Tories accuse Wynne of riding a tractor the wrong way

The Ontario Progressive Conservatives were up in arms Tuesday after Liberal Leader Kathleen Wynne drove into an announcement about agricultural policies atop a tractor.

Visiting Sandra Vos’s beef farm in Paris, Ont., to make her announcement, Ms. Wynne slowly drove the tractor toward waiting media with Ms. Vos riding off the side of the vehicle.

A short time after the announcement, the PC campaign office released a statement saying Ms. Wynne’s behaviour was dangerous and violated farm safety guidelines.

“Kathleen Wynne set a very bad example this morning when she rode into her media avail with someone hanging off the side of a tractor,” the release read, citing statistics from the Health and Safety Guidelines for Ontario Tobacco Producers that farm tractors have killed 250 people on Ontario farms in a recent 15-year period.

“Many of the deaths have involved rollovers to the side or rear, extra passengers falling from the tractor and bystanders being run over,” the release continues, emphasizing the risk to passengers.

War room releases criticizing each party’s media events and announcements are a common tactic on the campaign trail. Usually the content of the announcements are the target for critique, though occasionally the circumstances around an event are called into question as well.

Wearing Liberal-red rubber boots, Ms. Wynne grinned as she hopped down from the tractor before making her announcement of a plan from the party’s proposed budget that would see a 10-year, $40 million a year fund to support farmers and the food processing industry.

The riding is currently held by Liberal MPP and house speaker Dave Levac, but the Grits have long struggled to make gains in rural Ontario where the PC party has multiple strongholds in no small part due to the support of farmers. Born in the Toronto suburb of Richmond Hill, Ms. Wynne took over as agriculture minister while serving as premier and faced criticism from the opposition about her ability to connect with the concerns of rural communities.

Stepping up to the microphone on the farm, Ms. Wynne said she enjoyed driving the tractor.

“It was a pleasure,” she said, adding she’ll take any opportunity she can to drive as a break from riding on her campaign bus. After the announcement, Ms. Wynne maneouvered the tractor back up to the barn.

No one was injured during the press conference.

Where do voters get their politics news? TV and the Internet, mostly

In this new digital age, how do you reach voters? Increasingly, parties need to go online. But for now TV is still king.



Abacus conducted the survey by talking to 2,002 Canadians over the age of 18 through a mix of online panels and live telephone interviews. The data were demographically weighted in line with the general population, and the margin of error is plus or minus 2.2 percentage points, 19 times out of 20. The poll was conducted in January and February of this year.

Ask The Globe: Do we, as PM Harper has stated, have the cleanest electricity grid in Canada?

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Globe reader Greg Bennett asks: Do we, as PM Harper has stated, have the cleanest electricity grid in Canada?

Energy reporter Shawn McCarthy says yes – it’s true. But the answer is a little more complicated:

Conservatives’ attacks on Mulcair not too effective, survey suggests

As explained in today’s story, new survey data from Innovative Research Group suggests the Liberals are having some success with advertising rebutting Conservative attacks against Justin Trudeau. But of course, they wouldn’t need to do so if those attacks hadn’t been effective in branding the Liberal Leader as a “not ready” lightweight to begin with.

To the much more limited extent that the Tories are going after NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair, it appears they’re struggling to find an angle that’s similarly effective.

In the same early-August  survey in which it found the Liberals’ new ad has a significant impact on those who see it, the polling company also tested a pair of anti-Mulcair Conservative ads. Both use the same “job interview” format as the ones against Mr. Trudeau, but the attempts to cast Mr. Mulcair as an opportunistic career politician seemed to have more limited effect.

In fact, when Innovative Research screened the first of those spots (above) – asking respondents a series of questions both before and after they saw it – it found no statistically significant impact on either voting intentions or impressions of Mr. Mulcair relative to the other party leaders.

The second ad, which is slightly more focused on alleging Mr. Mulcair has wasted taxpayers’ money and less so on using his longevity in politics and his past as a (Quebec) Liberal to suggest he’s an opportunist, proved somewhat more effective. Among respondents who hadn’t seen it before, support for the NDP went down by five percentage points after they saw it, although it’s not clear whether that went to the Tories or the Liberals. And the share of respondents who chose Mr. Mulcair as the leader who most “cares about people like me” went down by seven points.

While significant, neither of those hits is huge when an ad is viewed in isolation. And on other perceptions of leaders’ qualities, such as competence and who cares most about the middle class, there was again no clear impact.

Considering how little these two ads have been airing so far, it’s possible the Tories aren’t using their best stuff against the NDP yet. But it’s worth remembering that, even with Mr. Trudeau, they spent a while running spots that didn’t really work before they hit their target. If they decide before this campaign is over to make Mr. Mulcair their main target, they’ll have a much smaller window to get it right.

(Full methodology for Innovative Research’s surveys are available from its website.)