The Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, François-Philippe Champagne, is asking the Competition Bureau to use its new powers to re-examine the cost of groceries in Canada.
Last June, the office released a report saying The Canadian food sector lacks competition. The industry is dominated by three domestic giants – Loblaws, Metro and Empire, which owns Sobeys – as well as foreign players like Walmart and Costco.
On Monday, Champagne sent a letter to Matthew Boswell, the competition commissioner, complaining about what he called the lack of cooperation from grocery companies with the bureau’s study, which led to the report. last summer.
“I was disappointed to learn that the Bureau’s study did not benefit from the full cooperation of large grocers. Large grocers have not, to date, been sufficiently transparent about the causes of the food inflation,” Champagne wrote.
In his letter, Champagne points out that the government recently overhauled the Competition Act to give more powers to the Competition Bureau, including the power to subpoena information from companies when they conduct market research.
“The government has put in place these new authorities because we believe it will result in significant enforcement action as you continue your work,” Champagne wrote.
The Competition Bureau is an independent government agency responsible for ensuring healthy competition among businesses in Canada.
Although a minister cannot order the office to take specific action, Champagne told reporters Monday that he believed the office would use its new powers.
“I am confident that the Bureau will take full advantage of the new powers granted to it to further address the concerns of Canadian consumers regarding food prices,” he said.
Rising food prices have outpaced overall inflation in recent years. Earlier this month, Statistics Canada said the country’s annual inflation rate was 3.4 percent in December, while food inflation stood at 4.7 percent.
Champagne called a meeting in the fall with executives of the big five grocery chains and later said they agreed to work toward stabilizing food prices.
But its letter to the Competition Bureau suggests that this plan did not work as the government hoped.
“(Food companies) have failed, for the most part, to provide regular updates on initiatives to stabilize food prices in the country,” the minister wrote.
Champagne wrote that he hopes to discuss the possibility of a follow-up study with the competition commissioner.