What happened to the cost of doing business? Oh, right... that is now reserved only for small businesses and the up-and-comers. Or now, we- the consumers.
As we've anxiously watched and endured inflation we have also watched headline after headline of record-breaking profits across many industries. I don't know about you all, but it's a bit of a head-scratcher for me. I find myself growing more and more frustrated. I remember a time when things were tough- we all felt it. Companies shared the burden of the condition- not handing it off to the consumer to line their pockets. At least not this brazenly. This is a worrying trend.
Recently, the CEOs of Canada's larger grocery chains found themselves in front of a parliamentary committee studying rising grocery prices. Many federal politicians have called upon the industry to be more transparent- amid public scrutiny about what is propelling their soaring profits. These three men pretty much echoed one another. Here are some actual quotes from their testimony:
"It doesn't matter how many times you say it, write it or tweet it. It simply is not true," Michael Medline, President and CEO of Empire said. This was in response to the suggestion that grocers are at the helm of rising food prices. Galen Weston Jr, chairman and president of Loblaws responded with, "The idea that grocers are causing food inflation is not only false, it's impossible." He also went on to reiterate, "We feel and understand that 95 percent of Canadians are concerned about food prices. But grocery chain profits are not the reason for food inflation." (I feel compelled to remind you all of the bread-price-fixing scheme, which Loblaws confessed to their participation in five years ago. Their olive branch was to offer a $25 gift card to their customers in a bid to end the class action lawsuit.)
So what was their consensus on this issue? "The truth is we are at the end of a very long food supply chain that has economic inputs at every step and stage," Michael Medline stated. He added he didn't want to "throw our supplier partners under the bus." At another point, he quipped, "It is folly to suggest that an unprofitable grocery business is somehow better for customers and better for shelf prices." Galen Weston stated, "Reasonable profitability is an important part of operating a successful business," when asked by NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, “How much profit is too much profit?”
Another statement shared by these men was that of all the G7 countries, Canada's food inflation was the lowest. It reeks of the old tropes "could be worse" and "what are you complaining about?" Imagine if you were to walk into a hospital with a broken bone and the nurse said, "Why are you here? That guy over there has 13 broken bones!" Something else I noticed was a tendency to not actually answer a question. They had wordy responses that evaded the question asked. It was like watching someone catch their smarmy lover having an affair.
Did you know that recently released data from Statistics Canada showed that just 29 percent of Canadians felt they lived in a household where they could easily make ends meet? (this, by the end of 2022) A drop from nearly half (48 percent) in mid-2021. These are heart-breaking and abysmal figures. Less than one-third of people in this country feel they can easily make ends meet.
I'm interested to see what comes of this committee hearing. The hope is that food prices will start to trend downward, but after watching some of their testimony- it seemed like their efforts were more focused on gaining sympathy for themselves, rather than the 71 percent of Canadians struggling. It would be a real shame if the lemons that we've been handed were to pummel the greedflation we've been up against. ;) Grocers aren't the only problem here.
I want to make it abundantly clear that I am not wanting nor asking big companies to bankrupt themselves during tough economic times. What I am needling at is this grotesque trend toward greed. These companies keep outing themselves by boasting about their record-breaking profits, then clutch their pearls when they're questioned about it. I think my favourite response is "well they're an asshole too, so why aren't they in trouble?" Just stop. Do better. Please. Thank you.