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Monday, October 2, 2023

Huge grocers conform to work with Ottawa to stabilize meals inflation Specific Instances

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‘We’ll carry on pushing them,’ Champagne says. ‘That is only the start’

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5 grocery executives had been anticipated at a downtown Ottawa workplace tower throughout the hour, and nobody within the foyer appeared to know which door they’d come via. There was a door on Queen Avenue to the south, one other on Sparks Avenue to the north, and the gathering crowd of reporters and tv cameras had been attempting to stake out the correct one.

A black SUV pulled up on Queen Avenue and TV crews rushed towards it, then it left.

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The executives — who lead the 5 corporations that management 80 per cent of Canada’s grocery market: Loblaw Cos. Ltd., Sobeys’ dad or mum Empire Co. Ltd., Metro Inc., Wal-Mart Canada Corp. and Costco Wholesale Canada Ltd. — had been known as to the nation’s capital on a number of days’ discover for a Sept. 18 assembly with trade minister François-Philippe Champagne and finance minister Chrystia Freeland.

The invites went out final week, simply as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau gave a speech threatening new “tax measures” if the grocers couldn’t work with Champagne to stabilize rising meals costs by Thanksgiving.

Forward of the assembly, Champagne mentioned the executives had had no alternative however to indicate up.

“It’s not an invite,” he mentioned in a speech to the Liberal caucus final week. “We informed them to be in Ottawa.”

Opposition Chief Pierre Poilievre dismissed the train as political theatre, however Champagne mentioned the assembly was a part of a broader authorities effort to deal with meals inflation, overhaul federal antitrust coverage and usher in a brand new period of competitiveness in Canada’s concentrated grocery market.

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The assembly was scheduled for 11 a.m. Lower than an hour earlier than, Champagne’s communications group began to create a choke level within the foyer the place the executives would don’t have any alternative however to stroll previous the cameras and tape recorders. Two staffers moved a really massive potted palm tree out of the way in which, then arrange a barrier to corral reporters. To get to the elevator main as much as the minister, every grocer must go the reporters, it doesn’t matter what door they used to enter the constructing.

“They’re going to come back right here, for positive,” Champagne’s spokesperson Audrey Champoux informed reporters.

They got here as promised, every strolling by the media pen one after the other. Nobody mentioned a lot of something. Galen Weston, outgoing president of Loblaw, and by far essentially the most high-profile grocery government within the nation, arrived carrying a knapsack, along with his common counsel beside him. He handed with out answering any of the questions shouted at him.

We’ll carry on pushing them, belief me. That is only the start

François-Philippe Champagne

After about two hours, Champagne got here out of the assembly and known as it “historic” — the primary time in reminiscence that the heads of the 5 chains had been in the identical room. The day’s foremost accomplishment, he mentioned, was that the grocers had agreed to work with the federal government to stabilize meals inflation.

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“These had been troublesome discussions,” he mentioned. “It is a step in the correct route. We’ll carry on pushing them, belief me. That is only the start.”

Whereas the grocers agreed to work with the federal government, it’s not but clear what precisely that work will seem like. Champoux mentioned the following step is for the businesses to give you their very own plans on tackling inflation and current them by Thanksgiving.

“The thought is that they put ahead measures that may be actionable,” she mentioned, including that the work may even contain meals producers and growers.

The Retail Council of Canada, the primary foyer group representing large grocers, has been calling for the federal government to broaden its scope past simply grocers for the reason that assembly was initially introduced final week. The grocers have argued that inflation stems from a posh mixture of geopolitical elements past their management, together with the warfare in Ukraine, elevated gasoline costs and international provide chain issues.

“Our members are at all times able to take part in good religion dialogue in regards to the meals trade, inflation and affordability,” RCC spokesperson Michelle Wasylyshen mentioned in an e-mail.

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As he left the assembly, Metro chief government Eric La Flèche mentioned his firm had seen hundreds of will increase from its suppliers, “and that’s why there’s inflation” in grocery shops. “We’re all dedicated to discovering options to stabilize costs and convey down the CPI.”

“Very productive assembly,” Empire chief government Michael Medline, whose firm consists of Sobeys, Safeway, Foodland, IGA and FreshCo, mentioned. “We’ve received to stabilize costs.”

After Medline left, reporters and political staffers waited within the foyer for the remainder of the executives, however they didn’t come. Ultimately, Champagne’s group upstairs known as all the way down to say all of the grocers had left, so in the event that they hadn’t walked previous the media, they will need to have discovered one other manner out.

• Electronic mail: jedmiston@postmedia.com

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