POLITICS
09/20/2011 04:00 EDT | Updated 11/19/2011 05:12 EST

Ontario election campaign goes rural Tuesday; party leaders attend plowing match

TORONTO - The election campaigns of all three Ontario party leaders converge Tuesday at the International Plowing Match.

It's widely seen as rural Ontario's biggest event of the year, and this year it is being held in Chute-a-Blondeau, just across the river from Quebec in eastern Ontario.

The plowing match is an annual pilgrimage for Ontario politicians of all political stripes, who end their day by taking the wheel of a tractor to show off their plowing skills.

Despite the election campaign, this year is no different.

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath says she plows a pretty straight furrow and likes her chances.

On the campaign trail Monday, Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak assailed smart meters, promising to scrap the program he called just another tax.

Smart meters allow people to shift electricity-consuming chores to off-peak times when power rates are lower to save money and ease the load on the system.

Many families simply end up paying the higher rates because they can't shift their power-usage habits, Hudak said.

Hudak wouldn't say what power would cost if the system was scrapped but said it would be a flat rate.

The Liberal government maintains the meters are a valuable conservation tool because they force people to think about their power use.

Premier Dalton McGuinty shifted his campaign focus to health care, saying that savings can be found in the expensive ministry without making cuts to hospitals.

The Liberal leader maintains the Progressive Conservatives would close hospitals if they are elected Oct. 6.

He used his government's fight with pharmacists over a plan to cut generic drug costs, saying the battle saved the province $500 million.

Horwath called on Toronto to hold off on planned transit cuts until after the provincial election.

Horwath talked about her plan as about 250 employees of the Toronto Transit Commission got their layoff notices.

She said an NDP government would foot 50 per cent of the operating costs for municipal transit systems in the province.