NDP proposes help for family caregivers

NDP Leader Jack Layton is promising a new package aimed at helping Canadians care for their family members at home as part of a platform to be released before the federal leaders' debates.

Fully-costed party platform coming before debate, Layton tells P&P

Prime Minister Stephen Harper answers media questions after an announcement on budget measures for doctors and nurses and volunteer firefighters at a firehall in Victoriaville, Que., Tuesday. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

NDP Leader Jack Layton is promising a new package aimed at helping Canadians care for their family members at home as part of a platform to be released before the federal leaders' debates.

Layton said Tuesday in a speech at an event in Winnipeg the series of initiatives would offer forgivable loans so family members can build secondary residences in their homes to care for senior family members.

The NDP leader said a similar program has been done in Manitoba and under the federal plan, family caregivers could apply for forgivable loans to cover half the renovation costs associated with the secondary residence.

The NDP plan would also create a more flexible compassionate care program within the Employment Insurance system, which would allow Canadians to take up to six months leave to care for family members instead of the current six weeks.

As well, a new caregiver benefit would be implemented to help low- and middle-income families.

"The New Democrat caregivers plan offers new dignity to a significant number of seniors and peace of mind to new moms and dads," Layton said in a speech in Winnipeg.

"Caring for our parents and raising the next generation are the most important things we'll ever do as families. And they're the most important things we do as a country."

Another element of the plan would shut a loophole in the EI system that blocks Canadians who have already accessed EI, such as parents who take maternity or paternity leaves, from accessing EI benefits again if they lose their jobs after returning to work.

Later in the Day, Layton told CBC's Power & Politics with Evan Solomon that his party will release a "fully-costed" platform ahead of next week's leaders' debates.

"We're putting it out in a very few days, before the debate, so everyone will be able to look at all the details," Layton said.

Tories pitch firefighter's tax credit

Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff smiles as he arrives at the airport in St. John's on Monday. (Nathan Denette/Canadian Press)
Conservative Leader Stephen Harper started the day in Victoriaville, Que., with an announcement at Fernand Giguere Fire Station, where he talked about the volunteer firefighter's tax credit introduced in the federal budget last month.

The Conservative budget set out a $3,000 per year tax credit for volunteer firefighters, who performed at least 200 hours of service in one year.

As well, Harper announced he would move forward with a previously announced plan to forgive a part of Canada Student Loans for new family physicians, nurse practitioners and nurses who practice in rural or remote communities.

"We firmly believe that Canadians living in rural and remote communities should have access to quality medical services close to home, just like people living in large urban centres," Harper said.

The Tories are willing to forgive up to $8,000 for each year of practice in a rural or remote community to a maximum of $40,000. Meanwhile, nurse practitioners and nurses can have as much as $4,000 per year to a maximum of $20,000 forgiven from their federal student loans.

The Liberals introduced a similar promise for a volunteer firefighters tax credit in their platform Sunday, while the NDP has vowed to boost financial support for doctors and nurses in underserviced areas beyond the amount set out in the Conservative budget.

Leaders on the move

Harper headed to Drummondville, Que., for an afternoon campaign event, followed by a rally in St. Agathe at 5 p.m. local time.

Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff started his day with a visit to two local businesses in Conception Bay South, N.L., followed by visits to community resource organizations in Charlesbourg, Que., Tuesday afternoon. He will wrap up the day with a rally in Drummondville, Que.

Green Party Leader Elizabeth May is again on Vancouver Island on Tuesday, canvassing in Saanich, B.C., in the morning, followed by a visit with seniors in the afternoon and door-to-door canvassing in the evening.

Bloc Québécois Leader Gilles Duceppe held a news conference in Rimouski, Que., Tuesday morning, followed by an appearance at a local restaurant and a second news conference in Saint-Flavie, Que., in the afternoon. Duceppe will finish the day with a speech in Mont-Joli, Que.