Jagmeet Singh calls for Nutrition North ‘overhaul’ during Iqaluit visit
NDP leader to hold public meet-and-greet with MP Lori Idlout on Saturday
In Iqaluit on Friday, federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh called for an overhaul of Nutrition North, saying that grocery stores are pocketing the benefits.
Singh is in the Nunavut capital for the first time since 2021, joining New Democrat MP Lori Idlout for a visit to the community. He’s accompanied by his wife, Gurkiran Kaur, and their one-year-old daughter.
At a news conference, Singh said Nutrition North — a federal subsidy that cuts the prices of healthy food in the North — is broken because customers are not seeing prices drop.
“The financial support goes to the retailer, goes to the grocery store, the grocery store then is trusted to somehow bring down prices and they’re not doing it,” Singh said.
“The cost is so high and Nutrition North doesn’t actually make it to the families, doesn’t make it to the people who need it.”
In an interview, Singh didn’t say exactly what a new Nutrition North might look like.
He said the program, as it is, was not designed with consumers in mind.
“This idea that giving [subsidies] to the retailer, I think is just off the table,” Singh said.
“I think you’ve got to make sure we understand what people need, where the gaps are …, where the costs are way too high and then design a program that actually gets to the people that need it.”
Singh’s NDP holds the fourth-highest number of seats in the House of Commons, but it’s in a special agreement with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government that will keep the Liberals in power until the next election in 2025.
In exchange, the Liberals agreed to legislate some of the NDP’s priorities, especially on dental and prescription drug policies.
Singh said this arrangement has benefited Nunavummiut.
Giving a lot of praise to Idlout as well, Singh took some of the credit for securing $214 million to fix Iqaluit’s water system in April 2022.
“We forced the investment in the water infrastructure for Iqaluit,” Singh said.
In January 2022, weeks after Iqaluit’s tainted water emergency, the NDP called for the federal government to pump $180 million into fixing the city’s water infrastructure.
Singh also said a “grocery rebate” — or GST credit — that was included in the most recent federal budget would not have happened if not for NDP advocacy.
Idlout also touted the NDP’s role in that budget line at the time, but said it would have a minimal impact on people in the North.
“Every single thing that has come out of this government recently is because New Democrats forced them,” Singh said.
“We are going to force this government to deliver dedicated funding directly to Nunavut: $500 million to make sure there’s a dedicated fund to build 3,000 homes by 2030.”
Looking forward, Singh said his party is working to pass legislation aimed at addressing a number of issues including corporate monopolies and airline passengers’ right.
But this weekend, Singh said he’s looking forward to continuing his tour of Iqaluit.
Before speaking to reporters, Singh met with Premier P.J. Akeeagok and MLAs to hear about Nunavut’s priorities. He’s also set to meet with union groups and enjoy some time with his family.
This weekend, the local NDP riding association is expected to nominate Idlout as the party’s candidate for re-election. That meeting is slated for Saturday evening at the Franco Centre.
As part of that event, Singh and Idlout will host a meet-and-greet, open to the public, starting at 6 p.m.
“What I want to take away is, I want to know the stories of the people of the North so I can take those stories back to Ottawa,” he said.