OTTAWA – The feds need to keep a close eye on the new Nutrition North Canada program to ensure food prices don’t spike in remote and rural communities, a Commons committee report recommends.
The aboriginal and northern affairs committee also wants the government to launch a full review of the program in three years instead of the usual five.
“Three years is a long time to go without being able to afford to eat,” Liberal MP Larry Bagnell told reporters after the report was tabled Tuesday.
Tory MP Greg Rickford said Ottawa is open to adjusting the program if problems do arise after it’s launched.
“If it’s necessary to make changes, we will,” he said, echoing a statement made by Prime Minister Stephen Harper last month.
Ottawa is in the midst of phasing out the decades-old Food Mail Program for the new Nutrition North Canada plan, which comes into full effect on April 1.
The old program subsidized air transportation via Canada Post to reduce the cost of shipping nutritious food and other essential items to northern and isolated communities.
Under Nutrition North Canada, the government will instead give subsidies to retailers for healthy foods and expect the companies to pass the savings on to consumers. The government is also trying to encourage northerners to buy more nutritious options by subsidizing them more heavily.