UPPER KINGSCLEAR, N.B. -- Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer is promising to expand a program giving volunteer search and rescue workers and firefighters tax credits for their supplies.

He says if elected, he'd lower the number of service hours required to qualify for the program, introduced by a previous Conservative government.

Right now, volunteers must work 200 hours a year to access the credit, and the Conservatives are pledging to lower that to 150.

Scheer notes that volunteers often pay out-of-pocket for equipment, uniforms, transportation, training, and insurance -- costs that run into the thousands of dollars.

"Communities across Canada rely on volunteers for essential services like fire protection and search and rescue," Scheer said. "These are people of courage, character, and strength who step up when their neighbours need it most, often at significant personal expense."

The expanded policy will leave the amount those volunteers can claim unchanged. The credit is also non-refundable, so those who qualify can use it to reduce their overall tax payments, but don't get any of that money back.

It's the latest in a series of boutique tax credit pledges Scheer has made in the campaign, many of which are updates of programs introduced by the Harper Conservative government.

He made today's promise in the town of Upper Kingsclear, N.B., where the entire fire department is run by volunteers.

A report released last year by the American-based National Fire Protection Association estimated that between 2014-2016, 83 per cent of Canada's fire fighters were volunteers.

The Search and Rescue Volunteer Association of Canada says 9,000 volunteers serve on 300 teams across the country.

Upper Kingsclear is in the riding of New Brunswick Southwest, a longtime Conservative stronghold that fell to the Liberals in the 2015 campaign as a red wave washed over the Atlantic provinces.

The Conservative candidate there this election is former MP John Williamson. In 2015, he was forced to apologize after reportedly saying it made no sense to pay "whities" to stay home while companies bring in "brown people" as part of the temporary foreign worker program.

Scheer will campaign later today in Nova Scotia.