NDP candidate: Affordable food, not armies, key to sovereignty
“We need to make sure that the people living in the North… get the same breaks as every other Canadian”
Nunavut needs a discussion on sovereignty, to make sure that people understand the options, says New Democratic Party candidate Bill Riddell.
While the Liberals tout the still-vague Northern Strategy, and the Conservatives promise a deep-water port in Iqaluit and more icebreakers, Riddell says healthy people, not armies, are how Canada should define its presence in the Arctic.
“I’m really frightened at the Conservative approach to sovereignty,” Riddell said this past Tuesday, pointing out that past military activities in the Arctic fundamentally changed the structure of the communities.
“What we need to do to assert sovereignty is to make sure that the people living in the North get the same breaks as every other Canadian gets.”
That’s why Riddell is making affordable food a key issue in his second election campaign.
Last week, northern retailers placed a full-page ad in this newspaper, calling for an even bigger food mail subsidy to make it cheaper for stores to fly in fresh nutritious foods.
Riddell called this “a good start,” but said more needs to be done.
He recently called stores in Nunavut to find out the price of an orange.
The results were bizarre: $1.11 in Iqaluit, 95 cents in Cambridge Bay, 75 cents in Gjoa Haven and only 50 cents in Grise Fiord — the community where you would expect prices to be the highest.
The variances indicate that the food mail subsidy is not being applied evenly. To Riddell, that means it’s time to look at the entire northern food supply — from subsidies to air freight and shipping routes all the way to the price of food for Nunavummiut.
Riddell has other concerns with Liberal and Conservative policies.
He said that the plan to give parents $100 a month to spend on childcare will not help Nunavut.
Instead, people who need the money the most will see any extra money clawed back on their income support cheques, leaving them with no gains.
And while all of the candidates will speak about housing, Riddell is uniquely placed to describe Nunavut’s housing woes.
As a residential tenancies officer with the GN, Riddell’s job is to travel the territory looking at people’s houses — and he’s seen some nasty things.
In Baker Lake two months ago, he visited a house where the furnace was falling through the floor.
More houses are needed right away, Riddell said, but at the same time, the Nunavut Housing Corp. needs more money to maintain the houses they do have.
“Those houses are just deteriorating, let alone the new units.”
Riddell has other issues he wants to see addressed: including a truth and reconciliation process regarding the killing of Inuit sled dogs.
Riddell first came to Iqaluit 24 years ago as a mental health counselor and has since been involved in wellness programs, addictions, suicide and homelessness.
“We need to spend our money resolving and dealing with the social problems so people who are here feel like a part of Canada.”