ABOVE: The problem of food security is pitting the minister for Canada’s North, Leona Aglukkaq, against some of her constituents, after residents of Rankin Inlet claimed food prices are so high that some are combing dumps for food. Vassy Kapelos reports.
TORONTO – Leona Aglukkaq, current environment minister and former health minister, is facing criticism after she chose to read a newspaper instead of answer questions on the food crisis in Canada’s north during question period on Monday.
An APTN investigation into food prices in Nunavut—Aglukkaq’s own riding—suggests the Nutrition North program is not working, and aired video of a resident combing through a dump for food.
Nutrition North is a food subsidy program for remote Northern communities introduced by the Conservative government with the aim of making healthy food more affordable and available. Auditor General Michael Ferguson’s recent report said there was no way to determine whether the program is working, and suggested feeding a family in Nunavut costs twice as much as it would in the rest of the country.
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The report suggested the program doesn’t properly distribute subsidies or ensure savings are properly passed on to consumers and also subsidizes foods of dubious health value, such as ice cream, bacon and processed cheese spread.
During question period Monday, NDP MP Romeo Saganash questioned Aglukkaq:
“Does the minister actually believe that people being forced to pay ten times more for milk or to scavenge at the dump is indicative of a program that is working?”
Aglukkaq didn’t answer Saganash’s question, which was directed to Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt as she continued to read the paper. Liberal and NDP MPs responded loudly to the scene, forcing House speaker Andrew Scheer to call for order.
WATCH: Minister Aglukkaq reads the newspaper rather than answer a question addressed to her
Aglukkaq did speak up to defend herself after she was criticized for attacking Rankin Inlet deputy mayor Sam Tutanuak, who claimed she asked him to apologize for negative remarks about the Nutrition North program. Aglukkaq denied the claim, saying his comments “are absolutely false.”
With files from The Canadian Press