Canada’s Competition Bureau is launching a study on the grocery store sector as food prices rise at the fastest rate in 40 years.
The announcement came after the NDP’s opposition day motion to tackle high food prices received unanimous support in the House of Commons. From now until June 2023, the center says it will examine how governments can fight rising food prices through more competition.
The price of groceries has risen by 10.8 per cent in the past year, Statistics Canada recently reported. The new Competition Bureau study is one of the questions outlined in the non-binding NDP proposal.
NDP agriculture critic Alistair MacGregor said he welcomed the centre’s announcement and was looking for ways the agriculture committee can “support the centre’s work” and “get to the bottom of this issue and get the answers Canadians want deserve them.”
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, supply chain disruptions, higher costs of purchasing products from suppliers and extreme weather are believed to have affected prices, the bureau’s press release explained. Human-caused climate change is contributing to the severity and frequency of extreme weather events, such as BC’s deadly heat waves and destructive atmospheric river.
The study announced Oct. 24 will include speaking with grocery retailers “of all sizes,” federal, provincial, territorial and municipal governments, industry experts and people around the world to learn from “best practices,” according to the center.
“We are not examining any specific allegations of wrongdoing,” said background on the study. The Competition Bureau is an independent law enforcement agency of the federal government and the background said that if it finds evidence of illegal activities during the study, it would “investigate and take appropriate action. “
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The bureau currently has an ongoing investigation into years-long bread price fixing involving Canadian Bread Company, George Weston, Loblaws, Sobeys, Walmart, Metro and Giant Tiger stores.
Loblaws announced a price freeze on its No Name brands on October 17, the same day the NDP opposition day motion was voted on. While Loblaws president Galen Weston framed the move as a way to give Canada a break from inflation, the Financial Post reported that competitors and grocery experts say price freezes during the holiday season are standard practice.
Natasha Bulowski / Local Journalism Initiative / Canadian National Observer