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Oshawa Plant Closure Lands with a Loud Bang


[Ottawa – December 6, 2018] The closing of the GM assembly plant in Oshawa has aroused near-universal attention. Over 90 per cent of Ontarians say they are following this issue.

Ontarians are naturally worried: 82 per cent registered at least some concern, with 42 per cent expressing a high degree of concern. Not surprisingly, the latter figure jumps to 56 per cent among those most affected by the plant’s closure – residents of Oshawa.

Turning to how the public feel about Premier Ford’s handling of the issue, we find that they are largely underwhelmed. More than half of Ontarians (56 per cent) – including nearly full two-thirds of Oshawa residents – say they disapprove of the Premier’s handling. Negative sentiments are particularly high among union members. Ford supporters are generally satisfied with how he is managing the situation (81 per cent), but satisfaction drops precipitously when we turn Liberals, Greens, and NDP voters (21 per cent, 20 per cent, and 14 per cent, respectively).

A six-month post-election check-up on the voter landscape

The usual honeymoon period appears enjoyed by most new governments appears to have either never happened or disappeared abruptly. Confidence in provincial direction is very low and confidence in the direction of the Queen’s Park government is lower still.

Only one-third of Ontarians (34 per cent) approve of the direction of the provincial government. Disapproval is particularly acute among younger Ontarians (71 per cent), while women and the university educated are similarly underwhelmed (68 per cent and 66 per cent, respectively). Notably, two-thirds of Oshawians (66 per cent) register disapproval, which suggests that the handling of this issue is directly connected to the flagging Ford fortunes. Interestingly, one-quarter of Ford voters (26 per cent) give the government a failing grade in terms its direction. Among other party supporters, this figures stands at 67 to 90 per cent.

Turning to vote intention, the Conservatives have seen a six-point decline in their Election Day results and now have the support of just 34 per cent of voters. The Liberals, meanwhile, have recovered dramatically and find themselves at 28 per cent, while the NDP has dropped to third place at 26 per cent. It is also noteworthy that the Green Party is registering at nine per cent.

Notably, Doug Ford’s approval rating mirrors his vote share (35 per cent). His approval rating drops to a very low 25 per cent among women and 28 per cent among the university-educated. Ford’s best performance is with men (46 per cent) and those with a college degree (43 per cent).

Concluding remarks

The bottom line is that the plant closure has landed with a resounding thud that seems to be having a corrosive impact on Doug Ford’s government and most Ontarians feel he is mishandling this issue.


This survey was conducted using High Definition Interactive Voice Response (HD-IVR™) technology, which allows respondents to enter their preferences by punching the keypad on their phone, rather than telling them to an operator. In an effort to reduce the coverage bias of landline only RDD, we created a dual landline/cell phone RDD sampling frame for this research. As a result, we are able to reach those with a landline and cellphone, as well as cellphone-only households and landline only households.

The field dates for this survey are November 30 to December 3, 2018. In total, a random sample of 1,025 residents of Ontario aged 18 and over responded to the survey, including a sub-sample of 240 Oshawa residents. The margin of error associated with the total sample is +/- 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

Please note that the margin of error increases when the results are sub-divided (i.e., error margins for sub-groups such as region, sex, age, education). All the data have been statistically weighted by age, gender, and region to ensure the sample’s composition reflects that of the actual population of Canada according to Census data.

This survey was commissioned by Unifor.

Please click here for the full report.

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