Olivia Chow’s approval rating remains steady a year after becoming Toronto mayor

Olivia Chow’s approval rating remains steady a year after becoming Toronto mayor

A new poll shows that Toronto Mayor Olivia Chow remains on solid support a year after taking office.

A new poll from Liaison Strategies shows that Olivia Chow would be re-elected if the mayoral election were held today, outperforming her nearest rival by nearly 20 points.

It also showed that Chow has a 59 percent approval rating citywide, down from the 73 percent she had shortly after taking office last summer, but up slightly from the low 52 percent in April and May.

“I think the biggest thing that happened was the budget, and we saw a very steep decline when the budget was introduced,” David Valentin, director of Liaison Strategies, told CP24. “And of course, nobody likes new taxes, right? It’s a big increase, and I think while some people recognize that the city was in a difficult financial situation, at the same time, Torontonians are dealing with a cost crisis. And so it’s sometimes hard to reconcile the two things when you’re looking at what needs to happen in the city versus what’s happening in your own financial situation.”

The poll, conducted for the National Ethnic Press and Media Council of Canada (NEPMCC), surveyed 858 Torontonians July 7-8 using interactive voice response technology. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.35 percent 19 times out of 20.

Chow’s first year in office was fraught with challenges, including a financial crisis that led to a 9.5 percent tax hike, the largest increase since the merger.

For months, divisive and sometimes violent protests against the war between Israel and Hamas have taken place, and the city has also seen the demise of several important programs, such as Café TO and the tax on vacant homes.

However, the mayor also achieved some major victories, including negotiating a new deal with the provincial government that will save Toronto billions of dollars over the next decade, largely through the construction of the DVP and Gardiner Expressway back to Queen’s Park.

The deal also prevented a controversial council decision on rebuilding the eastern section of the Gardiner from being reopened.

A threatened strike at the TTC also never happened, thanks to a deal struck at the last minute.

“What we’re seeing now, you know, we’re further off budget. The mayor was able to prevent a TTC strike. We heard a lot about this potential strike, and then of course it didn’t happen,” Valentin said. “And so I think that’s all adding up to an uptick and we’re actually seeing it in the 59 percent range for the first time in a long time.”

Chow’s strongest support is in the centre, where she has an approval rating of 64 percent, followed by North York, where it stands at 63 percent, and Scarborough, where it stands at 55 percent. Chow’s support is weakest in Etobicoke, where more people (53 percent) actually disapprove of her job as mayor, compared to just 41 percent who approve.

The poll found that 32 percent of city residents disagree with the way Chow is handling his job as mayor, while nine percent are unsure.

Growing concern about crime

On issues, Chow receives strong support when it comes to her approach to public transportation (74 percent) and relationships with other levels of government (67 percent). However, she receives weak points from respondents when it comes to tackling traffic congestion (31 percent) and crime (42 percent).

The issues that matter most to Toronto residents are affordable housing and crime.

While concerns about affordable housing have fallen slightly from 36 percent in February to 30 percent now, concerns about crime have increased from 17 percent to 25 percent.

Also, more people now believe the city should cut spending rather than raise taxes. Support for both was about equal (28 percent and 30 percent, respectively) in June 2023. However, 45 percent now say the city should cut spending, while just 21 percent say taxes should be raised.

Other findings from the poll include weaker approval of what the job council is doing. About 49 per cent of Torontonians now say they approve of what the job council is doing, compared to 57 per cent in August 2023.

While the number of people who think the city is going in the wrong direction has remained largely unchanged since Chow took power (39 percent in June 2023, compared to 42 percent now), the number of respondents who think it is going in the right direction has increased.

About 52 percent now think the city is moving in the right direction, compared to just 32 percent in June 2023.