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Layton causes stir at city coffee shop

Federal NDP leader Jack Layton began his day in Prince George, grabbing a coffee at Tim Hortons before announcing freshly brewed plans to reform seniors' health care.

Layton - with handlers, supporters and media in tow - caused a minor stir at the coffee shop near the corner of 5th Avenue and Central Street, before heading to the nearby office of local NDP candidate Lois Boone for his announcement.

The NDP plan calls for an extra 100,000 Canadian families to get access to basic home care services, and additional funding to create more long-term care beds. Another key component would double to $7,000 the fogivable loans to people who renovate their homes to accomodate an elderly family member's care.

"All of this is the kind of thing that really preoccupies a lot of Canadians," Layton said.

The NDP would also seek to enshrine home and long-term care in the Canada Health Act when it's reopened in 2014.

"I don't know why the other parties don't seem to understand that with an aging population, you've got to have a home-care and long-term-care program."

A background document on the health proposal pegged its cost at $537 million in 2011-12, but did not say how it would be funded.

Layton also railed against the HST, and said B.C. residents, if they vote down the tax, should not be forced to pay back the $1.6 billion transition allowance the provincial government received from Ottawa.

"That is simply wrong, and it's not fair."

And although he was in firmly-held Conservative territory this morning, Layton said the Tories have done nothing to earn the continued support of voters here:

"I think the Conservatives have taken British Columbia - and certainly northern British Columbia - for granted for years. People have lost jobs, mills have shut down, (and) they just wave their hands and say, 'Oh, we're creating jobs all over the place.'

"Well, tell that to the people that are out of work or used to have a good, middle-class lifestyle and can't afford to live here anymore."

Cariboo-Prince George NDP candidate Jon Van Barneveld noted his party locally has "always been a solid second-place and I think it's definitely within grasp in this riding."

He said the leader's visit will give his efforts a shot in the arm: "I think any visit from any leader is going to help anyone's campaign."

In case you were wondering, Layton ordered at Tim Hortons a small decaf coffee, black with no sugar.

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