NEWS: Nunavik December 04, 2017 - 3:30 pm

Nunavik waits for data to complete new cost-of-living deal

“Makivik, the KRG and the government are interested in having a long-term agreement”

SARAH ROGERS

KUUJJUAQ—As Nunavik’s latest cost-of-living agreement nears its end, the Kativik Regional Government says it’s still waiting for data it needs to negotiate a new deal with the Quebec government.

Quebec provides funding to Nunavik to help offset the high cost of living in the region, though in recent years Nunavik’s leadership has made a case for more money.

The KRG and Laval university completed an in-depth study last year to track the spending habits of Nunavimmiut, to present a comparative cost index to the province to inform future agreements.

The study found that Nunavimmiut pay 48 per cent more for store-bought food in the region than they would if they lived in Quebec City and 23 per cent more for transportation, clothing and personal care items.

But the Laval researchers who led the study say they have faced uncontrollable delays and have yet to analyze and process all the data the KRG needs to bring to the table.

“This is why we waited two months without advancing our negotiations,” Chahine Noujeim, KRG’s treasurer, told regional councillors in Kuujjuaq last week.

“Makivik Corp, the KRG and the government are interested in having a long-term agreement and all the parties are pushing to that end,” he said.

“They said even if we don’t reach an agreement by March 2018, the present agreement would be renewed until a long-term agreement can be reached,” Noujeim said.

The KRG and Makivik use that money to administer six regional cost-of-living measures, which subsidize elders’ expenses, airfares, household appliances, gasoline, food and harvesting equipment for Nunavik Inuit.

The province paid out $33 million in cost-of-living subsidies to Nunavik between 2014 and 2017, an agreement that ended last March.

Quebec then extended the agreement for a one-year period, until March 2018, but the KRG had hoped to negotiate a more sustainable agreement this time around.

Negotiations aside, KRG councillors meeting in Kuujjuaq last week said they’d like the region’s subsidiary programs to be more visible, so more Nunavimmiut know how and where to access them.

Subsidies on store-bought food are usually visible in the region’s grocery stores, marked by the KRG’s Blue Label program, which indicates which products receive a discount.

The KRG also employs a cost-of-living coordinator, whose role is to promote those programs, although that position has been vacant for a year now.

“It’s important for the region and the program to [have someone to] go out on the ground and explain to people what’s going on,” Noujeim said.