Canada’s unions: Urgent action required to rein in corporate greed

March 9, 2023

Bruske: Wealthy grocery CEOs must be held to account for Canadians’ skyrocketing grocery bills

OTTAWA –– Yesterday, Loblaw CEO Galen Weston Jr., Empire CEO Michael Medline and Metro CEO Eric La Flèche testified before the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food about sky-high food prices. Canada’s unions are now urging the federal government to crack down on corporate greed and make life more affordable for millions of hard-pressed workers and their families.

“We welcome the long-overdue decision to make Galen Weston Jr. and other wealthy CEOs answer for their company’s outrageously high prices. Throughout the pandemic and subsequent cost-of-living crisis, we have seen grocery giants celebrate monster profits while jacking up the price of essentials,” said Bea Bruske, President of the Canadian Labour Congress. “Exorbitant grocery bills, on top of inflationary pressures, high interest rates and stagnant wages, mean workers and their families are being pushed to the brink.”

In the first two quarters of 2022, grocery stores made around twice as much as their pre-pandemic profits. Grocery retail in Canada is heavily concentrated, with about 80 per cent of sales controlled by five major chains, including Loblaw, Empire and Metro.

Since the beginning of 2023, we’ve seen inflation decreased to the lowest rate since early 2022, yet food prices continue to soar. In January, the price for fresh vegetables was up 14.7 percent while pasta increased by 19.5 percent.

“Just last month, Loblaw predicted its profits would grow faster than sales this year. That means workers are going to take another hit, paying more for essentials like eggs and bread,” added Bruske. “Food prices show no signs of slowing down, while these grocery giants continue to report super-sized profits. This begs the question: Why does the government continue to allow these wealthy executives to gouge Canadians for essential goods, like food?”

Workers’ pay cheques are stretched further with every grocery bill, leading to tough decisions. Bruske pointed to a recent StatCan study indicating that low-income Canadians are being forced to borrow money from friends or relatives or take on additional debt to meet daily expenses due to rising prices.

A University of Saskatchewan study from October revealed that one in five Canadians skips meals because of high food costs.

“Rich CEOs cannot be allowed to continue accumulating excessive wealth at the expense of regular Canadians. Canada’s unions call on the federal government to rein in corporate greed by tackling corporate concentration, making corporations pay their fair share and redistributing proceeds to support low-income households,” said Bruske. “We also need political leadership to take strong and urgent action to make life more affordable by funding vital public services like Pharmacare, long-term care, mental health care, child care and public transit.” 

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