Dennis Bevington's Nutrition North proposal debated in Parliament

Today was Opposition day in Ottawa — a day where the NDP got to set the agenda — and they made it all about Nutrition North.

Proposal includes comprehensive review with Northerners, inclusion of nearly 50 fly-in communities

NDP MP Dennis Bevington announces the NDP's findings of the close to 50 communities that are not included in the Nutrition North program. Bevington introduced a motion to review the program on Thursday in Parliament. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

Today was Opposition day in Ottawa — a day where the NDP got to set the agenda — and they made it all about Nutrition North.

Parliament debated a motion introduced by Northwest Territories MP Dennis Bevington. The NDP's proposal for the program includes immediately including nearly 50 fly-in communities that are not eligible for a full food subsidy, as well as issuing a comprehensive review of the program.

Many MPs aren't confident that retailers are passing the food subsidy on to consumers.

"When you are giving subsidies and hoping and asking them to transfer on these costs savings to the end consumer, they are not always going always make that their priority, when their priority is, of course, lining their pockets and making profits for themselves and for their shareholders," said Rathika Sitsabaiesan, NDP MP for Scarborough-Rouge River in Ontario.

Transparency coming

The Harper government said it has a plan: a new clause for companies to share profit margins with auditors and a proposal to show how the subsidy was applied on grocery receipts.

Rob Clarke, Conservative MP for Desnethé- Missinippi- Churchill River, said that will mean "consumers will be able to clearly see the amount of subsidy passed on to them."

The Conservatives also repeatedly claimed that Nutrition North has brought down the cost of food since it was introduced in 2011: $137 a month for a family of four.

Whether that's enough remains a point of contention. 

Direct subsidies?

Yvonne Jones, Liberal MP for Labrador, had an idea. She suggested giving the subsidy that goes to retailers directly to Northerners. 

Jones said that after crunching some numbers for Nain, Labrador, she found that would mean about $8,000 a year for a family of eight. 

But, she said, when she asked her constituents whether they think they received that kind of discount based on the subsidy, the answer was "absolutely not." 

Dennis Bevington has long been a critic of the federal government program, asking for the inclusion of isolated fly-in communities for the full subsidy in March of this year. 

Conservative MPs countered by asking why the Opposition want to add communities to a program that it thinks isn't working.


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