Elxn NS 20130925

Darrell Dexter spent Sunday campaigning in the Halifax area. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press)

Stephen McNeil says the Liberals would form a council to look at ways of boosting immigration to Nova Scotia if the party wins the province's Oct. 8 election.

The Liberal leader says the council would be formed early in the party's mandate as it looks for ways to reverse a decline in the province's population.

All three main party leaders campaigned Sunday in the seat-rich Halifax area, where NDP Leader Darrell Dexter focused on providing services to children with special needs.

Dexter is promising a three-year, $6-million plan to cut waiting times for early intervention programs, as well as increasing salaries for those working in the programs to help with staff recruitment.

Progressive Conservative Leader Jamie Baillie says he would expand the use of ankle bracelets for offenders and people accused of dangerous crimes.

Baillie says too many people do not follow court-ordered conditions and the bracelets would give authorities a tool to track those on release.

Baillie says statistics from the Justice Department show that 30 per cent of offenders breached their conditions in 2011.

"Nova Scotians deserve to feel safe and secure in their own homes and communities," Baillie said in a statement. "Electronic monitoring of dangerous offenders acts as a crime prevention tool that will make would-be re-offenders think twice and save families the pain that comes with being a victim of crime."

The Tories say they would spend $3.6 million over four years to increase the number of ankle bracelets to as many as 500 of the devices.

The party says government statistics from last September indicate 70 people were wearing ankle bracelets.

Dexter's promise builds on steps the NDP says it has already taken to help children with special needs.

Dexter said the NDP would appoint staff at the IWK Health Centre to act as the main point of contact for families using early intervention services. These so-called family navigators would work directly with families to develop care plans, co-ordinate care providers and enlist the help of specialists and therapists.

"Nothing means more to a parent than knowing their child can get the best start in life," Dexter said in a statement. "Under the NDP we've worked with families to make getting support easier but there is still more to do."

In addition to the immigration council, McNeil said he would establish a program to connect with alumni of Nova Scotia universities to develop international relationships.

He said he would also change the provincial nominee program to attract more immigrants who want to start businesses in the province, accusing the NDP of not doing enough to increase the number of immigrants.

Statistics Canada show that Nova Scotia's population dropped by 900 from April 1 until July 1 of this year, leaving the province with 940,800 people. That is the largest population decrease for that time period since 1972.