The top dogs of Canada’s major grocery chains were in Ottawa on Monday for a hastily-called pop quiz from Justin Trudeau’s top federal cabinet ministers demanding a foolproof plan to “stabilize” surging grocery prices and restore what’s left of the prime minister’s credibility on major economic issues plaguing Canadians.
Both Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland and Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry François-Philippe Champagne sat down for a two-hour chat with the grocery moguls, following Trudeau’s rather stern “come-to-Jesus” moment on Friday, where he proclaimed an urgent ultimatum: these grocery giants must produce a credible plan to stabilize prices by Thanksgiving, or the tax boogeyman is coming for their profits.
Post-meeting only the CEOs of Sobeys and Metro braved the throng of waiting reporters. And while they didn’t signal slashing prices anytime soon, they assured everyone they were “committed” to solutions. Sobeys CEO Michael Medline seemed to be in good spirits, calling it a “great” meeting. Perhaps Galen Weston brought some No Name cookies for everyone to share?
Meanwhile, Metro CEO Eric La Fleche deflected blame, arguing that it’s not just the retailers who are at play here. He denied his company’s profiteering from inflation, attributing the price hikes to global supply chain challenges and myriad cost increases.
Political sparring ensued, as it does, with Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre and NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh side-eyeing the government’s prowess. They pointed out that this isn’t exactly breaking news; food prices have been outgrowing general inflation for nearly two years. Singh even added that beyond a one-time grocery rebate for low-income Canadians, the Liberals have basically been twiddling their thumbs.
Addressing the media, Champagne described the meeting as both “historic” and “difficult.” He acknowledged the nation’s palpable sentiment for action against high food prices. Despite actually not achieving anything out of the meeting, Champagne mentioned the grocery chains’ commitment to support the government’s endeavors to stabilize these prices. “This is just the beginning,” Champagne insisted.
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