A Liberal government would offer Canadian Forces veterans full support for as long as four years of college, university, or technical college, party leader Michael Ignatieff said Monday.
Expanding in Halifax on a plank in the party platform released Sunday, Ignatieff said it would also provide a significant boost for recruitment as the forces try to step up enrollment. The program would:
- Cover a veteran's full schooling costs, including tuition, books, accommodations and living expenses, for as long as four years of post-secondary education or technical training after completion of their service.
- Be available to any serving member or future member of the Canadian Forces who is honourably discharged. It would also be available to spouses if the veteran is unable to use the benefit.
Based on current projections, the program would cost about $120 million over the first two years of a Liberal government, the platform said.
"If you have served our country, we think helping you get a great post-secondary education is the least that a grateful country can do," Ignatieff said. "We think this will be a powerful incentive to recruit young Canadians to the Canadian forces."
The platform released Sunday likened the program to the GI Bill in the U.S., which was first offered to returning veterans after the Second World War. A similar program operated in Canada, but was later abandoned. The GI Bill still offers benefits to veterans.
The Conservatives, in response to Ignatieff's proposal, defended their record in government enhancing benefits and support for veterans and their families. The party also hit out at Ignatieff over his vow to cancel the F-35 fighter jet purchase, saying the Liberal leader should "not just talk about support for veterans during an election."
"He should support them by ensuring they get the tools they need to do the difficult job we ask of them — a job that makes Canadians proud," a Conservative spokesman said in an email to CBC News.
Boost CPP benefits, premiums: Layton
Separately, Ignatieff said a Liberal government would also support loan guarantees to Newfoundland and Labrador to help funding the Lower Churchill hydroelectric project in Labrador. The federal loan guarantee — also offered by the Conservatives — would help the province get lower borrowing rates on its debt for the project. The Liberals promised something similar in the 2008 campaign.
The NDP released its Old Age Security and pension platform at an event in Toronto Monday morning befor a planned rally in London, Ont., in the evening.
NDP Leader Jack Layton called for a phased-in doubling of the Canada Pension Plan and the Quebec Pension Plan.
The party has supported closing loopholes to bankruptcy laws to allow pensioners to jump to the front of the line if a company files for bankruptcy.
Layton outlined the NDP’s health-care priorities Sunday, including a pledge to train and recruit more doctors and nurses over the next decade. He also promised to work to repatriate 300 Canadian doctors living abroad and improve benefits for disabled and retired veterans.
In an interview on Tout le Monde en Parle, a show broadcast to more than 1.5 million Quebecers, Layton addressed concerns his hip problems could be related to his cancer, saying it’s believed to be just a fracture.
Layton said he in no way believes this will be his last campaign, saying he hopes to be on the campaign trail in the future if his health allows it.
Harper, Ignatieff trade shots
Conservative Leader Stephen Harper kicked Week Two off with a campaign event in Wainfleet, Ont., on Monday morning, which was to be followed by a rally in Guelph at 5:30 p.m. local time.
Harper used his stop at a farm in Wainfleet to re-announce plans to introduce legislation to scrap the federal long-gun registry. The Conservative leader has consistently said that he believes the long-gun registry is wasteful, ineffective and does nothing to reduce crime.
The location of Harper's news conference is significant as it is in the riding that was held by the NDP's Malcolm Allen when the election was called. Allen originally opposed the long-gun registry but switched his position and voted to support the controversial program.
Ignatieff was spending the day in Atlantic Canada as he starts the second week of the campaign pitching his new campaign platform to voters.
He began Monday by greeting commuters at a Halifax ferry terminal with a copy of his platform, which the party published as an advertisement in copies of the local newspaper Metro. Then he goes to Newfoundland to hold a rally in St. John’s Monday evening.
Green Party Leader Elizabeth May was scheduled to spend the day in British Columbia, starting with a news conference outside the CBC building in Victoria.
May is then expected to meet constituents and campaign in Sidney, B.C., followed by a campaign office opening and canvassing in Saanich, a Victoria suburb.
Bloc Québécois Leader Gilles Duceppe had a busy schedule planned for Monday, including a photo shoot with local candidates at Parc nautique de Saint-Jean-Port-Joli.
Duceppe was then scheduled to attend a photo shoot with union representatives for Bombardier 7, visit a local business on Rue Louis-Philippe Lebrun and pose for photos with the mayor of Riviere-du-Loup Monday evening.