Canadian Grocers Respond to Government’s Call to Stabilize Grocery Prices

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Major grocery retailers in Canada remain tight-lipped about their commitment to the federal government’s recent call for special promotions to stabilize soaring grocery prices.

Last week, Industry Minister François-Philippe Champagne unveiled that these grocery giants have proposed preliminary strategies to keep prices in check. These strategies encompass discounts, price freezes, and price-matching initiatives.

Prominent grocery chains such as Loblaw, Empire, Metro, Walmart, and Costco have been approached by The Canadian Press to verify their specific commitments. While Metro chose to remain silent, Loblaw, Empire, and Costco have yet to address the inquiries.

Walmart Canada, however, provided some clarity. Stephanie Fusco, the senior manager of corporate affairs, emphasized Walmart’s ongoing commitment to their “everyday low prices” policy. She stated, “We’ve informed the government about our continued dedication to providing Canadians with consistently low prices, especially during these tumultuous times. We’re actively combating inflation and have also proposed ways the government and regulatory bodies can help mitigate food price inflation for Canadians.”

In September, the federal government issued a stern warning to these grocers. They were asked to present actionable plans to stabilize grocery prices by Thanksgiving. Failure to do so might result in potential tax implications.

This directive was a response to the financial strain Canadian households are experiencing due to the escalating grocery prices. As of August, grocery prices had surged by 6.9% compared to the previous year, while the national inflation rate stood at 4.0%.

Recent surveys indicate a decline in the public’s support for the ruling Liberals, with the cost of living being a primary concern.

Minister Champagne’s recent disclosure about the grocers’ commitments lacked specifics. He refrained from elaborating on which products might benefit from these special promotions.

When questioned about the distinctiveness of these new promotions from the regular ones, Champagne expressed his reluctance to divulge individual company commitments. He emphasized the importance of market competition and stated that Canadians would be the ultimate judges of these initiatives.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh criticized the Liberals’ strategy, labelling their “request to CEOs for a price reduction as absurd.”

Champagne frequently cited countries like France and the U.K. as benchmarks. Both nations, along with others, have been grappling with exorbitant food prices. For instance, in August, the U.K. and the eurozone witnessed food inflation rates of 13.6% and 9.8%, respectively.

Earlier this year, France struck a three-month deal with supermarket chains to slash prices on numerous essential items. This agreement is anticipated to extend through the summer. In contrast, the U.K.’s Asda pledged to maintain prices on 500 items until August’s end.

Several European nations have imposed price regulations on essential commodities. A case in point is Hungary, which introduced price ceilings for items like eggs and potatoes last year.

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