With consumers’ cost-of-living concerns generating steady streams of news about food prices in Canada, the federal government is pushing to mandate a grocery code of conduct.

On January 13, the agriculture ministers from Canada and Quebec commended the industry for the progress they appear to be making while urging agri-food organizations to be part of the consultations about « the Code. » Their message, essentially: It’s happening. Get on board.

(We wonder why other provinces’ agriculture ministers weren’t part of the announcement. But that’s just one of several questions we have about this latest move to quell consumer anger.)

The joint Canada-Quebec statement declares: « By enhancing transparency, predictability and fair dealing, the Code will help make Canada’s food supply chain more resilient. With businesses working together, the Code…can be even more effective, which ultimately, will not only benefit the industry, but consumers as well. »

Nearly a month later, why aren’t we hearing more about these consultations?

When are they? Who will participate? Are they open to the public? Who will hold the pen on any eventual report? Will the federal and provincial governments have a say on the Code or will they simply rubber stamp it?

We have so many questions! (And, so far, no answers.)

A few more questions and predictions:

  • Are we going to see a Code developed and be told it will lower our food costs? Probably.
  • Will the people who question the Code be accused of showing bad faith and called cynical? Probably.
  • Will we see skyrocketing profit from grocers at the end of 2023? No doubt…
  • So, is the Code just smoke and mirrors so governments appear to be doing something? Probably, yes.

All of this said, we agree with those calling for a Consumer Action Group, a group that would inform consumers, mobilize fight for them. But there, too, we have questions:

  • Are there people across the country able to volunteer to make this group a real force?
  • Who would pay for this group’s activities? (Because it will need money to operate and succeed.)
  • Are consumers at a point that they would hit the street to protest high prices?
  • Are you ready to get together to either boycott some grocery stores or products?

Canadians generally are more passive than aggressive (with some exceptions).

For example, in Québec, sometimes, we do protest in big numbers – such as in 2019 when 500,000 Quebeckers took to the streets in the name of the environment. So, we do have our limits, eventually. Will higher food prices push us there again? However, did the Quebec protest change the government’s stand or policies? Nope!

Are we, collectively, at a point where we accept that we can’t change what affects us? Are we simply to accept that our contribution to democracy is just voting every 4 years?

We don’t want to believe that, collectively, we’ve given up on our capacity to make change.

Could C3FC be the watchdog on a Grocery Code of Conduct? Yes, it can. And we’ll be watching closely. So, please follow us and let us know what questions you have about this latest move affecting your food bills.