HALIFAX, N.S. - Premier Rodney MacDonald may have been looking for a bounce in the polls when he travelled to a voter's home and pledged Thursday to give voters a tax cut.

Campaigning in Beaver Bank, a 30-minute drive north of Halifax, the Conservative leader then did some bouncing of his own, surprising reporters by playfully cavorting on a trampoline in the backyard.

"I could step dance on this," the premier enthused while leaping about, referring to his previous life as a fiddle-playing, Celtic entertainer in Cape Breton.

Earlier, MacDonald struck a more serious tone, promising that a Tory government would increase the amount of money residents could earn before paying provincial income tax. He said the basic personal exemption would rise another $1,000 by 2014, extending a program that started in 2006.

The decision by the 37-year-old former phys-ed teacher to then shed his shoes and gambol before the cameras wasn't the only unusual turn of events on Day 3 of the campaign for the June 9 vote.

About an hour later, Liberal Leader Stephen McNeil was about to announce his party's plan to offer microcredit loans to small businesses when he took a sudden diversion down memory lane.

Standing inside a futon shop in Halifax's north end, McNeil told reporters the building occupied by the small business used to be a family home - his family home.

"This place was not always a business," he said from behind a podium, flanked by shelves of multicoloured pillows. "My parents lived here (until) 1967 just before we moved to the Annapolis Valley. I was born here."

The Liberal leader said he spent the first three years of his life in the 800-square-foot flat before his family - with all 13 children in tow - moved to Upper Granville.

McNeil went on to say the family had more space in the new home, where he was eventually joined by another four siblings - that's 17 children in all.

"I once jokingly said to my mother that all I ever wanted was my own bed, never mind my own bedroom."

As for the NDP, the party's leader - and perceived front-runner in the race - was in a less whimsical mood as he fended off a series of broadsides from McNeil.

Darrell Dexter started the day by announcing his plan to improve access to emergency care by spending $2.3 million on three measures, including the hiring of a so-called emergency care adviser, most likely a doctor who would be paid $100,000 annually.

Dexter said the adviser's main job would be allocating resources, including the distribution of doctors and nurses, to ensure emergency rooms are kept open - a constant challenge in rural Nova Scotia.

"This person is tasked with the responsibility of not trying to justify why emergency rooms are closed, but coming up with solutions to keep them open," Dexter told a news conference at his campaign headquarters in Halifax.

McNeil was quick to scoff at Dexter's call for a new emergency-care bureaucrat, saying the health-care system needed more doctors and nurses, not managers.

"That's not what Nova Scotians are looking for when it comes to health care," he said. "They're looking for access to health-care professionals."

The Liberal leader also took aim at Dexter's earlier promise to offer a 10 per cent tax credit to manufacturers and processors, a measure the NDP claims would create up to 2,200 jobs.

"No one has ever substantiated that 2,000-job figure," McNeil said. "No one in Finance or anywhere else in government is acknowledging that. As a matter of fact, no one can find those comments."

The NDP shot back, saying the job-creation figure comes from a 2001 study - titled Nova Scotia Tax Credit Review - compiled by the provincial Finance Department. The study looked at the impact of a similar 15 per cent tax credit, which was eventually phased out, a party spokesman said.

McNeil went further, saying the tax credit could be used by some companies to actually eliminate jobs through the purchase of modernized equipment.

Before McNeil started taking shots at the NDP platform, he said his proposed microcredit lending program would offer small businesses loans of up to $25,000 through Nova Scotia Business Inc.

"You can think of it as the right-size solution to a problem," he said, suggesting that small business owners are often intimidated by big banks.

He said the program would take $10 million from the province's much-maligned Industrial Expansion Fund, criticized by the opposition as a cabinet-controlled slush fund under the Tories.

The owner of the The Futon Store, Marcel Hebert, said he thought the microcredit plan was a good idea, but he said it wouldn't help an established business like his.

"It sounds interesting," he said in an interview. "I'm not in that position where I would have to start begging at the banks, but you never know with this economy."

Hebert, who has been selling futons in Halifax since 1981, said while he liked McNeil's plan, he had yet to decide who to vote for on June 9.

"I'm debating between the NDP and the Liberal party," he said.

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