Northern legislators cite “serious concerns” over Nutrition North
Feb. 20 letter sent to federal aboriginal affairs, health ministers
Northern legislators have launched a pan-Arctic effort to let the federal government know what they think about its Nutrition North Canada Program.
Legislators representing northern constituencies in five provinces and territories have sent a jointly-penned letter to the federal ministers of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, and Health, warning that the new program is failing to make food more accessible in isolated communities.
The letter cites some “serious concerns” about the implementation of the federal Nutrition North Canada Program which replaced the Food Mail Program in April 2011, says the group of elected representatives, including the Nunavut MLA for Quttiktuq, Ron Elliot and the Quebec MNA for Ungava, Luc Ferland.
“It has now been ten months since the introduction of the new Nutrition North Canada Program which involved a change from a transportation subsidy to a retailer subsidy,” reads the Feb. 20 letter, addressed to AAND minister John Duncan and Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq.
“It is our view that the program is not meeting its objectives in their entirety to ensure that nutritious foods and essential household products are more accessible and affordable to Northern communities, homes and families.”
The letter, also signed by legislators from the Yukon, Northwest Territories and Newfoundland and Labrador, goes onto to hear from concerns unique to each of the five elected officials’ ridings.
Quttiktuq MLA Ron Elliott, who represents the communities of Arctic Bay, Resolute Bay and Grise Fiord, says an efficient food subsidy program is “critical” to his constituents, who are among the most isolated in Canada.
“Limited transportation links have contributed to an environment where the cost of food is extremely high,” Elliott writes.
“We have emphasized the importance of ensuring appropriate oversight, audit and enforcement mechanisms in relation to the transparency of retail food pricing and the application of subsidies under the Nutrition North Canada Program, as well as the need to expand the eligibility list and improve access to country food.”
Luc Ferland, the Parti Québécois MNA whose Ungava riding includes Nunavik, says that the cost of items like milk and flour in Kuujjuaq is five times more expensive than in southern Quebec following the implementation of Nutrition North.
Nutrition North subsidizes a very limited number of food products compared to the previous program, writes Ferland.
Ferland said he continues to fight to maintain a separate provincial program that subsidizes certain food items across Nunavik by 20 per cent.
The Feb. 20 letter was also forwarded to members of the Nutrition North Canada Advisory Board.