Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has warned grocery chains that they could be hit with new taxes if they do not take steps to control rising food prices.
Trudeau said the heads of the five largest supermarket chains, including Walmart and Costco, would be asked to come up with a plan to address rising prices before Thanksgiving.
Trudeau, who is facing questions about his leadership amid sagging public approval, also announced that sales tax would be waived for the construction of new rental apartments as part of measures to address cost-of-living concerns.
“If their plan doesn’t provide real relief for the middle class and people working hard to join it, then we will take further action, and we are not ruling anything out including tax measures,” Trudeau said at the end of a caucus retreat in London, Ontario, on Thursday.
A day later, federal minister Francois-Philippe Champagne said he planned to meet with the CEOs of Canada’s large grocery chains on Monday morning in the capital, Ottawa.
“Let me be clear: Canadians deserve solutions from the food sector,” said Champagne, who heads the government’s innovation, science and industry department. “We must and we will act together to stabilize food prices for Canadian consumers and improve competition in Canada.”
Trudeau said on Thursday that it did not make sense that supermarket chains were making record profits at a time when many Canadians were struggling to make ends meet.
Large grocery chains are making record profits,” he said. “Those profits should not be made on the backs of people who are struggling to feed their families.”
Grocery prices rose 8.5 percent in July from a year ago, well above the general inflation rate of 3.3 percent.
Canadian retailers have blamed increased costs from producers and suppliers, driven by overseas factors including the war in Ukraine, for the rising prices.
“Rather than casting blame where the experts agree it does not belong, the federal government should look in the mirror,” the Retail Council of Canada said in a statement on Thursday.
“The government could take a number of steps to make food more affordable, including temporarily removing the carbon tax from farmers, food processors and distributors and cancelling [the] government’s planned plastic packaging targets that could increase costs to grocers by $6bn a year.”