Nunavut MLA demands Auditor General probe of Nutrition North
“Retailers are cheerleaders for program”
South Baffin MLA Fred Schell called the Nutrition North Canada food subsidy program one of the biggest “smokescreens and rip-offs” in Nunavut March 18 in the legislative assembly.
Schell called for a formal motion to have Canada’s auditor general investigate the Nutrition North program to find out where the subsidy goes.
“Nutrition North is broken, and worse, subsidies are not being applied fairly,” Schell said during question period.
Schell said that the freight rate to Kimmirut for retailers of $5.40 per kilogram allows retailers to make money off of the subsidy.
Compared to the regular rate of $5.29 per kilogram “you would actually make 11 cents,” he said.
“It appears as though these retailers are making a tidy sum. This is what’s happening under Nutrition North,” Schell said.
The Government of Nunavut has started a review of food prices in 10 communities, Eva Aariak, Nunavut premier and minister of Executive and Intergovernmental Affairs said, in response to Schell.
“After the review is done I’m sure that we will be able to know what to do next,” Aariak said.
Schell also wanted to know if Aariak had directed any of her staff to look into consumer concerns with Nutrition North.
“We have been talking about that for many months now,” she said.
Schell pointed to the report by the United Nations’ special rapporteur on the right, which the GN welcomed earlier this month.
In his report, food envoy Olivier de Schutter said he was “disconcerted by the deep and severe food insecurity.” He also found GN programs fall short of what the situation requires.
Schell said the GN “has done a lot of talking,” but the Nutrition North program still fails.
“Why are my constituents paying 40 to 60 per cent higher prices than the South,” Schell said.
A lot of the cost is often blamed on transportation costs, he added.
“Now that they’re [the retailers] are making money on freight, what’s their excuse?”
Nunavut food “retailers are cheerleaders for program,” Schell said.
The subsidies are not passed down to the customer, he said.
People have no choice but to shop at Northern Stores or Arctic Co-ops Ltd., Schell said.
“They’ve rigged the deck,” he said.
Schell asked Aariak if she would write a letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Nunavut MP Leona Aglukkaq about the issue.
“We always tell them that everything is very expensive,” Aariak said.