Sunday October 1, 2023 | TERRACE, BC
by Mary P Brooke, B.Sc. | Island Social Trends | Food Security News Section
On this Sunday morning in northern BC, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh along with Taylor Bacharach, MP (Skeena-Bulkley Valley) and the NDP’s transport critic, held a media conference in Terrace focussed on further helping Canadians with the cost of living.
Island Social Trends joined the media session via Zoom.
Singh retold of a recent discussion with local folks in Terrace this weekend that they used to be able to make ends meet, but now they struggle to achieve that.
Singh and the NDP say that the cost of groceries and housing are the top two affordability concerns among Canadians, citing a 30% increase in food prices over the past two years.
He noted that the use of food banks has increased significantly across Canada. Disruption to individual household resilience — as seen in increased use of food banks as a way to cope financially) began during the pandemic but has worsened in 2022 and 2023 under the pressures of inflation.
Two weeks ago, Singh introduced the Lowering Price for Canadians Act, legislation that gives the Competition Bureau more power to increase competition and lower prices, increase fines for price-fixing and price-gouging, and close loopholes that let big grocery chains price out the competition.
Today’s media session was held with view of a major grocery store in the background, to emphasize the continued pressure that the NDP feel they are making on Canada’s major grocery retailers. Corporate profit has increased in the past 21 months while grocery price inflation has been about twice as high as the general rate of inflation, said Singh.
The NDP approach around grocery prices is to deal with “corporate greed”, increasing competition, and dealing with how prices are achieved.
Food producers & local resilience:
The five major grocery retailers have said that overall they are passing along the increased costs of purchasing food products from producers and wholesalers.
The NDP say that the three largest grocers — Loblaws, Sobeys and Metro — collectively earned more than $3.6 billion in profits in 2022. Back in March 2023 at least one of those grocers (Loblaw) said most of their profit margin comes from selling non-food items (e.g. pharmacy, cosmetics).
Singh says he recognizes how food producers are part of the food pricing equation. He is in favour of incentives to local farmers, for people to grow their own food, and how food can overall be more healthy and affordable.
Another grocery rebate coming?
At this time, the NDP does not seem to be pressuring the federal government for another so-called grocery rebate (a doubling of the GST credit for low-income households); that happened once in 2022 and once again this year (two payout periods within six months totaling to about $2.5 billion).
That approach to helping households with the cost of living presently doesn’t seem to be part of the NDP agenda. Perhaps the NDP is assessing that the federal budget cannot accommodate another rollout of funds in that way, or that standardizing a doubling of the GST credit to low-income Canadians is considered by the Liberal government to be unsustainable.
The NDP are still in a Supply and Confidence Agreement with the minority Liberal government which runs to mid-2025; staying within the lanes of that agreement seems reasonable as a way for the NDP to continue introducing further initiatives related to the cost of living impacts on Canadians.
===== ABOUT ISLAND SOCIAL TRENDS:
Island Social Trends delivers news and analysis through a socioeconomic lens on current issues affecting individuals, families, households, small business and communities.
Island Social Trends Editor Mary P Brooke has been reporting in this way on south Vancouver Island for 15 years. Her series of print publications during 2008-2020 led up to the launch of IslandSocialTrends.ca in mid-2020.
In 2023 she was nominated for a Jack Webster Foundation award which recognizes women who contribute to their community through journalism.
Mary P Brooke holds a B.Sc. (Foods & Nutrition) and has been building the Food Security News Section of Island Social Trends. She gives talks on Urban Food Resilience to municipalities and community groups.