The Liberals appear to have narrowed the gap on the Tories following the release of a budget packed with new investments but only one in four voters actually say that they approve of a spending plan that will plunge the province back into deficit territory for the next six years, a new poll has found.

The poll of 728 randomly selected Ontarians by Forum Research found that 36 per cent of them are most likely to vote for the Tories in June’s election while 29 per cent of them are most likely to vote for the Liberals. Support for the NDP was at 26 per cent and support for the Green party was at 7 per cent.

The result represents a significant shift from the last Forum Research poll that was conducted shortly after Doug Ford was elected as leader of the PC party. That poll found that 44 per cent of respondents were leaning towards voting for the Tories while 27 per cent were leaning towards the NDP and just 23 per cent favoured the Liberals.

Forum Research says that the results from their latest poll indicates that the Tories would form a minority government if an election were held today with 57 seats. The Liberals would have 36 seats and the NDP would have 31.

“This has got to be disappointing for Doug Ford. Not only are the Tories down but the Liberals are up and they are ahead in the 416, his hometown,” Forum Research President Lorne Bozinoff told CP24 on Friday. “The thing to remember though is that this is round one. It is realty the start of the campaign. Round one goes to the Liberals but this is a long campaign.”

Only one in four approve of budget

The budget, which was tabled on Wednesday, includes $20.3 billion in new spending over the next three years.

The money will help pay for free childcare for preschool-age kids, free drugs for seniors, the largest investment in mental health care ever and a new basic dental and drug plan for those without workplace benefits.

Though Bozinoff noted that the budget appears to be a “good start” for the Liberals, the Forum Research poll found that most did not approve of it as a whole.

In fact, only 24 per cent of respondents said that they approved of the budget compared to 44 per cent who said they disapproved. A further 32 per cent said they weren’t sure whether they approved or disapproved.

In terms of voting intention, the Forum Research poll found that 45 per cent of respondents were less likely to vote Liberal in the wake of the budget while just 18 per cent said that it would make them more likely to vote for the party. A further 25 per cent said that it would not have an effect on their vote.

Interestingly, respondents did approve of most of the big money items in the budget individually.

About 53 per cent of respondents approved of the Liberal plan to make daycare free for pre-school-aged children while 61 per cent approved of their plan to make drugs free for seniors and 68 per cent backed the money allotted to providing more support for home care for aging Ontarians.

“They say they don’t like election goodies but in fact it does motivate them,” Bozinoff said. “You see that with this poll. It has had a big impact and it has made the Liberals competitive.”

The poll is considered accurate to within four percentage points, 19 times out of 20.