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 bureau says it will examine how governments can combat grocery price increases through greater competition.
The price of groceries has risen 10.8 per cent in the last year, Statistics Canada recently reported. The new Competition Bureau study is one of the asks outlined in the non-binding NDP motion.
NDP agriculture critic Alistair MacGregor said he welcomed the bureau’s announcement and is looking for ways the agriculture committee can “complement the bureau’s work” and “get to the bottom of this issue and get the answers that Canadians deserve.”
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, supply chain disruptions, higher costs of purchasing products from suppliers and extreme weather are thought to have impacted the prices, the bureau’s press release explained. Human-induced climate change is contributing to the severity and frequency of extreme weather events, such as B.C.’s deadly heat waves and a destructive atmospheric river.
The study announced Oct. 24 will involve talking to 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 bureau.
“We are not examining any specific allegations of wrongdoing,” a backgrounder on the study stated. The Competition Bureau is an independent law enforcement agency of the federal government and the backgrounder said if it finds evidence of unlawful activities during the study, it will “investigate and take appropriate action.”
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The bureau currently has an ongoing investigation into years-long bread price-fixing involving the Canada Bread Company, George Weston, Loblaws, Sobeys, Walmart, Metro and Giant Tiger stores.
Loblaws announced a price freeze on its No Name brands on Oct. 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 Canadians a break from inflation, the Financial Post reported that grocery rivals and experts say holiday-season price freezes are standard practice.
Natasha Bulowski / Local Journalism Initiative / Canada’s National Observer