Nunavik’s cost-of-living program over budget, people still pay more

‘Even with the subsidies, these gaps are still there,’ says Laval researcher

The Kativik Regional Government administers a program to help offset the cost of groceries in Nunavik. It’s one of six measures paid for through Quebec’s cost-of-living funding. (File photo by Sarah Rogers)

By Sarah Rogers

Nunavik’s cost-of-living program is facing a $3.9 million deficit after most of its subsidy measures went over budget in 2020, the Kativik Regional Government’s treasury department told regional council meetings this week.

Between 2019 and 2025, the Quebec government will pay $115 million in subsidies to Nunavik — or roughly $19 million a year — to help offset the high cost of living in the region.

The Kativik government administers that funding through six measures: elders’ assistance, airfare reduction, country food support, harvesting equipment and household appliances, gasoline as well as food and other essentials.

Most of those programs exceeded their budgets last year, said the regional government’s treasury department director, Chahine Noujeim.

Not surprisingly, the airfare reduction program stayed under budget in 2020, due to COVID-19-related travel restrictions. Nunavimmiut only claimed $200,000 of its annual $600,000 budget last year.

But the Kativik government must work to balance those budgets before the Quebec funding agreement ends in 2025, Noujeim said.

“We have to tackle this now,” he told regional councillors. “Otherwise, we’ll be forced to cut these programs later on.”

The department wouldn’t release its individual subsidy budgets for 2020, pending an April audit.

In the meantime, the Kativik government has met with Makivik Corp. to come up with a plan to keep those subsidies under budget this year, with the goal of maintaining the measures as much as possible.

The harvesting equipment program, for example, went 25 per cent over budget last year, Noujeim said. Under that measure, Nunavimmiut can claim up to 40 per cent of the cost of equipment or household appliances up to a maximum of $400.

Going forward, the Kativik government is proposing to stop accepting claims once the subsidy has reached its budget for the year.

That may not be an option for some of the region’s other subsidy programs, like its food subsidy, which accounts for 60 per cent of Nunavik’s cost-of-living funding.

“This is the measure that is helping the most,” Noujeim said.

That subsidy won’t change, he said, until they have seen the newest assessment from Laval University researchers who are tracking data around cost-of-living measures and needs in Nunavik.

That research is what helped secure the region’s cost-of-living funding from Quebec in the first place.

In 2016, Laval researchers tracked spending across the region and found that Nunavimmiut pay 48 per cent more for store-bought food than residents of southern regions, and up to 23 per cent more for transportation, clothing and personal care.

‘There’s still a lot of work to be done’

That price monitoring program is ongoing. Latest research looks at the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on pricing in Nunavik.

Laval researchers presented the results of their latest research to Kativik government council Wednesday. It shows that the prices of certain grocery items increased in Nunavik during lockdown measures between March and May 2020.

Laval researcher Gérard Duhaime acknowledged that those increases were “slight” and comparable to increases seen globally, as measures like sanitization and distancing drove up costs.

“But even with the cost-of-living subsidies, these gaps are still there,” Duhaime told regional councillors. “We’re still not at the same price as other regions in Quebec.

“There’s still a lot of work to be done.”

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(4) Comments:

  1. Posted by Monitor the store’s pricing on

    It appears that prices in the stores go up according to the implementation of the cost of living from the government. It’s a race against keeping up with customer rip offs. The research should look into this as an interference to the program. I think also it’s time to form a price watch group to show the customers the reality of comparison with stores in the community. There are three main stores in kuujjuaq and the prices are so different it’s like it’s not the same community. There could be 5 or 10 dollars difference in the same product. It’s a real injustice to Nunavik also when our co-op stores are not reflecting reasonable membership savings also. Plus outdated products on the shelf in some stores nauseating.

  2. Posted by The peoples co-operative on

    I think people are misunderstanding a big part of the high cost of living in the north in regards to the government programs. Yes, the cost of living programs are there. It’s the airlines and the retailer that’s cashing in on the millions. Everything given out by the government makes the business richer, and the people poorer. It’s bypassing the customer. It’s like a bad old game between the government, the airline and the stores. People are just spectators dishing out their little bit of money. As far as the cooperative are concerned, it’s always been a game of rip off to Nunavik. No other cooperative in the country takes advantage of people like fcnq. It’s time people wake up and realize that they are allowing the co-op to make them look like the most stupid customers in the country. Fcnq has always looked for a easy way to do their rip off work, and they found it via beer and wine sales. The profits are outrageous and people are made to look stupid, and not complain due to the addictive nature, which fcnq is cashing in on.

  3. Posted by concerned on

    With nutrition north, the stores save up enough money to buy their own cargo shipping companies yet the prices still keep going up. Amazon had to make a special store, special deals just to keep the eastern arctic happy. What is really going on here? Where is the macro-economic formula that Laval uses? NWC and FCNQ, are they hiding something that they are both aware they are doing? The shareholders of these companies, we know FCNQ is made up of individual coops, but who is really the other half? I am sure Inuit are put in charge there but I bet their partner is tell them the half truths.

  4. Posted by Dick Lenning on

    If the Governments of Kativik, Quebec, and Canada are truly serious about making the region more prosperous then they should declare the entire Nunavik as a Special Economic Zone (SEZ,) with taxes reduced to 0% for 10 years for both workers and businesses. In addition, this region (as well as all of Canada) needs to seriously DEREGULATE! For proof on how well SEZs can work, just look at Shenzhen, Zhuhai, Dubai, and others around the world.

    Less is more!

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