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TORONTO (Reuters) - The Liberals pledged on Friday to maintain a 6 percent annual funding increase for healthcare beyond 2014 if they win the May 2 federal election, touching on a key issue facing the nation's aging population.
Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff tried to differentiate his party from the ruling Conservatives, saying he would maintain the funding transfers to the provinces after the federal-provincial Health Accord expires in 2014, rather than spending billions on fighter jets, tax cuts for large corporations, and new prisons.
"Harper has said nothing about investing in healthcare beyond 2014," Ignatieff said of Prime Minister Stephen Harper in an open letter to Canadians.
The Liberals said the funding promise would amount to around $2 billion a year in increases. Healthcare transfers to the provinces in 2013-14 -- the last year legislated under the Health Accord -- will be $30.2 billion and by 2018 would be $40.5 billion if the increases were maintained.
In contrast, the Liberals said the Conservatives plan to spend C$30 billion on fighter jets, $13 billion on prisons and $6 billion a year on corporate tax cuts.
The Conservatives remained well ahead of the Liberals in two polls released on Friday, but it was unclear whether they had enough support to form a majority government.
Reporting by John McCrank; editing by Rob Wilson