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Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne drives a tractor with instruction from farmer Sandra Vos, right, at a campaign event in Paris, Ontario on Tuesday May 20, 2014, 2014. (Frank Gunn/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne drives a tractor with instruction from farmer Sandra Vos, right, at a campaign event in Paris, Ontario on Tuesday May 20, 2014, 2014. (Frank Gunn/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Ontario Liberals, PCs make plays for rural voters Add to ...

Kathleen Wynne helmed a tractor and Tim Hudak tightened the bolts on a manure spreader on Tuesday, as the Liberals and Progressive Conservatives strengthened their bid to sway rural voters in the June 12 provincial election.

The top parties entered the final stretch of the campaign battling over the rural vote and preparing to release a barrage of election advertising.

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Liberal Leader Kathleen Wynne visited a beef farm in Paris, Ont., where she highlighted a plan from the party’s proposed budget for a 10-year, $40-million-a-year fund to support farmers and the food-processing industry. She also highlighted the Farms Forever program, designed to protect farmland in the province.

“It is absolutely important to the future of this province that we have a strong agriculture and food industry,” she told reporters after driving a tractor down the farm lane. “Yes, this is about campaigning, but it is more importantly about the future of the province.”

PC Leader Tim Hudak countered by accusing the Liberals of creating a “rural-urban divide” and not paying enough attention to the agricultural industry.

During a visit to Veldale Farms in Woodstock, Ont., Mr. Hudak re-emphasized his plan to reduce government regulations in the province – a focus of his campaign on Monday as well – asserting that this would help farmers to run their businesses.

He also said that rural municipalities should get a higher share of gas-tax revenues to go toward infrastructure investment.

“Every community will get its fair share of gas-tax revenue,” Mr. Hudak said.

He repeated a pledge to scale back wind and solar power projects as well, redirecting those investments to lowering hydro bills. The PC camp says its plan will save the average family $384 per year in hydro expenses and that cheaper energy will attract more business and jobs to the province.

To drive the point home, Mr. Hudak also visited Nuhn Industries in Sebringville, Ont., whose founder Dennis Nuhn supports the PC platform.

“Now I’m going to finish off this before she rolls off and hits the road for Iowa,” Mr. Hudak said before kneeling down to tighten bolts on a wheel of one of the liquid manure spreaders that Nuhn Industries manufactures.

“One of these is going to Wisconsin, another is going to Iowa, and two more coming down the pipe to head to Russia,” Mr. Hudak said. “It makes me proud … to see this kind of homegrown machinery winning contracts in some of the biggest agricultural jurisdictions in the world.”

All three parties, meanwhile, prepared to launch a spate of advertising on Wednesday, when an embargo on election ads is lifted.

Until now, the NDP, Liberals and Progressive Conservatives have been permitted to release ads online, but only on their own channels – such as their websites or YouTube channels – and not through paid media such as TV commercial time or preroll advertising that plays before videos online.

Beginning at midnight on Wednesday, the Liberal ads feature Ms. Wynne boasting of the party’s plans to create jobs and start a provincial pension plan. She then takes aim at the Tories, saying their plan to cut 100,000 jobs will affect education and health care.

The Liberals also have 35 radio spots narrated by Ms. Wynne with targeted messaging for different areas of the province.

The NDP’s first ad focuses an attack on the Liberals, with a rolling tally of money the Liberal government spent on such political gaffes at the eHealth, Ornge and gas-plants scandals.

The PCs’ first ads focused on a message of “hope” and addressing unemployment.

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