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Loblaw, Walmart face heat on what they are doing to stabilize food prices

Loblaw chair Galen G. Weston says “we know we all need to do more to help” as he and the head of Walmart Canada appeared back to Ottawa to explain their plans to stabilize food prices.

The appearance comes just hours after a new report suggested Canadians hoping for better food prices going into 2024 may not get their wish immediately, but could see some relief later in the year as inflation cools.

Weston stressed they’re working to ease the prices on items including bread, milk, butter and chicken. He says these make up 10 per cent of grocery sales at Loblaw stores. Weston reiterated a point from an earlier committee appearance that Loblaw only sees $1 in profit for every $25 sold.

“Food prices are definitely stabilizing, and we expect that to continue, but we are concerned the grocery code of conduct could slow down this momentum,” Weston told the committee in his opening statement.

The code is reportedly nearing completion and aims to be an industry-led document, with the goal of increasing “fair and ethical dealing” across the grocery supply chain in Canada.

Prior to Weston’s appearance, Walmart Canada CEO Gonzalo Gebara appeared remotely before the committee.

When pushed on his company’s concern with the upcoming grocery code of conduct, Gebara said he believes they’re already following through in spirit by maintaining strong relationships with suppliers.

In response to that, Ontario Liberal MP Leah Taylor Roy asked Gebara what else Walmart can do to ease affordability challenges.

“I hope you trust me when I tell you that we’re doing everything that we can do to run the tightest operation possible so that we can continue to offer the lowest prices in the market,” Gebara replied.

Gebara maintained that he sees the Canadian grocery market as competitive and told the committee the code will increase bureaucracy and the cost of doing business.

Loblaw has also said it cannot endorse the code in its current draft form, arguing it would further drive food inflation. The claim has been made several times by grocers, but there’s been no clear evidence presented by grocers on this.

In the lead-up to Thanksgiving, Innovation Minister François-Philippe Champagne called on Canada’s major grocers to do more to stabilize prices by the holiday or else the government would take action.

This could include reforms to the Competition Act, which are in progress, and potential tax measures.

At the end of October, B.C. NDP MP Alistair McGregor led a motion at the committee to call the grocery heads back to committee to show them what their plans are and testify again.

Specifics of the plans are expected to be withheld due to competition implications, but committee members are allowed to view them privately.

More to come…

— with files from The Canadian Press.

&copy 2023 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.


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