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Black Friday looms for Northern store
Coral Harbour pickets store, calls for May 25 boycott

Darrell Greer
Northern News Services
Published Saturday, May 12, 2012

A large crowd gathered outside the Northern store to protest high prices in Coral Harbour this past week.

NNSL photo/graphic

Protesters display their displeasure with food prices at the Northern store in Coral Harbour this past week. - photo courtesy of Leonie Pameolik

The protesters also made a stop in front of the local Co-op.

Protest organizer Simeon Dion said the people in Coral have had enough of not being able to stretch their food dollar.

He said he knew he had to try to make a difference when a local elder asked him to help.

"I told the elderly man of course I well try to help the community and, hopefully, also help out the North, as we need to start somewhere," said Dion.

"Why do we shop at the Northern store? On payday, you go shopping once and you're broke on a loaf of bread, a dozen eggs, a carton of milk and, maybe, one or two other things.

"At least, some say, with the Co-op we might receive money at the end of the year if the store does well.

"More money for locally-owned stores means more money for local people, making them feel richer after shopping at the end of the year."

Dion said he received no response from the head office of the Northern store regarding the community's concerns about high prices.

He said local store manager Perry Power told him he was instructed by his head office to put out free coffee and doughnuts.

"Free coffee and doughnuts are pretty sad. Why not a snowmobile or an ATV?

"We haven't seen much from Nutrition North, maybe a few things going down 10 cents, or something, but what's gone down on them has gone up a lot higher on all the other products we need.

"We have helped the Northern store long enough and that's the thanks we get for paying the stupid interest rates it sets and the high prices for the food we are accustomed to.

"Despite all these outstanding rates we keep hearing about, we see items at the Northern store go up, and not by cents, but by doubling or even tripling, and something is wrong there."

Dion said, in his opinion, big profit is what's behind all the skyrocketing prices at the Northern store.

He said the store sets things up to benefit its own, not the community.

"You look at base profit sharing, when the managers in the communities that make the most profit receive bonuses.

"They (managers) don't care about tripling the prices because more money for the big bosses means giving out bonuses to the store managers, right?

"We need to hit stores all over the North because they've bullied us long enough.

"If nothing's being done with prices by Friday, May 25, then that's the day we, the people in the North, should work together and quit shopping there until something is done.

"We need everyone's help to make Friday, May 25th, the day we take control."

North West Co. executive vice-president Michael McMullen said the key bundle of products (healthy foods) in the Nutrition North Program has been reduced by 19.5 per cent in Coral Harbour since the program began.

He said the price on healthy products across Nunavut has dropped by 20.4 per cent.

McMullen listed milk, potatoes and large tomatoes as items that have seen significant price drops.

And, he said, consumption has gone up on produce, dairy, and fresh meat.

"We're working with the program and prices have come down," said McMullen.

"Are prices high in the North? Yes they are, but we do our best every day to keep prices in line."

McMullen said auditors can enter a Northern store at any time and a recent review on Iqaluit's Northern store was quite positive.

He said the report stated the store had taken extraordinary steps to promote the purpose and intent of the Nutrition North Program.

"They were extremely complimentary in that we went above and beyond what was required by the program.

"Their audit is indicating the subsidy has been fully passed on.

"What's supposed to be happening with Nutrition North is, absolutely, happening in our stores."

McMullen said while prices have dropped about 20 per cent on fully subsidized products, the price on products not eligible has risen substantially.

He said freight on three-pound products has risen to $19 from $2.40.

"Yet we're selling, and very well, non Nutrition North products that are very similar in price to last year, unless they've had inflation beyond our control.

"With products that have gone to non-eligible -- that are not dry, perishable stable goods -- we've really done a strong job trying to get more of that up there.

"We took out 1,650 products we used to ship to the North -- that we weren't selling very much -- to create more room on sealift for items becoming ineligible like flour, sugar and some canned goods.

"We've increased the shipment of products into the North via sealift or winter road to protect prices."

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