Ford and Horwath promise natural gas expansion for rural Ontario at plowing match

Premier Doug Ford and opposition leader Andrea Horwath made remarks at the 101st International Plowing Match in Chatham-Kent Tuesday afternoon, promising the expansion of natural gas for rural communities in Ontario.

No extensive comment on the ongoing dispute in legislature about Toronto city council

Premier Doug Ford reaffirms their decision to cut cap-and-trade by saying it helps with bringing down natural gas bills. (Turget Yeter/CBC)

Ontario premier Doug Ford and leader of the opposition Andrea Horwath took a break from sparring in legislature for the International Plowing Match — where they promised the expansion of natural gas to rural Ontario communities.

The two politicians were in Pain Court, Ont. for the rural expo running for the 101st year over the next five days.

"This new program led by the private sector would provide natural gas to as many as 78 communities, 33,000 new households across all of rural and northern Ontario," said Ford.

He then said the natural gas bills will be kept low through savings from cutting cap-and-trade and the carbon tax.

The Government of Ontario says in a news release that families will save about $80 a year and small businesses $285 a year from removal of the carbon tax.

Horwath who took the stage later was in agreement with Ford about natural gas expansion, saying they will make sure the promise is kept.

They were also in agreement about increasing the risk management program cap.

"Life in rural ontario has never been easy," said Horwath, who mentioned her commitment to make sure rural hospitals and schools are running well and that highways are well-maintained and safe.

The annual plowing match is considered a major event for Ontario's agricultural community and there is a long-standing tradition of having political leaders take part in a contest to see who can better plow in a straight line.

Ford and Horwath will compete this afternoon.

The match comes at a tense time in the legislature, as Ford and the Progressive Conservative party has been working to pass a bill to cut Toronto's city council nearly in half, in the middle of an election campaign.

Horwath and her party has been highly critical of the bill.

Ford is pushing it forward by invoking a constitutional provision known as the notwithstanding clause, in order to override a court ruling by an Ontario judge, who found his plan violated voter and candidate rights.

During her speech, Horwath did not comment extensively on her party's dispute with the Progressive Conservatives in legislature over Ford's use of the notwithstanding clause, other than saying they were kept up "pretty late the other night."

While Ford was speaking, there were people holding signs outside the tent that say "don't plow our charter."

With files from The Canadian Press