Tory vote on Nutrition North breeds anger

By Kathleen Martens
APTN Investigates

An Ontario woman is mad at her MP for the way he voted against Nutrition North (NN).

Taye Newman of Oakville says Terence Young (CPC) led her to believe he supported the northern food-subsidy program.

Terence YoungBut he voted against the NDP motion in the House to expand and review it on June 4.

“Mr. Young assured me our government is taking the matter seriously and want all Northerners, like all Canadians, to have access to quality and nutritious food,” Newman told APTN Investigates.

“It was shocking to hear … that my MP, Terence Young, had voted against it.”

Newman shared her disappointment on the Feeding My Family Facebook page. That prompted some of the other 20,000-some members of the page to comment on how their MPs voted.

Newman says Young led her to believe in a letter he sent that he would support the Opposition’s motion to expand the program to another 50 communities and meet with Northerners to discuss improvements.

But he, along with the rest of the Conservative caucus, rejected the idea. Including Nunavut MP Leona Aglukkaq, who is running for re-election.

In the letter, Young noted his party was planning to pump more money into the multi-million-dollar program it established in 2011. And, he said NN was already saving Northern families money on groceries.
But Newman says his action spoke louder than his words.

“When I heard that half of Nunavut children are food insecure, I joined Feeding My Family’s letter-writing campaign. I wrote to my (MP) about the shocking level of food insecurity in the North,” Newman said.

“It greatly concerns me that our government knows people are hungry in the North and yet the government is OK with keeping the status quo.”

Newman has started a website of her own to raise awareness of sky-high food prices called Feeding Nunavut .

NN works by paying northern retailers a subsidy to offset shipping costs in exchange for slashing the high price of certain food items. Last year, it paid out just over $60 million.

But the disturbing story Wasting Away broadcast by APTN Investigates in November 2014 showed an Inuit elder scavenging for vegetables she couldn’t afford to buy in a Nunavut dump. A few days later NN was panned by auditor-general Michael Ferguson.

Ferguson complained the program lacked oversight and controls. He also doubted it was working.

That led many people, including Newman, to conclude NN was broken.

“It’s clear that the Conservative government does not support improving Nutrition North or supporting food security across the North,” NDP-MP Niki Ashton told APTN in an email.

“This is despite the damning report by the auditor-general and the fact that a number of northerners represented by Conservatives face hunger and food insecurity on a regular basis.”

Ashton represents a large, northern Manitoba riding and is the NDP Aboriginal Affairs critic. One of her remote communities – Tadoule Lake – is not eligible for NN so buying milk costs double digits.

But the Conservatives have said they don’t understand why the NDP want to expand a program they claim isn’t working.

Online Journalist / Winnipeg

Award-winning reporter Kathleen Martens covers western and northern Canada for aptnnews.ca. A veteran of the Brandon Sun, Sun Media and APTN Investigates, she is based in APTN’s head office, specializing in stories about property, women’s rights and community.