Stores in North left out of food-price discussions in Ottawa

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh says talks aren’t enough; wants to see legislation to bring down prices

Northern Store executives aren’t taking part in talks in Ottawa to discuss the rising cost of food. Pictured is the Northern Store in Taloyoak. (File photo by Dustin Patar)

By Jeff Pelletier - Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Updated on Tuesday, Oct. 31, 2023 at 9 p.m.

Grocery stores in the North have been left out of talks with the federal government on plans to lower the price of groceries but NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh says that doesn’t matter — he’d rather see legislation.

“Let’s go after the problem, and instead of asking them nicely let’s force them to lower prices by putting in better protections, stronger laws that would actually bring down prices,” Singh said in an interview with Nunatsiaq News after a recent visit to Iqaluit.

It was the NDP that prompted these talks to happen in the first place.

The House of Commons Agriculture and Agri-Food committee has been meeting with the CEOs of Canada’s five largest grocery chains over the course of the fall sitting, urging them to create plans to lower prices for consumers.

Those five grocery chains — Loblaw Companies Ltd., Metro Inc., Empire Company Ltd, Walmart Canada Corp., and Costco Wholesale Canada Ltd. — predominantly operate in the south.

The committee is asking those companies to provide updates on their price-lowering strategies ahead of a meeting scheduled for this week.

Nunatsiaq News reached out to North West Company — which controls much of the northern grocery market, where prices on everyday items are often double or triple what they are in the south — to ask to what extent they are working with Ottawa to lower food prices.

Brent Smith, communications manager for the North West Company, didn’t address the question but said his company works to address issues caused by inflation.

He also said the store’s profits so far this year are similar to last year.

“We are responding to the impacts of inflation, which are compounded by higher transportation and operating costs in the North, with greater investments in promotional programs in our stores, sealift inventories, and cost-cutting measures,” he said.

Meanwhile, during his visit to Iqaluit, Singh said he was devastated to hear what families in Iqaluit are paying for groceries.

He said he was shocked to see high prices of around $25 for items such as orange juice and Halloween pumpkins.

In addition to price control legislation, Singh reiterated his call for an overhaul to Nutrition North Canada, where consumers would directly benefit from the subsidy.

“We should put in place policies that bring those prices down and make them more reasonable, and that was the goal of Nutrition North, but it is clearly not working the right way,” he said.

Nunatsiaq News contacted the offices of federal Minister of Industry François-Philippe Champagne and Conservative Northern Affairs critic Bob Zimmer for comment. Neither office responded.

Correction: This story has been updated from an early version.

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(15) Comments:

  1. Posted by Confused on

    Why is carbon tax and GST in Nunavut it’s just making us decide paycheck to paycheck what to do, shelter or food, pay the bills or not.
    We don’t even have that much of vehicles that runs 24/7 or Power generators like the south, also Our community’s are small and miles away from other community’s.

    • Posted by Hunter on

      Because a fringe minority who believes charging 36 million Canadian’s a carbon tax is going to save the entire planet from climate change and convinced members of the Liberal Party we are all going to die if our government does not charge a carbon tax.

      A little informaiton.

      330 million USA citizens who live a stone throw away from 50% of Canadians do not pay a carbon tax

      1.4 Billion Chinese citizens in China do not pay a carbon tax

      1.4 Billion Indian citizens in India do not pay a carbon tax

      Income tax, property tax, GST, PST, HST, gas tax, carbon tax, tax on a tax….we are already giving 50% of our pay in taxes… much more can Canadians be taxed? If I earn $100 I can only spend $35 of it because the rest goes to taxes.

      • Posted by JOHNNY on

        Time to vote , the Liberals out , tax and spend has to stop !!!

  2. Posted by Voter on

    If I was Jagmeet Singh,
    1. Scrap the carbon tax only for the stores fuel expenses in Nunavut.
    2. Kill the carbon tax on Nunavut airlines that fly in the freight for the stores.
    3. Subsidize expenses like fuel costs for the airlines and not to the stores that are just pocketing nutrition north.
    4. Give us the status cards like the natives for subsidy, may be cheaper than nutrition north.

    • Posted by Consistency on

      You have a lot of faith in Canadian North, you think they will keep the costs for flying freight of food low? i dont share that optimism.

      What should happen is companies that get Nutrition north subsidies they are not allowed to make over a certain % of profit from what is sold or shipped. And need to prove it in publicly. released reports.

      • Posted by Northerner on

        It could work , if the Canadian north people don t start giving them selfs bounous , like folk at First Air.

          • Posted by Ronan Iksiktaaryuk on

            this comment contradicts it’s self by saying yes it exist but i never see it

  3. Posted by monty sling on

    Bring down food prices by 10% but they will let you have your snowmobiles, canoes, motors, hondas, SXS at 0 down; same yearly profit from high interest rate on these big ticket items. Food account/ pay only half as good manager would do, more high interest rates….wow they would be making more big bucks each year…350 years in retail business, you learn few tricks,

  4. Posted by Concerned on

    Bottom line,shareholders must be pleased kept yodeling all the way to the bank
    furthermore northwest co. is owned by the yanks and there head office is in

    • Posted by What are you talking about? on

      North West Company Inc. is headquartered in Winnipeg and is a publicly traded company on the TSX, Canad’s exchange. You can go own part of North West Company Inc. right now, the bell has rung, go buy a few shares.

  5. Posted by Inung on

    Beer and wine store in the kivalliq should stop bringring in beers to close by commuities. They are bootlegging and giving them to young people. Young people do not know the harms of alcohol and are purposely giving them without notice.
    With alcohol long time experience, dry communties do not know harms of alcohol. Please inform them for security increase and avoid them bootlegging.

  6. Posted by nutrition north scam on

    Anyone else remember when NN was coming into place (two weeks before), the Northern and Co-op double/tripled their prices on groceries and went down to regular prices claiming that that was the savings? Such bogus from the beginning.

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