The Progressive Conservative party is promising to double the number of people in apprenticeship programs for skilled trades by changing regulations and hiking funding for training.
Party Leader Jamie Baillie said Friday his government would consult with industry and in some instances increase the number of apprentices who can work with one certified tradesperson.
The party says the current one-to-one ratio is more restrictive than Alberta, British Columbia, Saskatchewan, and Newfoundland and Labrador.
Baillie is also promising $18 million over four years to fund training if his party wins the Oct. 8 election.
He says the changes are aimed at keeping more young people in the province, rather than migrating west to complete their training.
"We have a motivated workforce and we have opportunities for work on the horizon like the federal shipbuilding contract," Baillie said in the prepared text for his announcement at a Halifax-area construction firm.
"What we don't have is an apprenticeship system that can provide training to all our apprentices."
The Tories say their goal is to increase the number of registered apprentices to about 3,000 from 1,600, creating jobs for young people who have been leaving the province.
An NDP announcement also offered aid to the province's construction industry and skilled-trades workers.
Premier Darrell Dexter said the NDP would provide a 50 per cent rebate on the provincial portion of the harmonized sales tax on new home purchases.
He said that would mean people could get a maximum of up to $6,500 on the purchase and an additional $500 if the home meets energy efficiency standards. To receive the energy efficiency rebate new homes would need an energuide rating of 83 or higher.
A news release from the party says the program would reduce provincial revenues by about $10 million, but would support construction jobs and assist new homeowners.
Dexter criticized Baillie's announcement on apprenticeship ratios, saying the decision should be made by people who work in the trades, rather than political leaders.
"Those kinds of decisions shouldn't be made by political parties, they should be made by the experts in the trades themselves. ... In some cases it would be very inappropriate to have more than one apprentice with a particular tradesperson," he said in a telephone interview.
"I know in the trades opinions vary."
Dexter said the NDP doesn't have a position on whether to make regulations on apprenticeships conform with those in Newfoundland and Labrador, Saskatchewan, B.C. and Alberta.
He said his government has worked with the other Atlantic provinces to ensure trade certification standards are made uniform across the four jurisdictions.
Liberal Leader Stephen McNeil said his party agrees that ratios in the trades need adjusting, but there should be consultations with both the union and the non-unionized sector.
He said the system needs to be changed so there is more flexibility on when apprentices are trained, adding that the Liberals would amend rules to ensure training hours earned outside of Nova Scotia could be applied to certification in the province.
Both the Liberals and the Tories also released positions criticizing the NDP's lack of disclosure on loans approved by the minister of economic development under the province's Jobs Fund.
Legislation was amended in 2011 that eliminated a requirement that changes to terms and conditions of loans be posted publicly.
A spokeswoman for the Economic Development Department said there isn't an exact record of how many loans have been amended since then.
"We know the minister has made multiple amendments and the vast majority of amendments since the new act ... have been of an administrative efficiency nature," Tina Thibeau wrote in an email.
McNeil has committed to making all loans fully repayable and to posting all of the terms publicly.
Baillie says his party would wind down the fund and collect outstanding loans, while the loans and any changes to them would be public information under a Tory government.
Dexter has defended having the minister of economic development directly control some of the loans to businesses. During a panel discussion Monday, he said the government has to compete to attract firms and if assistance isn't offered then businesses will go elsewhere.