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Nunavut lawmaker wants audit of food subsidy program

CBC NewsEye on the Arctic
2 kilograms (about 4.5 pounds) of chicken will run $65 in Arctic Bay, Nunavut. Barry Iqalukjuak/Facebook photo

Nunavut MLA Fred Schell wants the auditor general of Canada to launch a formal investigation into the Nutrition North program.

Schell, who represents the communities of Cape Dorset and Kimmirut, raised his concerns about the subsidy Monday in the legislative assembly.

He said in some cases retailers are essentially shipping perishable foods for free or even making money from the subsidy.

Schell says the full consumer freight rate on non-discounted items from Ottawa to Kimmirut is $5.29/kg, though he said the North West Company and Arctic Co-operatives Limited don't pay general cargo rates because they've negotiated a lower rate with the airlines.

The Nutrition North subsidy for perishable food to Kimmirut is $5.40/kg. Schell says that means retailers pocket at least 11 cents per kilogram shipping perishable food to the community.

"Will the premier and this government support a motion to ask the auditor general of Canada to investigate the program and include interviewing the retailers, airlines and indeed our constituents who are being ripped off by this program?" he asked.

Eva Aariak said the Government of Nunavut will have a better idea about the actual cost of food after it reviews prices in 10 communities, a project which starts later this month.

This story is posted on Alaska Dispatch as part of Eye on the Arctic, a collaborative partnership between public and private circumpolar media organizations.