Liberal critic calls Nutrition North a 'total failure'

Liberal Aboriginal Affairs critic Carolyn Bennett visited Nunavut and called Nutrition North program a total failure.

MP Carolyn Bennett gets firsthand look at food subsidy program in Nunavut

Residents of Pangnirtung, Nunavut, protest the high price of food in their community on June 21, 2012. (Daniel Kulluruqtuq)

The Liberal Aboriginal Affairs critic is weighing in on the cost of food in the North.

Member of Parliament Carolyn Bennett is in Iqaluit this week to get a firsthand look at Nutrition North.

The subsidy program is supposed to make healthy food more affordable in remote northern communities but it has come under fire in recent months by politicians and consumers.

"This government is insistent on making policies based on ideologies instead of evidence," Bennett said.

Liberal Aboriginal Affairs critic Carolyn Bennett visits Nunavut and criticizes the Nutrition North food subsidy program. (CBC)

She said savings are not being passed on to consumers and the federal government refuses to admit the program is a total failure.

Bennett also criticized Nunavut Member of Parliament Leona Aglukkaq, saying she needs to do more for Canadians as the federal health minister.

Bennett is the second opposition MP to visit Nunavut and speak out about Nutrition North.

The NDP's Aboriginal Affairs critic Jean Crowder recently visited Iqaluit and Pangnirtung following the release of the UN Special Rapporteur’s interim report on the Right to Food. It said that Inuit and First Nations have limited access to healthy, affordable food.

Program lacks accountability and transparency

Fred Hill worked on the old Food Mail program for almost two decades as a federal civil servant and he says there's a lack of price monitoring, accountability and transparency in the Nutrition North program.

Nutrition North replaced the Food Mail program in ­­April 2011.

"I'm not convinced that either senior officials in the department or ministers actually understood what they were destroying or what they were creating when this decision to replace the program was made," Hill said.

Hill, along with former colleague Michael Fitzgerald, also wrote a lengthy opinion piece in the Ottawa Citizen newspaper this week blasting the new program.

For the Conservative's part, they're holding firm on the merits of Nutrition North.

Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Minister John Duncan has called complaints illegitimate and said prices are going down on some healthy perishable items.

Bennett said the Facebook group Feeding My Family, which has launched protests across the territory, is proof the program is not working.