Politics

NDP seeks to shape health debate with ads

NDP Leader Jack Layton is attempting to seize the issue of health care with a new TV ad campaign attacking the Conservative government's record on attracting new doctors.
The NDP have rolled out a new television ad criticizing the Conservative government's track record on health care. ((NDP))

NDP Leader Jack Layton is attempting to seize the issue of health care on the election trail by rolling out a new television ad campaign attacking the Conservative government's record on attracting new doctors.

The party is preparing to fill Canadian airwaves during the election with the largest advertising buy in NDP history. The first spot in the pending advertising blitz is a slickly produced and oddly animated jab at Stephen Harper's record of managing the health file.

A female voice describes "five years of Stephen Harper ignoring healthcare," by pointing out how patients at a New Westminster, B.C., hospital  ended up waiting in a Tim Hortons restaurant.

The television spot also criticizes the Conservatives over the fact 5 million Canadians do not have a family doctor.

Layton appears at the end of the ad sitting in front of a Canadian flag to underscore the party's commitment to improving the health system.

"We've got to improve our frontline health services, more family doctors, better home care, more affordable prescription drugs, and I won't stop until the job's done," Layton said in the ad.

The NDP released the television ad on Tuesday afternoon, hours after Layton appeared in Brantford, Ont., where he used a family home as a backdrop for a promise to cap fees and rates on credit cards.

Framing the health debate

The first five days of the election campaign have revolved around the parties bickering over coalitions and battling for the votes of middle-class families with competing policy options.

Healthcare has remained mainly on the sidelines so far. Layton started to lay the groundwork for the healthcare debate when the NDP launched its campaign last Saturday.

The new TV spot was the second attempt to frame the debate and the NDP says it will release its health platform later this week.

Canada's multi-billion dollar healthcare accord with the provinces is set to expire in 2014 and whoever becomes the next prime minister will be responsible for negotiating that accord.

The NDP wants to frame the healthcare debate as a question of trust because the party believes Layton scores well with Canadians on that question.

So far the Conservatives have been quiet about health, but they do have that recent budget proposal to hire 100 more doctors for rural Canada.

However, the Liberals are unlikely to cede the healthcare file to the NDP.

Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff is starting to stake out ground for his party on the issue of health.

"We're the only party that can save, invest, reform the public health system of our country, cause we actually believe in it," Ignatieff said.