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Northern Affairs minister says ‘it’s to be determined’ if Nutrition North subsidy going to consumers

May 8, 2024

Federal government commits external review of program.

Nutrition North

The Nutrition North Canada subsidy is supposed to reduce the high cost of food in northern and remote communities. Photo: APTN. 

APTN News: A federal subsidy program that is supposed to make food cheaper in remote and northern communities is heading for an external review, says the minister in charge of the file.

According to Northern Affairs Canada, the 2024-25 budget for the subsidy portion of Nutrition North Canada (NNC) is $145 million. The money is paid to retailers who, in turn, are expected to pass the savings on to consumers.

Retailers are supposed to pass 100 per cent of the subsidy on to people in 125 eligible communities across the country.

But a published report released in the fall of 2023 found only .67 cents on the dollar was being passed along.

In a wide-ranging interview with Nation to Nation that will air on Thursday, Dan Vandal, minister of Northern Affairs, called the NNC a “complex” program.

“I think there’s room for improvement,” Vandal said. “What exactly the pass-through rate is, it’s to be determined, but there’s room for improvement. But having said that, having spoken to for a two at least four researchers, they all say that Nutrition North is a good program. They’re doing some good.

“It could be that we need to improve the data collection, maybe the type of data we’re collecting to make sure that we ensure the subsidy rate is passed on to consumers.”

There are four parts to the NNC; the retail subsidy, the harvesters support grant, the community food initiative and a research component.

In March, Vandal said an internal review of the subsidy program would take place.

Opposition parties have been calling on the government for an external review of the program.

Vandal told Host Fraser Needham that he’s meeting with researchers regularly to discuss the program and an external review will happen.

“We’re open to the collaboration, to partnership and we’re also going to do an external review once the internal review is done with committed to that and we’ll get it done,” Vandal said.

APTN: “So you will do it after this?” Vandal is asked. Absolutely. Yes,” he said.

In April, Nunavut MP Lori Idlout called retailers to appear before the Indigenous Affairs Committee.

Vandal, along with the heads of four companies that receive money under the subsidy program will go before a Parliamentary committee later today.

The full interview with the minister will be published on Nation to Nation on May 9.

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