Tories need to rethink Nutrition North: Liberal aboriginal affairs critic Bennett
"People should go back to look at the food mail program"
Carolyn Bennett, the Liberal MP for the Toronto riding of St. Paul’s and her party’s Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development critic, had little good to say about the Conservative government’s Nutrition North Canada program June 27 in Iqaluit, where she travelled to meet with other politicians and ministers.
Her overall message during a morning scrum with reporters: that policy-making from Ottawa does not work for northerners.
“I do not think that people supposedly representing the North can continue to just recite the PMO [Prime Minister’s Office] talking points instead of actually acknowledging a problem and committing to deal with it,” Bennett said.
Identifying subsidies doesn’t tell the story of what it costs people for food, she said, and “as always, the prices are outrageous.”
Even a year ago, before the May 2011 federal election, people were voicing their concerns about Nutrition North: it wasn’t going to work, they said, and now their concerns are greater, Bennett said.
“We’ve got a situation where Inuit people are protesting in the streets in communities across the territory — it’s something that I don’t think anybody has ever seen,” she said.
The Tories don’t want to acknowledge the shortcomings of their Nutrition North program, Bennett said. “This government is intransigent in admitting that the program is a total failure, as they were told this time last year.”
To Bennett, this stance is irresponsible: “they don’t want to measure what they don’t want noticed, because they don’t want to fix anything,” she said.
The government needs to go back to the drawing board and listen to people who are saying the program isn’t working Bennett said.
“Everybody knows their families are hungry,” said Bennett, who recommends a return to the discontinued food mail program. “Generally what I’ve heard so far is that Nutrition North should just be abolished and that people should go back to look at the food mail program and how that could be made better.”
Leona Aglukkaq, the Conservative MP who represents Nunavut, also has “to stick up for the people here, and not be trying to persuade them in thousands of dollars of advertising that everything’s okay.” Bennett said. “Because it isn’t okay.”