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Cash for rural doctors doesn’t guarantee NDP budget support

Who knew it would be that easy?

On Friday afternoon, NDP Leader Jack Layton was in the Prime Minister's Office asking Stephen Harper to move in a range of areas. At the bottom of Mr. Layton's four-point list was a call to hire more doctors.

Five days later, Ottawa announced it will spend nearly $40-million over the next four years to create more than 100 new training positions aimed at encouraging new doctors to work in remote and rural areas.

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However there's no reason for anyone to change their election predictions over this.

First of all, the Conservatives say the fact they've been making similar regional announcements for months means there's no connection between the announcement and the NDP wish list. Secondly, the money comes from last year's budget and has nothing to do with the March 2011 budget.

Lastly, the NDP doesn't think much of the announcement.

"It doesn't really come close to what we have been asking for in the past," health critic Megan Leslie told The Globe. "I don't think I'm possibly in a position to say that one thing would or would not meet what we're looking for. We really do need to look at the whole budget."

Ms. Leslie noted that in the 2008 campaign, the NDP proposed that Ottawa train 6,000 new nurses and 1,200 new doctors. The NDP also proposes student loan relief for medical graduates who stay in family medicine in rural areas.

"We're certainly open to other proposals that might be different but that would have the same impact, but I don't think 100 doctors meets that criteria," she said.

Wednesday's announcement was made by Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq. Her spokesman, Tim Vail, insisted there was no NDP connection.

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"This is something that we've been working on for almost a year now," he said. "This isn't anything that we've just pulled together [at the] last minute for political reasons."

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About the Author
Parliamentary reporter

A member of the Parliamentary Press Gallery since 1999, Bill Curry worked for The Hill Times and the National Post prior to joining The Globe in Feb. 2005. Originally from North Bay, Ont., Bill reports on a wide range of topics on Parliament Hill, with a focus on finance. More

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