Nfld. & Labrador

New poll suggests 1 in 3 think Premier Dwight Ball should step down

A majority of respondents say Ball has done a good or acceptable job of handling the harassment and bullying allegations.

91% think allegations of bullying, harassment are likely true, but 44% say likely exaggerated

A majority of those polled support Premier Dwight Ball's management of bullying and harassment allegations. (Bruce Tilley/CBC)

One-third of people who were asked say Premier Dwight Ball should step down over the way he handled bullying and harassment allegations against two of his senior cabinet ministers, according to a new Abacus Data poll.

Specifically — out of the 800 people polled — 33 per cent said he should, 47 per cent said no and 21 per cent were not sure.   

Eddie Joyce and Dale Kirby were suspended from both the Liberal cabinet and caucus last month after Service NL Minister Sherry Gambin-Walsh and MHAs Pam Parsons, Tracey Perry and Colin Holloway came forward with complaints against Joyce or Kirby or both that rocked the provincial political landscape.

While the majority of those polled said Ball shouldn't resign, Abacus Data CEO David Coletto said the controversy isn't over yet.

"It doesn't mean that that number won't change — there is a sizable group who aren't sure yet — as the investigation goes on and people sort of dwell on the actions he took. But as of right now, you know, we don't see a sizable group saying he should go," Coletto told CBC Radio's St. John's Morning Show.

Brightest spot for Ball

When it comes to how Ball handled the situation related to the allegations, 51 per cent said he has done a good or acceptable job — that's compared with 36 per cent who said he did a poor job.

"That's the best maybe the premier could ask for … more [people] think he's done pretty good as opposed to pretty bad, which I think is good," said Coletto.

Several allegations of bullying and harassment have been levelled against Dale Kirby, left, and Eddie Joyce. (CBC)

But there is an even more encouraging figure for Ball, said Coletto.

"More important, when a pollster looks at these numbers, it's what do the people following the issue closely think? And in fact he gets higher positive numbers among those following this issue closely — 56 per cent think he's handled it acceptably," Coletto explained. 

Of those polled, a whopping 91 per cent think the allegations of bullying and harassment in the Liberal caucus and cabinet are likely to be true, but almost half — 44 per cent — think they are likely exaggerated.

Tories with slight edge

The poll also suggests that the Progressive Conservatives, under newly elected leader Ches Crosbie, have a slight lead over the Liberals.

But Coletto said the more interesting angle is the undecided vote, which sits at 43 per cent.

The PCs, and leader Ches Crosbie, would have a slight edge over the Liberals if an election was held today, according to an Abacus Data poll. (Paula Gale/CBC)

"That's still a huge number," he said, noting it's down slightly from January.

"Any polling that I do in other parts of the country, you usually see between 20 and 25 per cent saying they're undecided."

The future: of Ball, and the province

Voters in this province don't go to the polls until late 2019, but Dwight Ball may face his biggest test yet at the Liberal annual general meeting later this month.

He avoided a leadership review last year when the AGM was cancelled as a cost-saving measure for the party, but there will be one in Gander in two weeks.

It isn't only Ball's future that's undetermined; the poll suggests people are worried about the future of the province.

Specifically, 53 per cent of those asked feel the province is not on the right track, with debt, deficit and future opportunities topping the list of biggest concerns.

Many Liberals in the House of Assembly have said Ball still has their full support. (Mark Cumby/CBC)

"There is a lot of anxiety. And people, they recognize the problems the province is facing. I think, to some extent, they aren't necessarily satisfied with how the government has dealt with them, but also recognize that these problems might be bigger than any one government," said Coletto.

The Abacus Data poll was conducted with 800 adults in Newfoundland and Labrador from May 18-27. Of those interviews, 500 were conducted online and another 300 were conducted randomly by telephone, using both mobile phones and landlines.

The margin of error for a comparable probability-based random sample of 800 is plus or minus 3.5 per cent, 19 times out of 20.

See the full poll results here.

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