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NDP Leader Tom Mulcair talks with supporters during a campaign stop in Apex, near Iqaluit, Nunavut

Andrew Vaughan/THE CANADIAN PRESS

A New Democrat government would create a new parliamentary office to provide solid scientific advice and analysis to politicians, and would encourage scientists to speak their minds, NDP Leader Tom Mulcair said Wednesday.

Speaking near Iqaluit at what he called Ground Zero of climate change, Mulcair slammed Conservative Leader Stephen Harper for muzzling federal scientists.

"At a time when the prime minister should have been fighting climate change, Stephen Harper created a climate of fear within our scientific community," Mulcair said.

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"We will remove the muzzle from Canadian scientists. We will end the climate of fear in the public service."

The NDP leader accused the Conservative government of firing more than 4,000 federal researchers in the past four years and stripping others of the right to share their work.

The office of the parliamentary science officer would help restore respect for the country's scientists and put scientific evidence at the core of the fight against climate change, which Mulcair called the defining issue of our generation, and an issue critical to the North.

"I never thought that, as an elected official, I would ever one day have to say that I actually believe in science," he said on the shore of Frobisher Bay in the community of Apex.

"But that's where we are under Stephen Harper."

A parliamentary science office would allow for evidence-based decision making rather than Harper's "decision-based evidence making," Mulcair said.

The Liberals have also committed to setting up a chief science officer for Canada.

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As part of his plan, Mulcair pledged $100 million in help for 25 northern and remote communities to wean themselves from the "dirty diesel" generators on which their electricity depends.

"It's a paradox, because you're in some of the most pristine places on the planet Earth," he said.

In place of imported diesel, which accounts for a large part of the Nunavut's energy costs, would come small-scale hydro, wind, solar and other green-power projects, he said.

Mulcair has previously outlined plans to introduce a cap-and-trade system and put a price on carbon to reduce Canada's greenhouse-gas emissions. Provinces which meet or exceed the targets with their own initiatives would be allowed to opt out.

The NDP leader, who also used his time in Iqaluit to promote his pledge to help northerners defray the cost of their food, planned to spend the next few days in Montreal.

On Friday, he will take part in a French-language debate — the fifth debate of the Oct. 19 campaign.

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