Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Nunavik March 03, 2014 - 2:58 pm

Quebec funds to support Nunavik elders, access to food, vehicles

KRG hopes to direct subsidies into programs to help boost access to country food

SARAH ROGERS
With increased funding from Quebec, the KRG has re-introduced its vehicle subsidy program, which offers $1,000 per vehicle, and lesser subsidies for qamutiks purchased by Nunavimmiut. (PHOTO BY SARAH ROGERS)
With increased funding from Quebec, the KRG has re-introduced its vehicle subsidy program, which offers $1,000 per vehicle, and lesser subsidies for qamutiks purchased by Nunavimmiut. (PHOTO BY SARAH ROGERS)

KUUJJUAQ — The Kativik Regional Government has decided to use its latest injection of cost-of-living subsidies from Quebec to top up existing programs to support elders and access to food.

While Nunavik has for the last several years received $5 million a year to offset the high cost of living in the region, the Quebec government more than doubled those subsidies for the next three years.

That means the region will get $33 million in subsidies between 2014 and 2016.

But rather than create new measures, the KRG has decided to stick with six different funds that have been in place since 2007 to offset retail prices for goods like food, household products, gasoline and hunting equipment.

During the KRG’s regional council meeting in Kuujjuaq last week, councillors voted on implementing the first installment of $10 million in subsidies for 2014-15.

Here’s a look at how Nunavik’s existing cost-of-living measures will benefit:

• Assistance to elders: this program currently pays $750 to beneficiaries of the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement over the age of 60. With doubled funding, elders will now receive that payment twice; once in January and again in July.

• Individual Subsidy Program (Home Furniture and Appliances): currently offers a $250 credit for each item up to a maximum of $750. With new funding, the credit has been increased to $350 per item.

“That means you can get back $3,150 to put into furnishing your home,” Louis Mercier, the KRG’s political attaché in Quebec City, told regional councillors last week.

The program has been very popular, he added, with the largest number of claims coming in during sealift season.

• Individual Subsidy Program for vehicles. This program, which subsidizes the cost of vehicles purchased in and out of the region, was discontinued in 2013 when the KRG said it was forced to trim its budget.  For 2014, the program has been re-introduced for JBNQA beneficiaries, offering a subsidy of $1,000 per vehicle. Toboggans and qamutik sleds qualify for a lesser subsidy, Mercier said.

• Food Subsidy Program. Currently, the KRG uses Quebec’s cost-of-living money to subsidize 20 grocery store items, offering Nunavimmut shoppers a 20-per-cent discount. With a bump in funding, Mercier said the program will also increase the number of subsidized items and may also decide to increase the discount.

However, Mercier warned the program must not subsidize grocery items to the point that the federal Nutrition North program decides to cut its own subsidies. 

Mercier said Nunavik is still in negotiation with the province on how to direct its subsidies to its hunter support program, a subsidy that covers hunting, trapping and fishing items.

The KRG’s goal is to give Nunavimmiut better access to fresh, local foods.

“A lot of the discussion is on food,” Mercier said.  “For Quebec, nutritious food is store-bought food. For the KRG and Makivik [Corp.], the argument is that nutritious food is country food.”

In 2014, the budget for harvesting and traditional activities will remain the same, with a small subsidy in place for transporting country food between communities.

For next year, the KRG and Makivik will also propose to increase the region’s gasoline subsidy program — currently at about $1.7 million a year — and find a way to direct that funding more to Nunavimmiut harvesters, Mercier said.

But overall, the region welcomes Quebec’s most recent installments.

As part of its announcement to increase cost-of-living measures last December, Quebec also pledged to double in 2014 the overall value of the credit as it applies to northern villages.

In 1998, a refundable tax credit for people living in northern villages was introduced; in 2011 it was folded into the Solidarity Tax Credit.

With the latest boost, the amount per eligible adult has grown to $1,620, plus annual indexation.

The decision to increase the credit is very important for Nunavik, Mercier said, where 72 per cent of households earn less than $32,000.

“This means that a family of two adults and three children will get more that $4,000 from the tax credit,” he said.

And to help ensure subsidies are having the greatest impact on Nunavimmiut in need, the KRG has asked Laval university to carry out a two-year study to look at consumer patterns and the cost of living in Nunavik.

“It’s going well, but not as fast as we would like,” said the KRG’s director general Isabelle Parizeau. “We hope to have a proposal ready so we can start in the spring.”

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