POLITICS
09/16/2014 05:16 EDT | Updated 06/16/2017 00:54 EDT

Rural-urban divide dominates Ontario politicians' annual trek to plowing match

IVY, Ont. - The urban-rural divide dominated Tuesday the annual pilgrimage of the province's political leaders to the International Plowing Match, where they trumpeted their ties to rural Ontario and tried their hand at a tractor plow.

Premier Kathleen Wynne's Liberals long ago "figured out" that rural Ontario accounts for a small percentage of the vote and treat it that way, Interim Progressive Conservative Leader Jim Wilson said at the event, held near Barrie, Ont.

"She's being disingenuous, the premier is, when she doesn't admit (a divide) exists," he said.

"She obviously became the minister of agriculture as well as being premier in her first year to try and cure that divide or bring them together and they've not done that."

Wilson said people are especially "mad as hell" when the government places wind turbines in communities in which they are not wanted.

Wynne acknowledged that discontent exists over wind turbines, but said the government has changed rules to allow for more community input.

Nearly 40 Liberal MPPs made the trek to the plowing match to talk to rural Ontarians, Wynne said.

"It's especially important because many of them don't have rural sections in their ridings, aren't from rural ridings, so it's doubly important that those members connect with people from rural Ontario and hear their issues," she said.

The three main Ontario political leaders rode into the plowing match on floats with fellow party members, spoke at the opening ceremony and heaped praise on the province's agricultural sector, then took turns on tractors plowing furrows.

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath, who admitted she was wearing boots she bought on Queen Street West in downtown Toronto, said she doesn't think there is a big urban-rural divide in Ontario, but if there is one it should be overcome.

"I think the folks in rural Ontario feel that oftentimes their voices are not being heard at Queen's Park and that's a frustration," Horwath said.

This year marked the 101st International Plowing Match, an event that celebrates agriculture and rural living.