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Working with federal government to lower food prices a 'benefit' to Canada's grocery leaders: Champagne

Industry Minister François-Philippe Champagne says it’s “an advantage” to grocery leaders to work with the Canadian government to find a way to stabilize food prices as he continues his string of meetings with them this week.

After a hastily convened meeting with the CEOs of Canada’s largest grocery chains last week to tackle the issue of high grocery prices in the country, Champagne also met with international manufacturing companies this Monday and domestic manufacturers Tuesday.

“Inaction is not an option,” Champagne said at a press conference Tuesday.

He added the system leading to soaring food prices is complex and interconnected and the ability to bring them down is not solely up to grocers, but rather also in the hands of multinational organizations, such as the ones he’s met with this week.

To that end, Champagne said he told the grocery industry leaders it’s to their “advantage” and “benefit” to work with the government to find a “team Canada” approach to the food supply chain that would allow for stabilized prices.

“I told them in no uncertain terms the same kind of frustration that Canadians are seeing and my message to them was Canadians expect you to be part of the solution,” Champagne said Tuesday, on the heels of a two-hour meeting with companies such as Maple Leaf Foods and Cavendish Farms, among others.

“And I must say that the appeal that I made on behalf of Canadians was earned,” Champagne added. “I would say that they recognize the challenge that is faced by Canadians, they recognize also that they need to be supporting the initiative of the government and lastly, that they want to be part of the solution.”

Michael McCain, the executive chairman of Maple Leaf Foods, met with Champagne and other manufacturers Tuesday and called the conversation “very constructive.”

“They’ve asked and called for collaboration towards a problem I think everyone recognizes and is willing to be part of the solution behind the actions that come out of it,” McCain said. “I think the solutions are under construction, but everyone is committed.”

Champagne has said the federal government is “demanding” grocery giants come up with a plan by Thanksgiving to stabilize food prices for Canadians.

Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland also tabled new legislation last week to revamp Canada’s competition laws and scrap the GST from new rental developments, which she says will eventually lead to more affordable groceries and housing.

“More competition will ease sticker shock at the grocery checkout line,” Freeland said last week. “Eliminating the GST will get more housing built faster so that more Canadians can have an affordable place to call home.”

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, meanwhile, has been critical of the government’s plan and has called the changes proposed in Freeland’s bill “toothless.”

Singh also criticized the Liberals for waiting too long to act.

“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,” he told reporters Tuesday. “None of that is actually bringing down the price of groceries.”

He added he’s doubtful Champagne’s recent meetings with grocers and food manufacturers will lead to bringing down the price of groceries.

With files from CTV News’ Judy Trinh and Senior Digital Parliamentary Reporter Rachel Aiello



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