NDP Leader Jack Layton said Friday he would work with the provinces to hire 1,200 doctors and 6,000 nurses over the next 10 years.

As well, he said, the NDP would invest $80 million to upgrade medical schools and educate the next generation of family doctors.

The party would create a fund to repatriate 300 Canadian doctors now practising abroad and "streamline" the credential recognition process to get hundreds of foreign-trained doctors accredited in Canada more quickly.

'I think we're just being very reasonable and measured.' —NDP Leader Jack Layton

Layton's plan would also include loan forgiveness for medical professionals who practise family medicine for at least 10 years and offered help to health professionals willing to practise in rural areas.

The overall plan is what the party proposed in the 2008 campaign, but this time would cost $35 million less a year ($165 million versus $200 million), the CBC's James Cudmore reported. The NDP attributes the difference to the "fiscal framework" in 2011 compared with 2008.

Layton made the health-care announcement during a campaign stop at Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ont.

Campaign energy questioned

The NDP leader was asked afterward by reporters about a perceived lack of energy in his campaign, with fewer events each day than the Liberals and Tories, and a sense that it lacks pizzazz compared with previous NDP campaigns. The issue was raised Friday in a Globe and Mail article, which questioned whether campaign's easier pace might account for its slip in recent polls.


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Layton, who is recovering from a bout with cancer and recent hip surgery, denied any lack of zing in the campaign compared with previous years. 

"I think we're just being very reasonable and measured," he said, challenging reporters to find their own explanations.

Elsewhere in the campaign Friday, Green Party Leader Elizabeth May was expected to pick up an endorsement from Linda Keen, the former head of Canada’s nuclear safety watchdog, at a videoconference Friday afternoon.

Conservative Leader Stephen Harper was touting his party's economic track record  at a campaign event in Dieppe, N.B., Friday morning.

The Conservative leader used his first campaign stop in New Brunswick to remind voters about economic measures first outlined in the budget, which was introduced before the campaign started but never passed.

Harper reiterated his budget commitment to extend a work-sharing initiative to allow for an extra 16 weeks, which would allow employees to work part of a week while collecting Employment Insurance benefits on the other days.

"I have to tell you this program has been enormously successful in combating the effects of the recession in Canada," Harper said. "Almost 280,000 jobs have been protected by this program, some right here in Moncton."

The Tories are hoping to make inroads in New Brunswick, where they hold six of 10 seats. Harper's Friday appearance is in the riding of Moncton-Riverview-Dieppe, the riding many Tories had hoped former New Brunswick premier Bernard Lord would contest.

While Lord opted to take a pass on the campaign, the Tories are still hoping to wrest the riding away from the Liberals. The Conservatives also have former Brian Mulroney-era cabinet minister Bernard Valcourt running in the Liberal-held riding of Madawaska-Restigouche in northwestern New Brunswick.

Harper was to go next to a rally in Covehead, P.E.I., on Friday evening.

Liberals talk about family care


Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff is flanked by caregivers as he speaks to reporters Friday in London, Ont. Ryan Remiorz/Canadian Press (Ryan Remiorz/Canadian Press)

Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff was in Ontario, re-announcing a family care program.

Ignatieff went to the Victorian Order of Nurses in London, Ont., to talk about the Liberals' $1 billion plan to help families care for sick and dying relatives. The money would allow for six months of compassionate care leave, paid through EI, and a $1,350 tax benefit to help with the costs of caring for a sick loved one.

He talked about watching his own mother succumb to Alzheimer's disease. He said it was devastating to see the centre of the family "go off into the fog."

The Liberals say 2.7 million Canadians care for aging relatives, and about 65 per cent of them have incomes under $45,000. Family caregivers are responsible for 80 per cent of Canada's home care services, providing more than $9 billion in unpaid care each year.

Ignatieff also joked about Conservative Leader Stephen Harper's press conferenceThursday, where reporters and cameras were kept 10 meters away and behind a barrier.

He said Harper's vision of politics is "take no prisoners" and that while Harper's patriotism and family are considered off limits, Harper has allowed his own party to attack Ignatieff on both fronts. He said that "cut deep," particularly Conservative attacks on his father.   The Liberal leader was scheduled to head to Kitchener, Ont., for a campaign office opening, followed by a town hall on equal opportunities for families.

Meanwhile, Bloc Québécois Leader Gilles Duceppe was scheduled to start the day with a photo shoot at a cafe in Quebec City, followed by a visit to local businesses in Beauport, Que.

Duceppe was set to finish off the day with a campaign launch for Quebec MP Christiane Gagnon.

Friday comes after a busy day on the campaign trail, with Ignatieff pitching an ambitious $500-million child-care plan and Layton promising to cut fossil fuel subsidies for Alberta’s oilsands.