Sudbury

Provincial politicians spar over manners, rural broadband at International Plowing Match in northern Ontario

Ontario's annual International Plowing Match got underway today in Verner, Ont. with provincial leaders professing their love for farmers, while losing patience with each other.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford, NDP Leader Andrea Horwath, among those at opening ceremonies Tuesday

Ontario Premier Doug Ford driving a tractor for the second time at an International Plowing Match, this one in Verner, Ont. (Erik White/CBC)

Ontario's annual International Plowing Match got underway Tuesday in Verner, Ont. with provincial leaders professing their love for farmers, while losing patience with each other.

Progressive Conservative Premier Doug Ford received cheers mixed with boos as he addressed the crowd in the small town between Sudbury and North Bay.

Afterwards he blamed the New Democrats in the crowd for the "classless" display and told reporters that he raised it with NDP leader Andrea Horwath.

Horwath in turn told media during her scrum that the boos were likely from northerners upset with public service cuts, including those in the Ministry of Agriculture.

Ford told the crowd that it's well known he loves farmers "because we share the same values."

"With this government rural Ontario finally has a seat at the table and I'm so proud of that," Ford said, adding that his government is committed to expanding broadband Internet and natural gas service in rural areas.

NDP leader Andrea Horwath waves to the crowd during the opening parade at the International Plowing Match, with the local MPP and farmer John Vanthof at the wheel of the tractor pulling the orange wagon. (Erik White/CBC )

Horwath told the crowd that lack of reliable Internet connectivity is "holding back rural and northern Ontario" and that under her government, it would be seen as an "essential service."

"If we keep relying on only the private sector, it's not going to happen," the NDP leader told the crowd.

Interim Liberal leader John Fraser and Green Party leader Mike Schreiner also spoke and took part in the annual plowing competition, with each leader driving a tractor matching their party colours.

As the federal election campaign continues, Ford said at the plowing match he was too busy governing to campaign with federal Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer.

Ford says he doesn't want to interfere in the federal election and may the best party win.

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau has often tried to tie Scheer to Ford, suggesting that what's happening in Ontario reflects what a Scheer government would look like.  

With files from The Canadian Press

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