Hamilton·Analysis

The leader you don't know vs. the leader you don't like: Robert Fisher

Premier Kathleen Wynne's approval ratings have dropped to a record low but what do you know about the Progressive Conservative leader who might replace her as Premier? Who is Patrick Brown?

Robert Fisher's Ontario political analysis appears here every two weeks

Next year’s provincial election might be a contest between the leader you don’t know and the leader you don’t like. The CBC's Robert Fisher talks about the way the public views Kathleen Wynne and Patrick Brown. 9:41

When it comes to public opinion the news this Friday, for Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne's, couldn't get much worse.

Just 12 per cent of people in the province, according to a poll released Friday by the Angus Reid Institute, approve of the job she is doing. 81 per cent disapprove.

Wynne has the lowest approval rating among all Canadian premiers measured in the poll though numbers for P.E.I. were not included in the data. It is also Wynne's lowest-ever approval rating in an Angus Reid survey since she became premier.

Fisher spoke with the CBC's Conrad Collaco about the return to legislature work for MPP. Listen to the full interview by clicking the image at the top of the page or read an edited and abridged transcript below.

Robert Fisher, Ontario politics analyst

What do you make of the Premier's drop to 12 per cent in her approval rating?

The survey from Angus Reid is continuing the bad news for Kathleen Wynne. Seems to be no bottom to her support. Someone tweeted that it's ironic that her approval rating is lower than her hydro cut of 25 per cent. While people may be happy with the cut they may wonder is this a death bed repentance? A Hail Mary pass from the Premier to save her government?

It's interesting to know the poll was taken after the announcement on hydro rates. There's no indication at this point the rate cut will prevent this downward spiral. No turnaround yet.

What do you think of the new Patrick Brown ads put out by the PC's?

They are all designed to reach undecided voters. You get the impression the Tories want you to know that he's the leader of a 'big tent' party. You see Mr. Brown and some, not all, members of his caucus walking in last summer's gay pride parade. While Mr. Brown and his party continue to top the polls a lot of voters still don't know what he stands for. 

Where does 19-year-old Niagara MPP Sam Oosterhoff, a social conservative, fit in Brown's 'big tent' party?

When you go back to the time when Mr. Brown became leader he won the support of social conservatives. He quickly realized that his past on issues like gay marriage and abortion would likely not get him elected as Premier of Ontario so you saw this change. At the same time Mr. Oosterhoff is a very important part of the caucus. He may be only 19 but he won re-nomination in the riding of Niagara West. He's a factor but he's not alone.

There are many others who are a part of the social conservative movement inside the caucus and out. Mr. Brown has a difficult road between now and the election to keep the people like Mr. Oosterhoff on side while expanding his support in the province. Polls indicate he has done just that but Ontario has a history where people park their votes between elections and things change dramatically once the campaign buses start rolling.

The approval ratings for Wynne are so low, does it matter what Mr. Brown does between now and the election?

Can he win the election by default? You've got the person you don't like and the person you don't know. And, quite frankly, you've got Hamilton's Andrea Horwath saying she could be a factor in the election. Some polls indicate she could move the party to second place with the Liberals falling to third. Who knows? Things are fluid except the one constant that Kathleen Wynne's approval rating keeps going down. That's why some are now saying publicly that maybe she should take a pass on the leadership and leave before the next election.  

A lot of people in the NDP are wondering where is Andrea Horwath in all this. She has been working hard to make sure people understand there are three parties in the legislature. She has come out with some policies. She has been very active in the legislature. She has been smart to not spend all of her time at Queen's Park and has been out to meet people. She's a pretty darn good campaigner. So far the polls indicate people are not ready to move her from third to first. 

Wynne also took a hit Tuesday night when former Liberal finance minister Greg Sorbara appeared on TVO's The Agenda. He told host Steve Paikin it's "extremely unlikely" the Liberals will win with Wynne leading them. How much is that going to hurt her and the party?

It's not helpful. You have senior people in the party like Mr. Sorbara. He was saying long before people believed him that Dalton McGuinty could be Premier of Ontario and could get re-elected. He has a long history in the party. Many Liberals I have spoken to discount what Sorbara has said. On Tuesday night he was on TVO saying one thing.

By Wednesday morning he was altering his views saying Ms. Wynne could pull out a victory but she should consider stepping down as leader. In politics government usually die of a thousand tiny cuts. One of those was administered by Mr. Sorbara. Is it fatal? I don't know. Does it help? Absolutely not.

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