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NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair, right, and a young boy give a thumbs-up during a campaign stop in Surrey, B.C., on Wednesday Aug. 19, 2015.DARRYL DYCK/The Canadian Press

Policing and public safety were the topics of the day on the NDP campaign trail, as leader Thomas Mulcair touched down in a British Columbia community wracked in recent months by a spate of shootings — many believed to be gang related.

Addressing supporters in Surrey, B.C., on Wednesday, Mulcair vowed that an NDP government would devote $250 million to a police recruitment fund during its first four years in office. This up-front investment would be followed by $100 million in annual funding, he added.

The money would put 2,500 more front-line police officers on the streets in communities across Canada, he said.

"Gangs, street violence, gun violence in Surrey have now reached epidemic levels," said Mulcair. "Our plan will focus on providing increased, ongoing funding for policing in Canadian communities."

More than 30 shootings have plagued the fast-growing, Metro Vancouver city since March.

Mulcair bypassed explaining where the quarter-billion dollars in initial funding would come from, but said the detailed costing for all the party's promises would be announced later in the campaign.

"While the crime rate has actually generally declined over the past 20 years, that's small consolation for those who are witnessing alarming trends in certain communities, like here in Surrey," Mulcair told supporters who had gathered to hear him speak.

The details of how the new officers would be distributed across Canada would be ironed out in a joint meeting with the provinces and territories, he added.

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau was also in B.C. on Wednesday and described Mulcair's campaign promise as "excellent."

"That's an excellent idea," said Trudeau. "So excellent in fact that it was a Liberal government that introduced the program that Mr. Harper actually cut over the past 10 years."

But the Police Officer Recruitment Program was actually a Conservative initiative introduced in 2008.

Liberal party spokesman Jean-Luc Ferland later clarified that Trudeau was referring to the fact that the previous Liberal government budgeted to hire more police officers in 2001, and campaigned to do more of the same in 2006.

"While Conservatives introduced a similar program in 2006, they subsequently cancelled it," explained Ferland in an email.

Both the Canadian Police Association and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities commended the NDP's announcement.

"We appreciate the New Democratic Party recognizing the value of public policing in Canada," said police association head Tom Stamatakis in a statement.

In a release, FCM President Raymond Louie said he was pleased Mulcair understood the importance of working with municipalities to improve community safety.

Sticking with his public-safety theme on Wednesday, Mulcair brandished the credentials of the party's local candidate, Garry Begg.

Begg retired late last year after nearly four decades with the RCMP before putting himself forward to represent the NDP.

It's uncharacteristic for an ex-cop to run for a left-leaning party, typically finding more common ground with their right-of-centre alternatives.

"He will be playing a key role in an NDP government," promised Mulcair, to loud cheers.

Mulcair also addressed recently revealed comments he made while a provincial politician in the Quebec legislature.

In 2001, he was quoted offering effusive praise for former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher's right-wing, union-breaking Conservatives, calling her government a "wind of freedom and liberalism."

On Wednesday, the now-NDP leader offered an indirect explanation for his earlier remarks, saying: "There are certain things that work and others that don't. It's not surprising that I'm in favour of the things that work."

His No. 1 priority is serving the public, he said.

"That hasn't changed and that's what that statement was about, making sure that the public gets the best services possible."

This content appears as provided to The Globe by the originating wire service. It has not been edited by Globe staff.

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