Auditor general to review Nutrition North

Canada's auditor general has agreed to review Nutrition North. The federal program is designed to bring healthy foods to remote northern communities at affordable prices.

Canada’s auditor general has agreed to review Nutrition North.

The federal program is designed to bring healthy foods to remote northern communities at affordable prices.

Old Crow is the only Yukon community eligible under the program.

Nutrition North replaced an earlier program called Food Mail in April 2011.

But critics say that the new program costs taxpayers more and has not achieved the goal of ensuring more affordable nutritious foods make it to the North.

Two former managers of the Food Mail program came out about Nutrition North’s failures in a commentary piece published in newspapers earlier this year.

“Analysis shows that cheerleaders for this program have been using smoke and mirrors in the way food cost information is collected and presented, and have selectively quoted figures in a way that misleads rather than informs the public about northern food costs since Nutrition North Canada came into effect on April 1, 2011,” wrote Fred Hill and Michael Fitzgerald.

Darius Elias, MLA for Vuntut Gwitchin, has been calling for a change since Nutrition North came into effect.

Under Food Mail, Old Crow residents could do their grocery shopping in Whitehorse and ship it home on Air North at a highly subsidized rate.

While transportation subsidies still exist, the price increase has made it unaffordable to Old Crow residents, said Elias.

“It’s going to cost them 110 per cent more out of their pockets. And that really affects the physical and financial health of our families.”

Now, the only option for many is to shop at the only grocery store in Old Crow, the Northern Store.

Under Nutrition North the store receives the subsidy on bringing in healthy foods, with the idea that savings get passed on to customers.

But it isn’t working, said Elias.

In April he told the Yukon legislature that grapes cost $26.16 per kilogram at the Northern.

Yukon MP Ryan Leef said in an interview earlier this year that he agrees the program needs tweaking.

“Let’s be frank here. There have been direct examples where food products that are nutritious and healthy have hit the shelves in Old Crow with alarming price rates on them, and that’s unacceptable. That’s something I’m endeavouring to get to the bottom of.”

Under pressure from Yukon, N.W.T. and Nunavut, the auditor general has agreed to review the program.

In 2012 Elias brought forward a motion in the legislative assembly urging for transportation subsidies to be reinstated as they were under Food Mail.

It passed unanimously.

The auditor general’s report is due to be presented in Parliament in the fall of 2014.

“My expectations are that if they’re going to spend the time and effort to look at the program, my expectations are that it should get better and not worse,” said Elias. “And the problems that exist in Old Crow and across the country should be fixed.”

He hopes that auditors will talk to residents of Old Crow to find out where Nutrition North is failing and how to build a better program.

“The public outcry has been great, and it has been going on for a couple of years now. And I think that if the objectives of the program are to be met to their fullest, then the powers that be should listen to the people who know.”

Contact Jacqueline Ronson at

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Whitehorse and Carcross will be among seven northern communities to have unlimited internet options beginning Dec. 1. (Yukon News file)
Unlimited internet for some available Dec. 1

Whitehorse and Carcross will be among seven northern communities to have unlimited… Continue reading

Willow Brewster, a paramedic helping in the COVID-19 drive-thru testing centre, holds a swab used for the COVID-19 test moments before conducting a test with it on Nov. 24. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
An inside look at the COVID-19 drive-thru testing centre

As the active COVID-19 case count grew last week, so too did… Continue reading

Conservation officers search for a black bear in the Riverdale area in Whitehorse on Sept. 17. The Department of Environment intends to purchase 20 semi-automatic AR-10 rifles, despite the inclusion of the weapons in a recently released ban introduced by the federal government, for peace officers, such as conservation officers. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Environment Minister defends purchase of AR-10 rifles for conservation officers

The federal list of banned firearms includes an exception for peace officers

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
Yukonomist: The K-shaped economic recovery and what Yukoners can do about it

It looks like COVID-19 will play the role of Grinch this holiday… Continue reading

Fossil finds at Mt. Stephen. (Photo: Sarah Fuller/Parks Canada)
Extreme hiking, time travel and science converge in the Burgess Shale

Climb high in the alpine and trace your family tree back millions of years – to our ocean ancestors

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Mask fundraiser helps make children’s wishes come true

From Black Press Media + BraveFace – adult, youth and kid masks support Make-A-Wish Foundation

Colin McDowell, the director of land management for the Yukon government, pulls lottery tickets at random during a Whistle Bend property lottery in Whitehorse on Sept. 9, 2019. A large amount of lots are becoming available via lottery in Whistle Bend as the neighbourhood enters phase five of development. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Lottery for more than 250 new Whistle Bend lots planned for January 2021

Eight commercial lots are being tendered in additional to residential plots

The Government of Yukon Main Administration Building in Whitehorse on Aug. 21. The Canada Border Services Agency announced Nov. 26 that they have laid charges against six people, including one Government of Yukon employee, connected to immigration fraud that involved forged Yukon government documents. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Charges laid in immigration fraud scheme, warrant out for former Yukon government employee

Permanent residency applications were submitted with fake Yukon government documents

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council this week

Karen Wenkebach has been appointed as a judge for the Yukon Supreme Court. (Yukon News file)
New justice appointed

Karen Wenckebach has been appointed as a judge for the Supreme Court… Continue reading

Catherine Constable, the city’s manager of legislative services, speaks at a council and senior management (CASM) meeting about CASM policy in Whitehorse on June 13, 2019. Constable highlighted research showing many municipalities require a lengthy notice period before a delegate can be added to the agenda of a council meeting. Under the current Whitehorse procedures bylaw, residents wanting to register as delegates are asked to do so by 11 a.m. on the Friday ahead of the council meeting. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Changes continue to be contemplated for procedures bylaw

Registration deadline may be altered for delegates

Cody Pederson of the CA Storm walks around LJ’s Sabres player Clay Plume during the ‘A’ division final of the 2019 Yukon Native Hockey Tournament. The 2021 Yukon Native Hockey Tournament, scheduled for March 25 to 28 in Whitehorse next year, was officially cancelled on Nov. 24 in a press release from organizers. (John Hopkins-Hill/Yukon News file)
2021 Yukon Native Hockey Tournament cancelled

The 2021 Yukon Native Hockey Tournament, scheduled for March 25 to 28… Continue reading

Most Read