An NDP government would spend $32 million over four years to ensure more northerners have access to nutritious food, party leader Tom Mulcair said Tuesday.
Mulcair, who flew to Nunavut for a brief northern swing, chastised the government under Conservative Leader Stephen Harper for failing to ensure an adequate supply of affordable healthy food in the North.
"Stephen Harper has used northern communities as convenient photo-ops for years while failing to address the most basic concerns of families: access to affordable food," Mulcair said in a statement on arrival in Iqaluit.
"We will take a different approach."
Mulcair said it's unfair that remote Inuit communities in Nunavut and elsewhere across the North frequently have to rely on unhealthy food simply because it is cheap. Such foods, he said, puts their well-being at risk.
Nunavut, currently held by Conservative Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq, is grappling with daunting problems, such as suicides of young people and an unemployment rate more than double the Canadian average.
Mulcair, who said he wants to see locally produced foods used more as well as lower costs for food, also pledged to improve relations with Canada's aboriginal peoples, saying both the Conservatives and Liberals have failed them.
"The NDP is offering a new era of nation-to-nation relations with the Inuit, First Nations and Metis communities," he said.
Mulcair's food plan calls for the money to go into expanding a subsidy program called Nutrition North to include 50 isolated communities he said the Conservatives have excluded from subsidies. The NDP would also review the program, in partnership with northerners.
Territorial politicians have called for action on Nutrition North, while the auditor general has reported that no one knows if the program is working as intended or helping those most in need, Mulcair said.
After visiting a supermarket, he emerged with an $11.75 container of orange juice that retails in most of the country for about $4.75.
"It's just an illustration of why the Nutrition North program has been a failure under the Conservatives," he said.
In a statement, Aglukkaq said no other government in Canadian history has made the North as much a priority as the Conservatives have.
"It was Prime Minister Stephen Harper that appointed me as the first ever Inuk cabinet minister," Aglukkaq said.
"This is simply one campaign stop for you as leader of the NDP during which you will pay lip service to important issues affecting us."
Running for the NDP against Aglukkaq, Liberal Hunter Tootoo and the Green's Spencer Rocchi is Jack Anawak, a former Liberal MP, member of the territorial legislature and former Nunavut justice minister.
He is known for helping stop cruise-missile testing over the territory and pushing to end bans on seal products.
Mulcair joined Anawak on an ATV ride on rough terrain outside Iqaluit, before heading to a community feast where he and his wife were entertained by two young throat singers.
Earlier this week, Mulcair put forward his platform on fighting climate change, a topic of immense importance to the North as global warming causes polar ice to melt and alters the environment.
He is expected to return to the theme of climate change and science on Wednesday before heading to Montreal.