Nunavut: home of the $19 jar of Cheez Whiz

Change to federal program results in massive price hikes in Canada’s Far North


Residents of Canada’s Far North are dealing with a staggering rise in the price of sugar, canned goods, toilet paper, and nearly every other basic staple of life. The price hikes are due to a change to the way the federal government finances the cost of shipping grocery items to northern communities. Ottawa used to fund the cost of sending all essential grocery items to the North. But, as of last October, the program became limited to non-perishable food items after a study commissioned in 2008 found the program expensive and inefficient. The end result has been a whopping increase in the price of virtually everything. According to a report in La Presse, in Puvirnituq, Nunavika, a 2 kg bag of sugar currently sells for $14,74; in Kuujjuaq, the same can of tomato juice which used to cost a hefty $5.42 now goes for $8.51; meanwhile, in Nunavut, a jar of peanut butter will run you $17.69.

La Presse

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Nunavut: home of the $19 jar of Cheez Whiz

  1. Live in the boonies, and items from the non-boonies cost more. Who'da thunk?

    Now, ditch the rest of the subsidy while removing any restrictions currently imposed on them hunting or fishing for their own food.

    Then, if you want people up there for whatever reason, make sure their jobs pay enough to support the extra costs.

    Once you've done that, then you can accurately look at the cost benefits of having people way up north, and determine if it's really worth it.

    • The Canadian Government practically destroyed any ability they had of sustaining themselves through hunting and fishing by forcing them to Westernize their culture and get "real" jobs so that they could live like "civilized" folk. Therefore the Government should be the one to support them. I don't care if the decision to do this was made 50 years ago, we the Canadian people have a responsibility to the Native population for the damage we've caused to their culture and way of life.

      If the government came to your town and made you dependent on Banana's but in the future refused to help supply you with Banana's you'd be pretty angry too.

      Though in retrospect, Tomato juice and Peanut Butter are hardly essential commodities.

      • I get where you're coming from, but is that ability permanently destroyed, or is it just less popular because it's a harder life to lead than one subsidized by the government? If the former, what exactly has been destroyed, and is there some way that we can rebuild it? I think that'd be a far better use of our time and resources.

        • Someone should actually go look at how the government is offering this subsidy. It’s a total mess. The last version of so called food mail program simply put money in the pockets of Canada Post, First Air and some grocer in Val D’or. Now they’ve taken that away from Canada Post, First Air and the grocer in Val D’Or and have provided the incentive to the northern grocers which happen to be very large chains. The savings are not being passed on to the consumer. And, they expect all northern grocers to bring up a years supply of non perishables by sealift but where will all this merchandise be stored???? Very few of the grocers have storage or warehouse buildings here. So, what’s happening is the grocers are bringing everything up by airplane cargo and overcharging even on the fresh produce to compensate for the non perishables. If this government would just be more logical and if they honestly cared about the northern people and sovereignty then they would do a better job at devising a plan. It’s not rocket science. It’s just shipping food from there to here.

          • So what you're suggesting is that you don't really see any benefit from it anyway? I'm not sure that jibes with the price hikes, though, does it?

  2. Rather than subsidize the food, give them a larger cost of living allowance. I'm not entirely sure why they are entitled to a living courtesy of Ottawa.

    • If I remember correctly the reasons why folk are subsidised to live in the North as they do are:
      Partially the drive by good white xtian folk to ensure that the natives live like good white xtians and appreciate their better way of living.
      And partially so that the government doesn't have to spend even more money maintaining a military (and support) presence in the North to actually remind the world that Arctic Canada is Canadian. Check out the Canadian Rangers. I guess given the designs of the USA and Russia on the resources up there, someone needs to be around to keep an eye on things and rather than actually plan a rational and feasible response to this need, the Government of Canada has continually gone cheap and abusive in this area.
      Harper and Co are just showing that they can be cheaper and more abusive than those who have gone before them.

  3. And a ziploc bag filled with pot? How much does that go for on the streets of Iqaluit and Igloolik?

    And if the market finds a way to keep that commodity available at an attractive price…

    • I am genuinely curious and not being snarky, what do you know of the availability and consumption of pot in the far north? I would have assumed that it would be waaaaay to scarce/expensive in a place like Igloolik and therefore it'd be rare for it to be smoked up there.

      • I know little, other than having read reports that drug use is a problem up there. Which suggests that it's available. I found such reports jarring in contrast to the high cost of such staples as milk, bread, vegetables. I chose one "big" town and one "tiny" town in Nunavut for my question, not out of any particular knowledge of the illicit drug trade in the two respective communities.

        If anybody does have specifics, that would be great.

  4. Next time Harper goes on one of his Arctic sovereignty tours, make him live like the residents – buying his own food at the local store. That might motivate him to look for better alternatives…

    • I'd be surprised to learn that there was any point in the last fifteen years when Stephen Harper could accurately estimate the price of a jar of peanut butter.

      Though I suppose these days he could commission a poll.

  5. Where is the Health Minister on this? Anything from her at all?

  6. No one is forced to live in the Arctic, if they don't like the reality of it, they can leave, aboriginals included.

    In fact, none of our levels of government should offer incentives to aboriginals or anyone else to stay in one geographic location, get rid of 'employment insurance' for fishermen too.


      Ahhh gawd yer funny!

  7. Well I think is awful, something needs to be done.

    • Get out your wallet and send them your money, that's something.

      • If that would help, I will be more than happy to do that.

        • It would help somebody, do it.

  8. Another Marie Antionette moment for Harper.

  9. "The Pangnirtung Locavore Community Association Annual General Meeting will now be called to– hey, where is everybody?"

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