Mulcair, retailers welcome audit; Harper defends Nutrition North
Former Nunavut MLA: 'if [the program's] not working, fix it'
Politicians in Ottawa are getting plenty of mileage out of the recent auditor general’s report on the Nutrition North food subsidy program, and northern retailers and lawmakers are having their say too.
For two days in a row, the audit was a hot topic at question period with opposition NDP politicians using the report’s findings to slam the the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, and hammer the Conservative government.
“Does the Prime Minister not feel any shame that families in the North are getting their food in the town dump?” asked Tom Mulcair, the leader of the NDP’s Official Opposition, referring to a recent APTN documentary that shows people in Rankin Inlet, Nunavut, scavenging for food at the local garbage dump.
But the Prime Minister's faith in the subsidy is unshaken.
“We've seen a significant increase in fresh food going to the North,” said Stephen Harper. “The costs of that are declining.”
Retailers welcome audit
Retailers who operate in the North say they welcome the report and its recommendations.
“We think they'll make the program more effective and will show that, at its core, Nutrition North is working,” says Edward Kennedy, the president of the North West Company, which operates Northern and NorthMart stores across Canada’s North.
Duane Wilson of Arctic Co-operatives Ltd. in Winnipeg, the other major player in Nunavut retail, says that while there are good aspects to the Nutrition North program, there is still room for improvement.
"We have people that have made it their lives' work to try to do a good job of getting the right amount of product to the right place as inexpensively as possible.”
If it's not working, fix it
Former High Arctic MLA Ron Elliot was one of the biggest critics of the Nutrition North program when it was first introduced.
He’s happy the audit happened.
“When you have a lot of eyes on one thing, it actually pushes and that's why we have those mechanisms in place: to be able to have programs work. If they're not working, fix them.”
Inuit organizations also praise the report for bringing food security issues to the forefront.
Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami took the opportunity to point out that much more needs to be done to make healthy food available to Inuit.
“The reality is that it still costs twice as much to feed a family in the North than what it costs to feed a family in many places in Southern Canada,” a press release from the organization says.
ITK also pointed out that the rate of food insecurity in Nunavut is six times the national average – the highest rate in any Aboriginal population in a developed country.