A government funding announcement involving Canada’s largest grocery store operator has some people questioning why public dollars are going to a large and profitable company.

Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna announced Monday that the government is giving Loblaw Companies Ltd. $12 million to install lower-emission refrigeration systems in 370 of its stores.

The company says the new refrigeration systems will reduce its overall carbon footprint by 23 per cent.

The money is coming from a $450-million federal fund designed to help businesses, not-for-profit groups and lower-tier governments cut their emissions levels.

But the decision is rubbing many the wrong way, including the Canadian Federation of Independent Business which represents 110,000 members.

The CFIB believes financial relief like this should have gone to more deserving, smaller companies -- especially those hit by the new carbon tax which hit Ontario, New Brunswick, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba.

“We know that when it comes to the carbon tax that small businesses will be left holding the carbon tax bag,” Julie Kwiecinski, director of provincial affairs for Ontario at the CFIB, told CTV Toronto.

Back on April 1, the federal carbon tax went into effect for the four provinces because they didn’t create their own plans before the federal deadline.

Kwiecinski couldn’t believe how the feds had the “audacity” to seemingly ease the carbon tax for a big company like Loblaw.

She said she was told that the government would be rolling out relief for Ontario businesses, but in the meantime, Kwiecinski said her members are still waiting to hear something.

“How is that fair?” she asked.


News of the funding also received a largely negative reaction on social media, with people questioning the merits of giving government money to Loblaw, a company which reported $221 million in profit in its fourth quarter.

Some Twitter users also questioned the wisdom of giving $12 million to a company that has admitted to taking part in an industry-wide, 16-year conspiracy to fix the price of bread.

Others noted that Loblaw shareholders recently voted down a motion to pay all of the company’s employees a living wage.

Opposition politicians also weighed in, with NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh saying the government should not be “prioritizing handouts to rich corporations” and People’s Party Leader Maxime Bernier saying “corporate parasites” prefer “lobbying politicians” to “offering a better product or service.”

Meanwhile, Environment Minister McKenna defended the announcement in Ottawa arguing small businesses could’ve applied too.

‘It was a competitive process so big business, small business, communities, schools, were entitled to apply,” she said.

With files from CTV Toronto’s Sean Leathong