On Monday, Ministers Champagne and Freeland held a meeting with top executives of major Canadian grocery chains, including Sobeys, Loblaws, and Costco.
While it’s important that these executives, who together control the lion’s share of Canada’s retail grocery market, are accountable for their role in rising food costs, we were curious – and even more concerned – about who else attended the meeting. At the end of the day, you are the company you keep- and we would expect the Government to keep this in mind.
Dr. Sylvain Charlebois of the Agri-Food Analytics Lab at Dalhousie University announced, and further clarified, on X (Twitter) that he would be attending this meeting as an “unpaid observer”, to “assist” the Minister.
Our biggest question in response: Why? What role does he have to play?
Dr. Charlebois’ Twitter/X Feed can prove questionable at times. Veiled comments about supply management, defence of large grocers hiking prices – surely, he’s not a friend to everyday Canadians, those of us who shop in the grocery stores like you and me.
The issues go past his Tweets – his ties to Loblaws and the Weston Foundation are obvious, and he has clear conflicts from the government money he has received over the years:
An advisor to the Minister of Innovation, Science, and Industry of Canada…is this the reason the producers and the processors were not invited to the meeting, despite being playing a vital role in the food chain?
Is the Government now being told that food inflation is due, in part, to supply management, and that producers are the problem in the food chain, and that their costs of production are why grocery bills are rising?
Food prices all over the world are increasing. In fact, the government has been telling Canadians for months that we should be happy inflation here isn’t rising as quickly as it is elsewhere.
We’re taking this entire “meeting” with a giant grain of salt. It seems like an exercise in futility.
Without producers and other downstream players involved, fixing rising food prices in Canada won’t happen.
The Government gave grocers a couple of weeks to come up with a plan. If the plan they propose is not “satisfactory” (without a clear definition of what would be “satisfactory”), they may or may not act.
The grocers alone won’t bring the prices down. Their margins are much smaller than the inflationary increases of recent months.
At best, they may commit to not raising prices for a time, as long as their own prices don’t go up.
But that, again, risks taking money out of the producer’s pocket and hurting farm families. Farmers feed cities, and the government needs to remember that.
For consumers, this meeting, and the politics around it, might be disconcerting. Even more disconcerting is the fact that inflation is not slowing, and commodities like gas, rent, and groceries remain high, according to Statistics Canada’s recent Consumer Price Index Report.
We recently broke down this report, and how YOU can make the most out of your dollar at the grocery store, on our Twitter/X Account! You can check that out here, and make sure to follow us for more #FoodFacts!