A group of NDP MPs representing Northern regions made another plea in Ottawa today to extend the Nutrition North food subsidy to 46 remote, fly-in communities not currently eligible.
The list of communities they say should be eligible includes one community in Alberta, two in B.C., five in Manitoba, five in the N.W.T., five in Saskatchewan, three in Quebec and 25 in Ontario.
"What we have here is an unfair system that needs to be fixed," said N.W.T. MP Dennis Bevington of the current subsidy program. "It's left many of them out in the cold without adequate food."
The NDP compared the cost of milk in Kuujjuaq, Que.,where the subsidy is applied, to Lutselk'e, N.W.T., which receives only a partial subsidy. It found 4L of milk in Lutselk'e cost $17 versus $8 in Kuujjuaq. Other prices vary wildly. Eggs cost twice as much in Lutselk'e, potatoes more than twice as much, but bread is slightly cheaper and flour and oats cost only slightly more.
The NDP estimates extending the subsidy could cost taxpayers about $7.5 million a year.
Nutrition North Canada offers subsidies to retailers operating in remote parts of the country where perishable food has to be flown in at great expense. When the program was introduced in 2011, only communities who had used the former Food Mail program it replaced were considered eligible.
The federal government, on its Nutrition North website, suggests that communities wishing to be considered for the program submit a letter outlining: the community's demographics, the number and ownership of grocery stores, examples of local food prices, specifics on surface transportation, why the community did not use Food Mail, and why the community wants to join the program.
A 10 kg bag of flour in Ontario's Webequie First Nation, which does not receive the subsidy, costs $38 compared to just $9 in Ottawa, said Carol Hughes, MP for Algoma – Manitoulin – Kapuskasing, while a dozen eggs cost $11, and 4L of milk cost $15.
"It's obvious that good nutritious food is just not affordable for most of the families living in these communities," she said. "First Nations and Inuit people deserve better."
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