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.