Grocers agree to freeze prices

As some Canadians prepping for Thanksgiving come face-to-face with $120 turkeys, the government is asking big grocers to do something, anything, to lower food prices. 

What happened: The feds announced that Canada’s five biggest grocers — Loblaw, Metro, Empire, Walmart, and Costco — committed to several actions that will lower prices, including price freezes for “key food products” (exact foodstuffs were unspecified) and price matching. 

  • The government also said it will launch a new task force to monitor grocers to ensure they meet their commitments and investigate harmful practices like shrinkflation.

  • Plans are still in the works on a much-ballyhooed grocery “code of conduct,” as well as a "data hub" to create equitable access to info about Canadian food prices

Plus: Bill C-56 is currently being discussed in Parliament. The bill, in part, seeks to increase grocery sector competition by allowing the Competition Bureau to investigate price fixing and stop large grocery companies from preventing smaller grocers from setting up shop nearby.

Why it matters: Food inflation has slowed since last year’s record highs, but prices are still on the up-and-up. Per August’s inflation numbers, most food items were more expensive than they were a year ago, with prices up 6.9% annually, compared to overall inflation of 4%. 

Yes, but: Critics immediately called the plan into question. Speaking with CTV, researcher Sylvain Charlebois said measures like price freezes and matching are things that grocers already do and that he failed to see anything new that would help consumers right now. 

Bottom line: Grocery pricing is just one factor (and some argue an over-hyped factor) in food-flation. From a weak Canadian dollar, to supply chain issues due to geopolitical turmoil, to more extreme weather events hurting harvests, a price freeze can’t fix everything.—QH