Who got the money?

A report recently published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal reported food insecurity has increased significantly in Nunavut communities.

The content of this report was based on Statistics Canada data collected from over 3,000 households in 10 Nunavut communities from 2007 to 2016.

Food costs in the north are three to four times higher than those in the south primarily because of transportation costs and virtually no competition.

In 2011, the Stephen Harper government introduced the Nutrition North Canada program which changed the way citizens in northern fly-in communities were given help to access affordable food.

As a neo-liberal, trickle-down, supply-side economics disciple, Harper replaced the Food Mail Program, which subsidized transportation costs and directly subsidized the southern suppliers and northern retailers.

He argued at the time, the competitive marketplace would lead retailers to pass on the full subsidy to consumers in the north.

When this policy change was introduced in 2011, I wrote a column predicting costs would go up as would food insecurity.

Regretfully for the people of the north and taxpayers who fund the program, that’s exactly what has happened.

Before 2011, 33 per cent of families in Nunavut suffered food insecurity, one year after Harper’s market-driven program, 39 per cent and by 2014, when the program was fully implemented, 46 per cent of households suffered food insecurity.

Prices, of course, didn’t go down because there was no real competition.

A couple of local grocery stores thousands of kilometres away from the nearest large-scale retail competition is not competition —it’s a monopoly ripe for predatory pricing.

In the meantime, as Nunavut households continue to struggle to feed their families, taxpayer subsidies to these corporate handout programs grew from $60 million in 2011 to $99 million in 2018.

So who got the money? Corporations, of course.

It’s just another example, among thousands, that shows how supply-side economics is actually a tool to trickle-up wealth and consolidate market power amongst a few powerful men.

Eighty per cent of Canada’s food industry is owned and controlled by just five multi-national corporations.

Canadian ownership includes those multi-billionaire families – Weston, McCain and Jim Pattison whose wealth increased at staggering rates since supply-side economic policies took over politician’s common sense in the 1970s.

Unfortunately for every working, under-employed or unemployed worker this explains why economic gains worldwide over the last 30 years have created great chasms of income inequality, unsustainable personal debt and stagnant wages while CEO’s and financiers (the one per cent) reap huge gains.

American President, Ronald Reagan and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher were the grandparents of neo-liberal, trickle-down, supply-side economics, later described by President George H. Bush as ‘voodoo’ economics – restructuring the markets to serve those at the top.

President Bush was just speaking common sense to his citizens. It is nonsensical to think cash handouts (or tax cuts) to profiteers, with limited competition, is going to trickle down to families at the bottom of the economic pyramid.

With the smallest application of common sense, it should not be a surprise that the neo-liberal Canada North Nutrition program saw a 65 per cent increase in subsidies to corporations and a corresponding 13 per cent decrease in food security.

 

Brenda Schimke

ECA Review

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