Grocers called back to Parliament to testify about plans to stabilize prices

Grocers called back to Parliament to testify about plans to stabilize prices
Produce is shown at a west-end Toronto Sobeys grocery store on Sunday, June 26, 2023. The House of Commons agriculture committee is asking the heads of Canada's major grocery chains to testify about their plans to stabilize grocery prices after the federal government announced commitments secured from the grocers.

A House of Commons committee is asking the heads of Canada’s major grocery chains to appear before MPs and explain their plans to stabilize food prices.

The agriculture committee passed an NDP motion last Thursday to invite the grocery executives, or summon them if necessary, to testify about the measures their companies are taking to address food inflation.

Earlier this fall, Industry Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne announced the companies had presented to the government their plans to tackle rising prices, which he says included discounts, price freezes and price-matching campaigns.

However, Champagne offered few details about these promotions and most grocers have not confirmed details of their plans.

According to the motion, the parliamentary committee is asking the grocers to submit “a comprehensive report on their strategies and initiatives taken to date and on further actions aimed at the stabilization of grocery prices in Canada.” The deadline for the submissions is Nov. 2.

It is also inviting Champagne and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland to appear before committee to answer questions.

The Canadian Press asked the grocers earlier this month for more details on their pledges to the federal government. Loblaw and Costco did not respond and Metro declined to comment.

A spokeswoman for Walmart said the company promised to continue offering “everyday low prices,” which refers to its strategy of offering low prices on a regular basis, rather than on promotion only.

Meanwhile, a spokeswoman for Sobeys, which is owned by Empire, responded said the company isn’t disclosing its plan for competitive reasons.

“Our plans are competitively sensitive and we do not plan to discuss them before they are launched in our stores,” said Karen White-Boswell, Empire’s director of external communications.

In an interview with The Canadian Press on Oct. 16, Champagne said he wishes the grocers were “more forthcoming” about their plans.

The federal government is taking other steps aimed at addressing high grocery prices.

On Tuesday, Champagne announced more funding for non-profit consumer advocacy organizations to help fund projects that focus on retail practices that hurt consumers, and on the development of tools that help consumers make informed decisions and save costs.

Nojoud Al Mallees, The Canadian Press

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 24, 2023. 

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