It felt like the BoC was gloating about the financial pain Canadians will suffer: Frances Horodelski
On Monday, a House of Commons committee studying food price inflation called on the CEOs and presidents of Loblaw Companies, Metro and Empire Company Limited — which operates chains including Sobeys, Safeway and FreshCo — to attend an upcoming meeting.
The hearing has not yet been scheduled.
The proposal to hear from the grocery leaders came from NDP MP Alistair MacGregor, and it received unanimous support from Liberal, Conservative and Bloc Québécois MPs.
Executives from all three companies, as well as Save-On-Foods, have testified at past committee meetings focused on the rising cost of food — but not their CEOs.
The committee began the study in October, originally setting aside six meetings to discuss the subject. MPs have now decided to add more meetings.
Prices for food purchased from stores rose nearly 10 per cent in 2022, the fastest pace since 1981, with higher prices in every food category except for canned salmon, according to Statistics Canada.
"Canadians are cutting back on their usual grocery lists and stretching their paycheques even further to get less for their families," said MacGregor, who is the NDP's food price inflation critic.
"But all the while, these grocery CEOs are making more money than they ever have before. It just doesn’t add up."
Last year, the Liberal government ordered the Competition Bureau to study food prices at grocery chains and whether competition between companies is contributing to higher prices.
The bureau has said that many factors may have affected the price of food, including extreme weather, higher input costs, Russia's invasion of Ukraine and supply-chain disruptions. Its study is expected to be released sometime this year.
Pierre St-Laurent, the chief operating officer for Empire Company Limited, told the committee in December that global challenges are increasing the costs of food production.
"Unfortunately, present circumstances are such that our suppliers have no choice but to ask retailers for significant price increases if they are to remain profitable," St-Laurent said.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 14, 2023.