12/03/2014 08:53 EST | Updated 02/02/2015 05:59 EST

Leona Aglukkaq: Reading Newspaper During Question Period A 'Bad Idea'

Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq says it was a bad idea to read the newspaper during question period, appearing insensitive to her constituents while opposition parties questioned the government about exorbitant food prices in the North.

In an interview with CBC News, Aglukkaq said it was "a very bad idea to be reading the newspaper that day and I apologize to my constituents on that, because I think with the media perception and how it was portrayed — that I don't care — I do care."

​​"But it was a very bad idea to be reading the newspaper that day and I want to apologize to my constituents if that was portrayed as being that I don't care, because that is the complete opposite.

"And if I could do it differently, if I could take it back, I would have probably waited until question period was over to catch up on Nunavut news," Aglukkaq said on Wednesday.

Aglukkaq's apology comes two days after she was seen casually reading the newspaper during question period on Monday while she was under fire from the opposition parties over a food crisis in the North.

The Opposition New Democrats wanted to know what she was doing about reports of a Nunavut elder rummaging through a dump for food.

Residents scavenging for food?

Aglukkaq told CBC News she's never heard of residents going through the garbage dump for food, which is why she called the senior administrative officer in Rankin Inlet.

"Well, I know I've seen and I have done this before too, where we go to the dump to look for parts, for our four-wheelers, our snow machines or our trucks and whatnot. 

"And you know when you are building a cabin you also go to the wood dump to find extra wood to build your cabin, because it is not like you can go to a Home Hardware store in our northern communities to find wood.

"But the story on the food part was very new to me, which is why I placed a phone call right away," she told CBC News.

Aglukkaq said it's not uncommon to see food that's expired go to the dump, but northerners rarely waste food.

"As a kid growing up, I can tell you that my parents taught me that you don't waste food. Food was scarce growing up as a kid, that is what we were taught, and to this day my mother is very strong about you can't waste food and she'll save food and so on," she said.

Aglukkaq also maintained she neither spoke to nor demanded an apology from Rankin Inlet Deputy Mayor Sam Tutanuak.

Tutanuak claimed the minister demanded an apology from him for making disparaging remarks about the federal Nutrition North program.

The auditor general in his fall report last week found the Conservatives' northern food subsidy program isn't working.


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