My Little Corner of Canada
by JOHN AMAGOALIK
The Crushing Cost of Living
The high cost of living in Canada’s Arctic is getting ridiculous. For a long time, we have reluctantly accepted food prices that are easily two to three times higher than in southern Canada. The cost of housing continues to go through the roof. The cost of transportation, largely responsible for this high cost of living, increases by leaps and bounds. The cost of fuel and energy follow suit. It’s a vicious cycle.
In the early days of the opening up of the Arctic, it was reasonable to expect higher costs because of extreme isolation and lack of infrastructure. The cost of moving things was understandably high.
Today, this extreme isolation is gone. Residents of Grise Fiord, Clyde River, or Taluqjuaq can get to most parts of the country in a day or two. All communities have reasonable airport facilities compared to the old days.
Modern navigation systems means flying in the Arctic is no longer a guessing game. You can pick up the phone and talk to someone half way around the world as if that person were next door. Turn on your television set, and you can watch live coverage of the funeral of Diana. Click to the Internet and you’re connected to the World Wide Web. The isolation is now mostly distance.
Government has been partly responsible for the cycle of higher costs. They paid their employees higher wages and gave them isolated post allowances. Many private enterprises had to follow suit in order to compete for workers. The transportation companies felt justified in charging high prices because governments were going to subsidize the cost anyway.
Most local residents never saw the higher wages, isolated post allowances, or other benefits of government jobs. But they still had to pay the higher costs.
Now the cash cow of government subsidies is starting to dry up. Just when local residents are starting to settle into government jobs, the benefits are being clawed back. But the transportation companies are not lowering their rates.
The latest body blow to the northern consumer is the news that a private company has been given responsibility for running air navigation systems in Canada and have decided that it will be necessary to increase certain fees for airlines in the north. The airlines will undoubtedly pass this higher cost on to us.
Perhaps it’s time that we stop accepting this quietly. Perhaps it’s time to say that we’re mad as hell and we won’t take this anymore.
This corner quotes:
“Nothing has changed. The government of Quebec is in the same ship the state of Canada and we are not suffering from anxiety about the next referendum. We will contemplate that bridge when we get to it. If we come to it, we will block it, cross it, burn it, jump off it or watch water go under it. We will examine our options.”
Zebedee Nungak, as quoted by the Ottawa Citizen