While Premier Kathleen Wynne insists she represents “one Ontario,” opposition leaders say her stand on wind power has made her few friends outside of urban centres.
Wynne acknowledged that not all the people lining the parade route at the International Plowing Match and Rural Expo on Tuesday were cheering for her as the Ontario Liberal float passed by spectators.
But the premier rejected the idea that she’s unwelcome in rural parts of the province after gaining a majority government largely on urban and suburban votes.
“I can choose any street in Ontario and there will be people who love us and people who don’t love us,” Wynne said.
Interim PC Leader Jim Wilson accused Wynne of being “disingenuous when she fails to acknowledge that Liberals are at odds with rural residents.
“They place their wind turbines in communities where they’re not wanted at prices Ontario families can’t afford,” he said, noting the government will allow eight, 150-metre turbines at Collingwood Airport despite local concerns.
The Liberals calculated that there were more votes in urban centres, and wrote off these communities more than a decade ago, Wilson said.
NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said she has heard complaints from rural residents about the Green Energy Act and the handling of the horse-racing industry.
“The folks in rural Ontario feel that often times their voices are not being heard at Queen’s Park,” she added.
Wynne countered her government realizes that the agri-food industry is worth $34 billion and employs 700,000 people, and is challenging the sector to create 100,000 more jobs by 2020.
As for wind turbines, Wynne said that a source of clean renewable energy is essential.
“We also recognize that there are communities that are not happy with the placement of wind turbines,” she said. “We understand that there needs to be more community input.”
All three political leaders had a chance to show off their skills on a tractor in a plowing contest that was judged to be a three-way tie.