto," the NDP leader's itinerary says. As an alternative to tolls, Horwath has suggested the province should resume subsidizing the Toronto Transit Commission's operating costs.

The Forum poll isn’t the first to find a split over road tolls. A Jan. 31 survey by Campaign Research of 676 Ontario voters found a majority of Torontonians backing tolls and a majority of Greater Toronto Area residents disapproving of them.

“While this decision of the Premier’s to prohibit Toronto from tolling its own highways is unpopular in the city itself, it is very popular in the commuter belt surrounding Toronto, and this is where the Liberals need to hold seats, and even make inroads if they are to have a chance in the next election,” said Eli Yufest, CEO of Campaign Research, in a release.

-with files from Jessica Smith Cross

To contact the reporter on this story:
Twitter: @geoffzochodne

Geoff Zochodne

Geoff Zochodne joined QP Briefing in 2014 after working as a reporter, photographer and editorial writer for The Oshawa Express weekly newspaper. He is a graduate of Saint Mary’s University in Halifax. To contact Geoff: gzochodne@qpbriefing.com 905-926-8026 Twitter: @geoffzochodne

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