BC Premier Horgan’s popularity has increased 9 percentage points since December

John Horgan

Premier John Horgan has backing of 52 per cent of BC residents – an increase of 9 percentage points since December

 

VIEWS of the job performance of Canada’s first ministers vary widely according to new public opinion polling data analyzed by the non-profit Angus Reid Institute and donated by Angus Reid Global Public Affairs, though this quarterly survey finds a slight warming towards many premiers.

As Premier Rachel Notley fights what looks to be an improbable bid for re-election, Albertans appear to approve of her more today than they have at any time in the last three years.

Indeed, most premiers have seen their standing among their own constituencies improve – or at least hold – since December. The two exceptions are Ontario Premier Doug Ford and Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil.

 

Trio enjoys majority approval

 

For the second consecutive quarter, Quebec Premier François Legault is Canada’s most popular provincial head of government. In the month that his government introduced its first budget – showing the province’s fifth consecutive surplus – the Coalition Avenir Quebec leader enjoys the approval of six-in-10 Quebecers (60%), a number that is statistically unchanged from where it was in December.

The high degree of approval for Legault suggests that the premier’s political honeymoon is still very much ongoing, despite facing criticism for his recent assertion that there is no Islamophobia in Quebec and for doing too little to address climate change.

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe enjoys essentially the same level of personal approval, at 59 per cent. Moe’s popularity with Saskatchewan residents has risen seven points since he succeeded former premier Brad Wall early last year.

British Columbia Premier John Horgan also receives the approval of more than half of his province this quarter, earning the backing of 52 per cent of BC residents. This represents an increase of 9 percentage points since December, when four-in-10 (43%) approved of his performance. The current number ties Horgan’s highest mark as premier, which was set in March 2018.

Horgan’s resurgent popularity comes as opposition leader Andrew Wilkinson has struggled to connect with British Columbians. He’s been accused of being “out of touch” over – among other things – comments he made about renting, a touchy subject in and around Metro Vancouver because of ongoing affordability issues.

 

Notley rises pre-election, Higgs rises post

Canada’s newest premier – Blaine Higgs of New Brunswick – sees a nine-point increase in approval, rising from 40 to 49 per cent since December. Higgs’ Conservatives introduced their first budget this month, posting a meagre surplus and no tax increases. His minority government is searching for stability in its infancy, and has tried to balance spending increases and cuts.

Meanwhile, Manitoba’s Brian Pallister has hinted at an early election call, though a return to the ballot boxes is not required until October 2020. Pallister’s government introduced a budget recently that proposes to cut the Provincial Sales Tax from eight per cent to seven per cent, following through on a key election promise. His approval this quarter rises to 44 per cent, its highest level since March 2017.

One premier who did call an election this month is Alberta’s Rachel Notley. The NDP leader faces long odds ahead of the April 16 election day according to recent polls, including one released by the Angus Reid Institute, which have consistently pointed to a substantial lead for the opposition United Conservative Party. That said, Notley’s personal appeal appears to continue to rise. For the fifth consecutive wave of this quarterly survey, Notley’s approval has increased. It is now up to four-in-ten (40%).

Three leaders below four-in-ten approval mark
Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s approval drops four points this quarter to 38 per cent. Ford has faced criticism for his government’s decision to increase class sizes under the province’s new education plan. Ford was, however, cleared of personal wrongdoing in an ethics investigation looking into the appointment of his long-time friend Ron Taverner as Ontario Provincial Police commissioner. While Ford was found to have remained “at arm’s-length” during the process, the integrity commissioner did express serious doubts about the fairness of the process, given how the government handled it.

Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Dwight Ball faces an election later this year. In a move to potentially set the tone for the year, his government made several announcements in March, though Ball insisted he was not kicking off campaign season quite yet. These included the creation of an all-party committee on democratic reform, a new focus for the Office for the Status of Women, and details from the government’s climate change action plan. Ball holds the favour of just over one-in-three residents this quarter (35%).

Rounding out the list of approval ratings is Canada’s longest-serving premier, Nova Scotia’s Stephen McNeil. The Liberal leader has the lowest approval of any premier at 24 per cent. McNeil has faced criticism over perceived failures in promised health care improvement, and allocating spending for an American ferry terminal, something the government says will help boost tourism.