February 29, 2008

Quebec to subsidize flights, consumer goods, food

Average Nunavik resident will save several hundred dollars a year

JANE GEORGE

KUUJJUAQ - Residents of Nunavik, both Inuit and non-Inuit, will get a benefit every time they buy airline tickets, hunting equipment, furniture, vehicles or nutritious foods in 2008.

These are among the many purchases that the Kativik Regional Government will subsidize, thanks to $4.1 million a year in contributions from Quebec for the next three years.

The money is intended to offset the high cost of transportation and living in Nunavik.

Through various measures, the average resident of Nunavik stands to gain several hundred dollars or more, while beneficiaries of the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement who hunt or fish may benefit even more.

Sofas and dining room sets, like these ones on display at the Northern store in Kuujjuaq, are among the items that will be covered by government subsidies this year in Nunavik.
(PHOTO BY JANE GEORGE)

An earlier pot of money from Quebec already chopped 32 cents off the price of a litre of gasoline in the region in 2007.

The new money means another $500,000 will be set aside to cover the period from Sept. 1 to Dec. 31, 2008, in case the cost of petroleum products rises again significantly this year.

And as of March 1, the northern villages and the Landholding Corp. of Chisasibi will receive $1 million to increase the quantity of country food in communities, according to information revealed at last week's KRG council meeting in Kuujjuaq.

This money will be divided among the hunter support programs run by village governments and landholding corporations, according to the number of beneficiaries in each community. Chisasibi will get $11,050 and Kuujjuaq, Nunavik's largest community, $167,937.

Through the program, they will buy or help beneficiaries buy items such as camp stoves or satellite phones. The cost of buying or transporting country food may also be covered.

The cost of store-bought items will also be reduced through a new $1 million a year program.

Under the program, retailers may reduce the price of goods identified by the KRG, such as diapers, detergent and milk, and recover the amount they discount to clients from the regional government.

This program won't kick until June 1 because not all stores in Nunavik have computerized check-outs. As well, the list of goods that will be eligible for a discount is still under discussion.

Nunavik residents aged 18 and over will also qualify for a $250 rebate on the purchase of new furniture and home appliances up to a maximum of $750 a year.

They may also apply for a $500 rebate on the purchase of new or used snowmobiles, all-terrain vehicles, outboards, freighter canoes, boats, worth more than $1,500, with no maximum amount that can be claimed in a year.

Beneficiaries involved in hunting or gathering will be able to claim an additional $250 per vehicle.

To get the money, people must fill out a form and return it to the KRG's finance department, along with an invoice or sales contract.

This $700,000-a-year program starts March 1.

Another program, which gave $500 to all Nunavik residents over 60 before Christmas along with a rebate on airfares, will also continue.

A revamped airfare reduction program will now pay back half the cost of a ticket, up to a total of $1,500 per year for all types of travel, including the death of a relative.

Beneficiaries of the JBNQA living outside Nunavik are also eligible for a rebate to buy airline tickets for travel within Nunavik.

The airfare reduction program can be combined with existing Air Inuit or First Air discounts for beneficiaries.

These two programs will each cost $300,000 a year to deliver.

To manage the various programs, KRG will get $200,000 and the northern villages $100,000 in 2008.