A gathering of Canada’s top grocery executives on Monday is part of the Liberal government’s efforts to keep prices in check, Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland says.
Freeland spoke briefly to reporters on her way in to meet with the heads of Canada’s top grocery chains, a summit struck by the Liberals as Parliament Hill returns to session and the government vows action on affordability issues dogging Canadians.
“Our government is going to do everything in our power to make sure prices stabilize. This meeting today is part of that effort,” she said.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said last week that the invitation to the heads of Loblaw, Metro, Empire, Walmart Canada and Costco came with an ultimatum to craft a plan to address food inflation before Thanksgiving, otherwise “tax measures” would be on the table.
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Food inflation at the grocery store has remained elevated at 8.5 per cent in the latest consumer price index reading, even as price pressures elsewhere in the economy show signs of easing.
Some food economists who spoke to Global News ahead of the grocer summit on Monday said the Trudeau government’s efforts to put the onus for calming food inflation on the grocery executives were misguided and “disingenuous.”
The University of Guelph’s Michael von Massow said his “cynical” take on the meeting was that it’s more intended to be a balm for the Liberals’ challenges in the polls as of late than likely to meaningfully address cost of living concerns.
“We’re seeing this government get hammered about affordability,” he told Global News.
“It appears to be something to take heat off of them, rather than something that will really fundamentally affect affordability for Canadians.”
Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre on Sunday called the meeting “political theatre” and instead put the blame for the rising cost of food on the Liberal government. He, too, took exception with the rising profits at big grocers in his comments, however — a common line of attack from federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh.
Liberal Housing Minister Sean Fraser and Karina Gould, leader of the government in the House of Commons, spoke to reporters Monday ahead of Parliament’s return, vowing that a bill to address affordability concerns will be introduced “imminently” in the new sitting.
Poilievre dismisses Trudeau’s summon of grocery CEOs as ‘political theatre’
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