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NDP Leader Jack Layton and local candidate Rebecca Blaikie laugh as a group of children run away while visiting a Winnipeg community centre on April 5, 2011. (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press)
NDP Leader Jack Layton and local candidate Rebecca Blaikie laugh as a group of children run away while visiting a Winnipeg community centre on April 5, 2011. (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press)

Layton doesn't buy Harper's line on ex-aide's rap sheet Add to ...

Jack Layton came out swinging at scandals that have plagued the Conservatives on Tuesday, saying they are proof that Stephen Harper can't be trusted.

Mr. Harper, the Tory Leader, said this week he was unaware of the full extent of the criminal record of his former adviser, Bruce Carson, at the time he joined the Prime Minister's Office.

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Mr. Carson had been convicted on multiple counts of fraud and is now under RCMP investigation for alleged influence peddling.

"Mr. Harper claims that, despite all of the stringent security checks that go along with working in the PMO, he had no idea that his close friend was a convicted felon," Mr. Layton said at a child care centre in the Manitoba capital.

"Well I think most Canadians don't believe that. I certainly don't. And this is just more proof that Stephen Harper can't be trusted."

Mr. Layton was making his first visit of the campaign to Winnipeg, where he talked about his party's plan to help people in the so-called sandwich generation - those who are caring for elderly parents as well as children.

The NDP would provide a "forgivable loan" of up to $35,000 to help families retrofit their homes to care for elderly relatives.

They would also allow caregivers to collect Employment Insurance benefits for up to six months to care for dying relatives, give a caregiver benefit modelled after the Child Tax Benefit to assist low-income people caring for family members, and allow Canadians who have received maternity, parental, adoption, compassionate care or sickness leave to be eligible for EI benefits if they lose their jobs.

"One in four Canadians cared for a seriously ill loved one at home in the last 12 months," Mr. Layton said. "For many it's a labour of love. But it often means making deep sacrifices. Nearly half of these Canadians with loved ones at home are depleting their personal savings just to get by."

The entire plan would cost $1.3-billion in the current fiscal year, the party says.

It mirrors some elements of the Liberal home-care proposal, which includes a six-month family care Employment Insurance benefit similar to the EI parental leave benefit to allow Canadians to care for gravely ill family members at home without having to quit their jobs.

They would also offer a family care tax benefit, modeled on the Child Tax Benefit, to help lower- and middle-income people who are providing essential care to a family member at home.

Mr. Layton was joined on Tuesday by Rebecca Blaikie, the NDP candidate in Winnipeg North where the party lost a long-time New Democrat seat to the Liberals in a by-election last fall.

Ms. Blaikie is the daughter of Bill Blaikie who held another Winnipeg seat for the New Democrats for two decades and is now a Manitoba MLA.

The loss of Winnipeg North stung the New Democrats and they would very much like to take that seat back in this election.

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