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Nutrition North to assert itself on receipts
Federal subsidy still failing remote communities, Nahendeh MLA says

April Hudson
Northern News Services
Monday, August 10, 2015

Northern grocers across Canada will be required to implement a new point-of-sale system by April 1, 2016, which will mark on receipts where customers have saved money due to Nutrition North subsidies.

NNSL photo/graphic

Changes to the Nutrition North program will see more transparency in money savings, however Nahendeh MLA Kevin Menicoche says many community stores the one pictured here is in Fort Providence are left out of the program due to road access. - Walter Strong/NNSL photo

The directive came down from the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development on July 27.

The new point-of-sale system fulfills one recommendation from a November 2014 report by auditor general Michael Ferguson, which questions the efficacy of the Nutrition North program and called for stronger measures to ensure subsidies were actually being passed on to consumers.

In the Deh Cho, Trout Lake is currently the only community eligible to receive the subsidy.

Under current guidelines for the Nutrition North subsidy, communities must lack year-round surface transportation and have used Food Mail, which was Nutrition North's predecessor.

According to figures put out by Nutrition North, the Deh Cho community of Trout Lake is eligible for a full subsidy to the tune of between $1.40 and $3.20 per kilogram.

However, a 2013-14 fiscal year report from the federal government showed that out of $3.3 million in subsidies spread across the Northwest Territories, Trout Lake received none of that.

Nahanni Butte used to qualify for the subsidy, but no longer does. Nahendeh MLA Kevin Menicoche said that is because the community has a winter road.

"Nahanni Butte stopped qualifying when the government amended its (subsidy) list. That was because of the winter roads; their guideline was a fly-in only community," he said.

"But the cost is still very high in these communities, which for the most part are virtually stranded."

Menicoche said the high cost of living throughout the Northwest Territories is noticeable in every community.

"I would urge constituents to raise this issue during the federal election," he said.

"I certainly would like to see the government take another look at (this)."

In June, NWT MP Dennis Bevington proposed a motion in the House of Commons that would force Nutrition North to subsidize 50 more isolated communities.

At the time, Bevington called the program "poorly thought out."

"I think we can safely say this program has been underfunded since its inception," he said.

The House defeated the motion on June 8.

A representative from Trout Lake was not available for comment and spokesperson for Nahanni Butte could not be reached by press time.

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