Ontario Votes 2014·SPIN CYCLE

'Tractorgate' spawned from Kathleen Wynne photo op

A Liberal trip to the farm wound up giving the Progressive Conservatives a chance to sling mud Tuesday, in what the internet has nicknamed "Tractorgate."

PCs call out Liberal leader for farm safety, internet runs with it

Kathleen Wynne drives a tractor

8 years ago
Duration 1:25
Ontario's iLiberal leader was later called out by the PCs for this trip from a barn to a podium.

A Liberal trip to the farm wound up giving the Progressive Conservatives a chance to sling mud Tuesday, in what the internet has nicknamed "Tractorgate."

When Liberal Leader Kathleen Wynne drove a tractor up to a campaign stop in Paris, near Brantford, she did so with farmer Sandra Vos sitting on top of the wheel well.

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne drives a tractor with instruction from farmer Sandra Vos, right, at a campaign event in Paris, Ontario on Tuesday May 20, 2014. (Frank Gunn/Canadian Press)

Just about two hours later, the PC team sent out a news release with the headline "PREMIER IS SETTING A BAD EXAMPLE," noting how many people they say have died in Ontario at farms and on tractors.

"According to the Health and Safety Guidelines for Ontario Tobacco Producers, farm tractors have killed 250 people on Ontario farms in a recent fifteen 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 party said, the emphasis being theirs.

"As the Minister of Agriculture, Kathleen Wynne should set a good example by following ALL safety guidelines."

The Ontario Ministry of Labour's tractor safety guidelines do say that a competent person" should help someone training to drive a tractor by giving directions from a "safe distance."

Liberal MPP Deb Matthews reacted to the PCs' attempt to portray Wynne as a tractor disaster waiting to happen on a later conference call.

"There are important issues in this campaign and I suspect that how the premier drives a tractor is not one of those issues," she said.

After disembarking from what's now the most infamous tractor in Canadian politics, Wynne made an actual policy announcement: pouring $40 million over 10 years into a fund to help farmers buy equipment and support the agri-food industry.

But anyway, back to #tractorgate…

​Update: On Wednesday, Liberal Party staffers sent us along video of Hudak (and Wynne, and NDP leader Andrea Horwath) driving tractors with other people standing on the sides from last September's International Plowing Match.

You can see that here.

This is the first instalment of Spin Cycle, an occasional look at political messaging in the Ontario election campaign.

Mobile users can click here to see some of Twitter's reaction.


Andrew Foote

Digital reporter

Andrew Foote has been covering Ottawa-area news for the CBC since February 2013 after graduating from Carleton University. He can be reached at andrew.foote@cbc.ca.