A Liberal government would aim to get high-speed internet service delivered to 100 per cent of Canadian communities as part of its "rural Canada matters" pitch to voters, Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff said Wednesday.
Speaking in Compton, Que., 20 kilometres south of Sherbrooke, after meeting with members of the community, Ignatieff said the party is also committed to ensuring Canadians living in small towns and rural areas get more accessible health care services in their communities.
"I don't want a Canada with two speeds, rural and urban," he said at a news conference.
Canada Votes 2011
The Liberals, like the NDP and Conservatives, are also promising measures to boost the number of medical professionals practising in rural areas.
According to the party's 2011 campaign platform, while some 20 per cent of Canadians live in rural areas, only 10 per cent of doctors practise there, leaving many people with long trips to get health services or to reach care facilities.
To boost the number of rural doctors, a Liberal government would introduce a program to forgive a portion of student loans for doctors, nurses and nurse practitioners who choose to work in designated underserved small towns or rural areas.
The program would offer forgivable loans of:
- $8,000 a year to a maximum of $40,000 for family doctors.
- $4,000 a year to a maximum of $20,000 for nurses and nurse practitioners
Those numbers are similar to measures introduced in the Conservatives' March 22 federal budget. The Harper government was defeated before the budget could be approved by Parliament.
NDP Leader Jack Layton said on Friday he would work with the provinces to hire 1,200 doctors and 6,000 nurses over the next 10 years. His plan would 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 Liberal platform said that because Quebec doesn't participate in the Canada Student Loans program, a Liberal government would work with it to meet the objectives some other way.
The party also proposes to invest an additional $40 million over two years to generally improve rural health services.
The high-speed internet platform would attempt to ensure all households in Canada have internet speeds of at least 1.5 megabits per second.
In addition, the Liberals say volunteer firefighters would get a $3,000 tax credit to recognize the volunteerism and expenses involved.