PRINCE GEORGE, B.C. - NDP Leader Jack Layton put on the political hard sell Wednesday in rural British Columbia, warning residents the shape of Canada's health-care system for decades to come will be decided by who they elect on May 2.

"If Mr. Harper is in charge of the future of health care in our country then Canadians should be very, very worried," he said after unveiling the party's repackaged pitch for a national home-care program.

The health-care accord with the provinces is due to expire in 2014 and Layton said Canadians have been getting a peek at Conservative attitudes in the recent refusal by a southern Ontario candidate to debate the issue.

"That is the true face of the Conservative party perspective on health care," he said.

"They don't believe it's a federal issue. They want to leave it to the provinces knowing that the provinces don't have the resources that are necessary and privatization will become the only option."

Layton also took a swipe at Conservative star candidate Chris Alexander, the country's former ambassador in Afghanistan, who said that poverty had been eliminated in Canada.

"This is an outrageous statement," he said. "We have begun to see the inside thinking of this Conservative party with this kind of comment.

"Now we can see why they've taken no action to address the growing poverty in this country. This is an outrageous statement; (it) runs totally counter to the facts here in Canada."

Layton has hit themes of health care and poverty before in the campaign, but the fighting words were meant to grab the attention of B.C. voters, where the NDP ran second in 14 ridings and has consistently polled ahead of the Liberals.

The NDP leader's campaign is hop-scotching across the Interior, hitting the ridings of Prince George-Peace River, where former government House leader Jay Hill retired, and Kootenay-Columbia, the constituency held for years by Conservative stalwart Jim Abbott.

Layton is hoping third time is a charm for their home-care proposal, which was modelled on recommendations made almost a decade ago by the Romanow commission on the future of health care.

The NDP has introduced the same plan, which would affect an estimated 100,000 families, in every election since 2005.

Layton's proposal is to put $250 million a year toward keeping the elderly in their own homes when they face chronic health issues. The home-care funding would ramp up to $1 billion a year after four years as recommended by the Romanow commission on health care.

In addition, he would put an additional $250 million a year in guaranteed funding for the province to create more long-term care beds for the most critically ill seniors.

As with other spending initiatives, Layton says he'd pay for it by cancelling the Harper government's corporate tax cuts.

"I don't know why the other parties don't seem to understand that with an aging population," he said.

The Liberals have promised a home-care initiative, but according to Layton there has not been "a dollar assigned."

He said too many families are spending their life savings on caring for their elderly parents.