The heads of the three largest grocery chains in Canada—Empire, Loblaws, and Metro—will be summoned to appear before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food. The committee unanimously passed a motion on Feb. 13 to hear from the Presidents and CEOs of the three companies regarding their profit-driven inflation of food prices.
Statistics Canada reported that food prices increased close to 10 percent in 2022, the highest rate since 1981. In response, the federal government asked the Competition Bureau to investigate the issue, with a report expected later in 2023. An NDP motion in October 2022 also requested the government take steps to investigate “greedflation.”
Economist Jim Stanford, who presented a brief to the committee on Feb. 9, said that the rise in food prices generates the most anger among Canadians. He cited Statistics Canada data suggesting that food grocers in 2022 earned twice what they earned in 2019, roughly $5 billion per year in net income. Stanford blamed corporate greed from food retailers and food processors for the skyrocketing grocery bills, not supply chain issues or inflation.
Sylvain Charlebois, director of the Agri-Food Analytics Lab and a professor in food distribution and policy at Dalhousie University, said it is important for CEOs to come in and give their story and be transparent. He said there is “no clarity in terms of how much money is generated off of food sales.”
Financial officers for the three giant grocers have attended past committee meetings to discuss the rising prices and food inflation, but their CEOs have not appeared before a House of Commons committee since July 10, 2020, when they faced questions on cancelling a $2-per-hour “hero pay” increase provided to front-line essential workers during COVID.
Loblaws, Sobeys, and Metro were contacted for comment but did not respond by press time. The Canadian Press contributed to this report.