Fort Simpson has been told it must wait until after September’s federal election to discover whether the village is eligible for the federal Nutrition North program.
Village administrators met with officials from the program on Tuesday. They want Fort Simpson to get Nutrition North’s help during freeze-up and break-up, as was recently pledged to five other NWT communities.
Nutrition North helps lower the cost of food and essential items in participating communities.
Mayor Sean Whelly said “preliminarily, things look good” for Fort Simpson to join the program, but federal officials say no decision can be made until after polling day on September 20.
The five-week delay brought about by the election will narrow the window for Fort Simpson to be added before the next fall freeze-up season, during which the community will temporarily lose road access with no ferry and no ice road.
The community ferry’s average closing date over the past 15 years has been November 3.
“It was a positive phone call,” said Whelly. “They believe that it looks positive for us to get onto the program, but they have to do a little more research themselves.
“They’re saying because of the election, the way government works, nothing new can be added to the program until the election is over.”
Fort Simpson argues it, too, deserves the seasonal Nutrition North access now offered to Nahanni Butte, Tsiigehtchic, Fort McPherson, Inuvik, and Tuktoyaktuk in the spring and fall.
Whelly says the village is isolated for about 54 days a year by his calculation, a figure similar to that experienced by the other communities.
Delivery of supplies can also be disrupted by maximum weight limits on the ice road or the sudden closure of the ferry, meaning food must be flown into the community at extra cost.
“We don’t quite make it as far as having two months of seasonal disruption,” said Whelly, “but if you look a little deeper, there’s a longer period where we’re impacted and actually have to do air shuttle.”