Apr. 5, 2003
RICHARD LAUTENS/TORONTO STAR
Finance Minister Janet Ecker presents her budget Thursday in the research section of the Magna Technical Training Centre in Brampton. Magna built the centre after long federal and provincial government delays in providing adequate apprenticeship training.
 
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Budget a flop with many Ontarians
Almost half opposed TV presentation

CAROLINE MALLAN
QUEEN'S PARK BUREAU CHIEF

Many Ontarians don't like the idea of a government holding a budget speech outside the Legislature.

According to a Star poll conducted by EKOS Research Associates, 64 per cent of people who could "clearly recall" the March 27 budget speech were opposed to it being given at an auto parts training centre in Brampton rather than in the Legislature.

And 47 per cent of those who could only vaguely recall the speech said they opposed the location, while 16 per cent supported it and 29 per cent had no opinion.

Over-all, 49 per cent of Ontarians surveyed opposed having the speech outside the Legislature, 20 per cent supported it and 23 per cent neither supported nor opposed it.

And even among people who say they will vote for the Tories, 33 per cent said they opposed having the speech in Brampton, 36 per cent supported it and 24 per cent had no opinion.

People were focused on the location rather than the content of the budget because the move to Brampton angered MPPs, including Tory Speaker Gary Carr, and was declared unconstitutional in an opinion by legal expert Neil Finkelstein.

The budget is "a big yawn in the eyes of the public," said EKOS executive director Christian Boucher. Under normal circumstances, he added, a government can expect at least half of those surveyed to come away with positive feelings about the government in the days after a budget is delivered.

But the poll shows only 21 per cent of voters thought it was a "good" budget.

Moreover, the poll found 56 per cent of respondents did not think their lives would improve as a result of the budget, while 18 per cent thought their personal circumstances would be better and 18 per cent thought they would be worse off.

The Tories appear to have angered a solid chunk of their traditional supporters with the decision to deliver the budget in Brampton.

"People were not very impressed with that decision," said Boucher of the poll's findings. "This type of number is actually one of the worst post-budget reactions of all time."

The poll surveyed 703 people Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of this week. Results from a sample of that size are considered accurate to within 3.7 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

Premier Ernie Eves had promised to bring down his government's budget before the fiscal year ended March 31, and senior campaign advisers recommended the idea of moving the speech to Magna's facility, a company that has donated $25,000 to the Tories in recent years.

There was some good news in the substance of the budget for the Tories. Their plan to rebate education property taxes to everyone in the province aged 65 and over was overwhelmingly well received.

The poll shows 60 per cent of respondents fully support the plan, compared to just 17 per cent who think it is a bad idea, 21 per cent who view it as neither good nor bad, and 2 per cent who don't know.

The move to restore the tax credit for parents who send their children to private schools a plan that Ecker stalled in her previous budget last June was opposed by 44 per cent of those polled, but was supported by 27 per cent. A large portion, 26 per cent of voters, said they had no opinion on the tax credit scheme, while 4 per cent said they didn't know.





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