Major grocers need to be transparent, argues Freeland

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Major grocers must be transparent, supports Freeland

Food prices in grocery stores rose 11.4% in January compared to a year ago.

Federal Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland says CEOs of Canada's largest grocery chains need to be transparent about recent food price hikes.

The leaders of Loblaw, Metro and Empire, which operate banners like Provigo, Super C or IGA, are scheduled to testify late Wednesday afternoon before the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agriculture; agrifood sector, as part of its study on food price inflation.

This inflation has been particularly devastating for low-income Canadians.

Food prices in grocery stores rose 11.4% in January compared to a year ago. It's also nearly double the headline inflation rate, which was 5.9% in January.

At a Wednesday afternoon news conference in Mississauga, Ont., Minister Freeland said she was pleased to see the committee hear from major grocers.

The Deputy Prime Minister said CEOs must explain why prices had risen dramatically in their supermarkets.

CEOs certainly have a duty to all of us to be transparent about why these prices are so high, Freeland argued. And I hope they will tell us that the prices will start to come down.

Other top executives of these big grocers had previously testified in the Commons, but New Democrats in particular lamented the absence of the CEOs themselves.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh flooded his social media with posts announcing his questioning of Galen Weston, the billionaire chairman and CEO of Loblaw. He told reporters on Wednesday that more than 2,000 people submitted questions to the NDP to ask the big grocers.

We are going to ask them tough questions. This is one of the most important responses we have received from the public, he said.

Canadians tell us they have misery. They have trouble shopping. At the same time, these grocery stores aren't just showing normal profits, high profits: they're showing record profits. They have never done better. Their CEOs get huge bonuses.

Asked what the NDP would do differently to remedy the situation, Singh said the government could strengthen competition laws and introduce a tax on excessive profits targeting this sector, as the United Kingdom and Spain have done.

Galen G. Weston (Loblaw) and Michael Medline , president and CEO of Empire (IGA, Sobeys), is scheduled to appear in person on Wednesday. Metro CEO Eric LaFl├Ęche will appear via videoconference.

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