09/27/2013 10:10 EDT | Updated 11/27/2013 05:12 EST

Nova Scotia leaders talk business, health, deficit as election's third week ends

HALIFAX - Small business support, doctor shortages and deficits were the issues Nova Scotia's three main party leaders highlighted Friday as the campaign for the Oct. 8 election nears the end of its third week.

Premier Darrell Dexter appeared at a Halifax bakery where he said the NDP wants to start a microcredit service to help more than 150 people get new businesses started.

The program would make $1.5 million available in contributions of up to $10,000 to provide expertise and mentoring that help develop an idea into a business. Any self-employed or small business owner with annual gross revenue of less than $100,000 would be eligible for the program, which would begin in 2015.

"This is different from traditional small business loans because its targeting people who need a small investment and some business development mentoring, but don't have the collateral or credit a bank would require," said Dexter.

Liberal Leader Stephen McNeil reiterated his plan to increase access to family doctors in communities with physician shortages. McNeil has said he would provide up to $120,000 in tuition rebates for 25 doctors annually in exchange for them agreeing to work in rural areas of the province for five years.

"In many rural communities there are simply not enough doctors and nurses to service the ongoing needs of the region," said McNeil.

He said the Liberals would also appoint an expert recruitment team with the aim of attracting new doctors and retaining those currently working in the province.

Progressive Conservative Leader Jamie Baillie visited a Halifax daycare and promised to end the practice of deficit budgets he says saddles future generations with the increased costs of services.

Baillie said the Conservatives would bring back a law requiring the government to balance the budget and try to bring down the province's $14-billion debt, its highest ever.