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Politics Trudeau promises to reform Nutrition North during Iqaluit stop

Liberal leader Justin Trudeau greets supporters during a rally Friday, October 9, 2015 in Yellowknife.

Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press

A Liberal government will spend an additional $40-million over four years on the Nutrition North program, Justin Trudeau announced in Iqaluit on Saturday.

"Living here is expensive and we all know that," Trudeau said.

"When the Conservatives replaced the Food Mail program with the Nutrition North program they promised it would be an improved, subsidized food program.

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"It was supposed to make healthy food more accessible and more affordable. Well, it hasn't done either."

Nutrition North, the Conservative government's $60-million annual subsidy designed to bring healthy food to isolated communities, has been criticized for operational problems.

Trudeau said he will work with northern communities to ensure the federal food program is more effective and transparent.

Earlier this month, the NDP announced it would spend $32-million over four years to improve the program if it forms government.

Trudeau also promised Saturday to increase the northern residents deduction, designed to attract workers and slash the cost of living. The Liberal leader proposed an increase by 33 per cent to a maximum of $22 a day.

The party's emphasis on infrastructure will produce action for the North, he added.

"People need a federal government that is a strong and active partner right now that is investing in what our communities need, and nowhere is that more evident than in the North, where for too long there has been lip service paid," Trudeau said.

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But Trudeau did not provide specifics on how his plans would help long-standing concerns in the North such as reliable, affordable broadband Internet, social housing and safe harbour facilities for Nunavut's many coastal communities.

"The one thing I don't think Ottawa should be deciding is what infrastructure or what priorities you have up here," Trudeau said, citing it is up to the Government of Nunavut, municipal leaders and local representatives to decide.

The Liberal leader is in Iqaluit in support of Grit candidate Hunter Tootoo.

A tough three-way race is playing out in the far-reaching federal riding, which encompasses the entire territory.

Tootoo is taking on New Democrat Jack Anawak – a former Liberal MP in the government of Jean Chretien – and Conservative incumbent Leona Aglukkaq.

Electoral success in the territory will depend on support from regions including Baffin Island, the central region along Hudson Bay and communities such as Cambridge Bay.

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Key electoral issues in Nunavut include a push for instracture projects, such as a road between Rankin Inlet and Winnipeg.

Just before the campaign began, the Conservatives committed up to $64-million to finance a deepwater port, which has been at the top of Nunavut's wish list for years.

Aglukkkaq is considered popular among land claim organizations and government but she has been criticized by some for representing Ottawa to the Inuit instead of doing the opposite.

In an emailed statement, Aglukkaq defended the government's record.

She said the Conservatives are building harbours in Iqaluit and Pond Inlet and have committed $160-million in infrastructure funding.

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