Ottawa Beckons Grocery Chain CEOs Back To Discuss Food Prices

Canada’s prominent grocery store CEOs are set to return to Parliament for a crucial session in which Members of Parliament are determined to gain insights into their efforts to stabilize food prices.

The initiative to summon these industry leaders back to the House of Commons agriculture committee originated from British Columbia NDP MP, Alistair McGregor. The motion, introduced during a closed-door session on October 19, was officially revealed in minutes made public on Monday.

McGregor expressed the intent behind this move, stating, “It was an opportunity for us to follow up, to actually find out exactly what transpired between the CEOs and the industry minister.”

The motion calls upon the committee to extend invitations to the following CEOs:

  • Galen Weston, Chairman of Loblaw;
  • Eric La Fleche, CEO of Metro;
  • Michael Medline, CEO of Empire Company (the parent company of Sobey’s chain);
  • Gonzalo Gebara, CEO of Wal-Mart Canada; and
  • Pierre Riel, COO of Costco Canada.

These grocery industry leaders are also being asked to provide “a comprehensive report” detailing their strategies and initiatives aimed at stabilizing grocery prices by November 2.

The information gathered will be scrutinized during a closed-door session of the agriculture committee, following which a report will be prepared for Parliament. Given the sensitive nature of the documents, containing proprietary data from competing grocery chains, the committee’s chair, Nova Scotia Liberal MP Kody Blois, explained that the initial focus will be on document review, which will subsequently guide the committee’s actions.

“So step one is to be able to actually obtain the documents to be able to review them, and then how in the manner of which we might call on the CEOs to be able to engage with them about their partnership on how they’re working with the government will really be dictated by that first step,” Blois clarified.

MacGregor highlighted that they are collaborating with the committee’s clerk and legal counsel to establish a secure platform for discussing potentially sensitive commercial information. He emphasized the parliament’s role in holding these CEOs accountable and ensuring that their plans will effectively deliver on their promises.

The cost of groceries has continued to rise, exceeding the general inflation rate. According to September data from Statistics Canada, grocery inflation stands at 5.8% year-over-year, compared to the baseline inflation rate of 3.8%.

Should these invitations not be accepted, summons will be issued to the CEOs.

In September, the grocery CEOs were summoned to Ottawa to present their plans for price stabilization to Innovation Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland, with a Thanksgiving deadline set for their proposals.

The motion also calls for these ministers to testify at the committee for one hour each, alongside Agriculture Minister Marie Claude Bibeau. A specific date for their appearance has not been announced yet.

At the end of the meeting with the ministers on September 18, Eric La Fleche, CEO of Metro, emphasized the complexity of the pricing issue. “It’s an industry issue. Any solution needs to include all the manufacturers, producers, farmers, and everyone. It’s not just about the retailers. The minister understands that clearly,” La Fleche said.

Kody Blois, who has been actively involved in meetings with the grocery CEOs and the ministers, conveyed his impression that the grocers are genuinely willing to collaborate with the government on these initiatives.

While MPs may be constrained in what they can disclose about the closed-door document review, Blois affirmed that it is the committee’s duty to provide reassurance to Canadians that action is being taken. He stated, “I am confident that there are measures being taken, and the committee might be able to shed some light on that and perhaps reassure Canadians, based on what we’ve seen internally, that there are mechanisms coming both maybe perhaps today and then the days ahead.”

The committee’s latest motion also extends an invitation to other industry stakeholders, including domestic and international food processors, to discuss the impacts on the supply chain. However, specific names have not been mentioned in the motion.

Information for this story was found via Global News and the sources mentioned. The author has no securities or affiliations related to the organizations discussed. Not a recommendation to buy or sell. Always do additional research and consult a professional before purchasing a security. The author holds no licenses.

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