Sean Kilpatrick The Canadian Press The Minister of 'Innovation, Science and Industry, François-Philippe Champagne, during a press briefing Thursday
Reading the most recent grocery flyers makes the Trudeau government say that its plan to “stabilize the grocery store” is already bearing fruit, on the eve of the Thanksgiving holiday, a promise that the Conservative leader has passed the week to be described as “ridiculous”.
“Canadians will be able to see rebates, price freezes, competitive pricing programs,” said the Minister of Innovation, Science and Technology. 'Industry, François-Philippe Champagne, during a press briefing on Thursday.
He added to journalists that his reading of the circulars that morning made him recognize the measures promised in the plans submitted to him by grocers. He sees this as an “acceleration” of these strategies to attract consumers, which he attributes to the actions of his government.
“The cry from the heart that I made on behalf of Canadians has been heard,” he said happily, when announcing that a Consumer Affairs Office will monitor the evolution of price reductions with major food chains. His government also promises to increase competition and collect better statistics on the prices of different foods.
The price of turkey increased by 18% this year compared to October 2022, according to calculations from the Agri-Food Analysis Laboratory at Dalhousie University. Statistics Canada publishes data on the price of chicken and poultry, but not specifically turkey.
Success of a meeting?
On the very first day of the parliamentary term, in September, François-Philippe Champagne met with the top bosses of the country's five largest grocery chains to ask them for a plan to put an end to increases in food prices. /p>
The Prime Minister had given him the mandate to extract from them a plan to “stabilize prices” by Thanksgiving, next Monday, October 9. “Our largest grocery chains are making record profits while Canadians are struggling to put food on the table,” said Justin Trudeau when entrusting him with this mission.
The leader of the official opposition, Pierre Poilievre, rose in the House on numerous occasions this week to ask whether this commitment still stood.
“I know it was a ridiculous promise. I hate having to hold it against him for something so absurd after he caused prices to rise so quickly, but that was his promise,” the Conservative leader mocked Thursday.
The Prime Minister complained of obstructionism from the Conservatives in their opposition to Bill C-56, called the “Affordable Housing and Grocery Act”, which plans to eliminate the GST for construction of apartments and to toughen competition law to block business mergers.
Tax still possible
The September 18 meeting with grocers in Ottawa was described as “productive,” but was quickly overshadowed by the announcement the same day that the Government of India is suspected of a murder in Canada. Minister Champagne continued his quest by asking large manufacturers like Nestlé, Unilever, Kraft and Heinz to stop raising their prices.
Ottawa is still threatening grocers to impose new taxes if the plans presented are not to its satisfaction. This is a long-standing demand of the New Democratic Party (NDP) which demands to “force” the major chains to lower their prices.
“The worst thing would be to see Ottawa tax profits, tax grocers' profits more, because in the end, it is the Conservative who will pay,” believes Sylvain Charlebois, economist and professor at Dalhousie University.
The food sector expert was present at the convening of grocers, at the invitation of Minister Champagne, and where the Minister of Finance, Chrystia Freeland, also made a brief appearance. According to his analysis, supermarkets do not make most of their money on food, where the profit margin is slim. Inflation, he says, is declining anyway.
“No matter what happens with Ottawa, things will improve for consumers. [But] it is certain that if we expect price drops, we dream in color. »
The federal government expects each grocery chain to present its own strategy to limit price increases. It will be up to consumers to judge which plan is best.