Support for Northern communities key to Arctic sovereignty: Layton

New Democratic Leader Jack Layton pledged more support for communities in the North, saying it's key to ensuring Canadian sovereignty in the Arctic.

New Democratic Leader Jack Layton pledged more support for communities in the North, saying it's key to ensuring Canadian sovereignty in the Arctic.

Layton laid out his promises Friday during a campaign visit to Iqaluit, Nunavut's capital, where about 250 people gathered in a public school gymnasium to greet the leader.

"The best way to ensure the sovereignty of the North is to support the communities of the North," said Layton.

He vowed an NDP government would increase the northern living allowance to $9,000 from $6,000 a year.

The party would also focus new spending on northern infrastructure, like a new deepwater port in Iqaluit.

The Nunavut NDP candidate Paul Irngaut said true sovereignty is not maintained by ships and military bases.

"Stephen Harper tells Canadians he is interested in the Arctic. Use it or lose it he says. I have a message for Stephen Harper: we are already here," Irngaut told the crowd.

Layton did, however, promise to increase military air patrols of the north, buy additional icebreakers for the coast guard and purchase new search-and-rescue aircraft to station in the North.

The party would also increase the number of RCMP, environment and fisheries officers operating in the territories.

The NDP aren't the only ones showering attention on Nunavut during the five-week election campaign. Harper visited Iqaluit two weeks ago, and Dion is expected to visit on Saturday.

Nunavut is Canada's largest riding, spanning three time zones and stretching from the North Pole to Ontario's James Bay.

Liberals have held the riding since Nunavut split from the Northwest Territories in 1999, but Liberal MP Nancy Karetak-Lindell is not running for another term.

Other candidates running in the Oct. 14 federal election are Conservative candidate Leona Aglukkaq, the Green party's Peter Ittinuar and Liberal Kirt Kootoo Ejesiak.