Ontarians split on Drummond report recommendations

Dwight Duncan's deficit-busting recommendations are getting mixed reactions from Ontarians.

According to a Forum Research poll, 30 per cent of those surveyed approved of the so-called Drummond report, 32 per cent opposed it, and 38 per cent were undecided.

The comprehensive fiscal audit, released Wednesday, was commissioned by the McGuinty government to help the province recover from its financial malaise.

Over the past several years, Canada's largest province has been forced to deal with the fallout from a struggling economy that has shed thousands of manufacturing jobs, contributed to shrinking revenues, and lead to crippling debt servicing charges.

Last December, ratings agency Moody's lowered the province's outlook from "stable" to "negative."

The remedy, Drummond claims, includes drastic budgets cuts equating to 17 per cent over the next 5 years.

Among his 320 recommendations, Drummond suggests the McGuinty government consider axing full-day kindergarten, increase class sizes, raise the retirement age for teachers, freeze public sector wages and cap health care spending at 2.5 per cent.

According to the Forum poll - which was published in the Toronto Star - Ontarians aren't eager for some of the harsh medicines.

The poll claims 53 per cent oppose the elimination of full-day kindergarten, while 46 per cent were uneasy about caps on health care spending.

The most popular of Drummond's proposals was closing one of the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation's two headquarters — in either Toronto or Sault Ste. Marie — with 76 per cent support and only 12 per cent opposition and 12 per cent unsure.

A recommendation to close one of OLG's two Niagara Falls casinos was also well-received with 61 per cent backing that and only 22 per cent opposed and 18 uncertain.

Regardless, Ontarians may have little choice but to accept all the austerity measures.

Drummond says Ontario's problems are fixable but only if the government adheres to all his recommendations.

"Each rejected recommendation must be replaced, not by a vacuum, but by a better idea," he told reporters Wednesday.

"[An idea] that delivers a similar fiscal benefit."

Forum's interactive voice-response telephone poll of 1,218 people, conducted on Wednesday, is considered accurate to within 2.8 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.