Trudeau’s Promise to Stabilize Grocery Prices
Image Via: LA Times
It has been an undeniably expensive year for Canadians nationwide. On average, the cost of living in British Columbia has increased a minimum of 5.3 percent this year, with an overall nationwide inflation rate of 4 percent.
Though everything is getting more expensive, the price of groceries have skyrocketed. In 2023 alone, the inflation rate of food costs is a staggering 6 percent. Currently, 7 million Canadians are struggling to put food on the table, and nearly 18 percent are struggling with severe food insecurity.
What is the explanation for the food scarcities and overall decreased standard of living? This economic trend began with the start of the pandemic and was exacerbated by the War in Ukraine as well as oil prices and extreme weather events.
After a dangerously costly year, the government has finally responded. On September 14, Trudeau met with the five largest grocery chains—Costco, Walmart, Loblaw, Metro, and Empire—to demand changes be made. The five chains together represent 80 percent of grocery sales across the nation, and Trudeau gave them until Thanksgiving to “stabilize the prices.”
While all this seems promising to address some of the dire financial needs of the average Canadian, there are some prevalent critiques of the plans.
Some of the backlash comes from the grocers themselves. Though there are accusations that the grocery chains are opportunistically profiteering from the inflation, the chains say that they are not. According to them, profit margins are as thin as ever for the companies. In response to the demands from Trudeau, the stores argue it is not up to them as manufacturers, distributors, and all members of the supply chain play a role in setting grocery prices.
Critiques of the government’s demands—including comments made by the NDP party leader Jagmeet Singh—address that there is little detail to back the plan. Trudeau has made demands that are set to occur by Thanksgiving but has not stated how this will occur.
“They’ve done nothing to bring down the cost of groceries and now they are making a show of taking action by meeting with the CEOs of grocery stores and with manufacturers,” Singh told CTV reporters.
Simultaneously, Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland tabled new legislation last week to revamp Canada’s elimination of the GST from new rental developments, which will theoretically address the apparent housing issues the nation faces. However, this too has been criticized as a toothless attempt to band aid an ongoing crisis.
Even though these new financial bills occurred a couple weeks ago, Trudeau’s sudden “all or nothing” approach to addressing the grocery prices is interesting, especially given other recent events in Canadian politics.
The past few weeks have been truly embarrassing for Canada—with Trudeau being in the spotlight.
On September 19, Trudeau accused the Indian government of organizing the killing of a Canadian citizen who was also a Sikh separatist leader. The Indian government adamantly denied the claims, though the unsubstantiated accusation caused immense damage to the relationship between the two countries.
Furthermore, no other country has sided with Canada on the accusations, all criticizing the way Trudeau addressed the issue and ultimately siding with the Indian government.
On top of this political indignation, Canada’s House of Commons has also been in the spotlight for giving a standing ovation to a Nazi. Yes, that is not a mistake, an actual Nazi.
On September 22, the House of Commons gave a standing ovation to a 98-year-old Ukrainian “war hero” from the Second World War “who fought for Ukrainian independence against the Russians.”
Ultimately, it was revealed that Yaroslav Hunka fought in the Ukrainian volunteer unit of the notorious Waffen-SS that “was responsible for the mass murder of innocent civilians with a level of brutality and malice that is unimaginable.”
In classic Trudeau fashion, the blame was solely placed on the House speaker, Anthony Rota, who had invited Hunka. As a result, Rota resigned on September 26.
While the connection between these embarrassing political events and the newest bold financial claims by the Trudeau government may be tenuous at best, it does warrant consideration. Especially when the all-time low approval of Trudeau’s government is taken into consideration.
As of September, the support is the lowest it has been in three years, and other parties are quickly gaining approval. In this light, Trudeau’s populist rhetoric focussed on helping Canadians fill their fridges or buy homes may simply be a preformative attempt to gain support.
We must question: Are these governmental demands genuine? Will anything come of these claims? Or is it simply an optical move to distract or hang on to what little support left for the liberal government?
Canadians should keep an eye on this in the upcoming weeks, and continue wondering: trick or treat?
Sam is a fourth-year Criminology student minoring in Indigenous Studies. She is also working towards a certificate in Legal Studies and plans to pursue a law degree upon graduation. She loves learning and living the ‘student life’ and is looking forward to writing for The Navigator this year.