Food In Canada

Federal, Quebec ministers urge grocers to sign code of conduct

By The Canadian Press   

Food In Canada Editor pick grocery code of conduct

The federal and Quebec agriculture and food ministers are calling on all members of the grocery industry supply chain to sign the code of conduct.

Federal minister Lawrence MacAulay and Quebec minister Andre Lamontagne said they’re disappointed to see the grocery code of conduct has still not been launched after years of work.

They’re also disappointed that “supply chain partners are hesitant to move forward” with signing on to the voluntary code, the ministers said in a statement.

The ministers didn’t name any companies, but Loblaw and Walmart Canada expressed concern in November that the code in its current form could raise food prices for Canadians.


At a House of Commons agriculture committee meeting in Ottawa on stabilizing food prices, members of Parliament pressed Walmart Canada CEO Gonzalo Gebara and Loblaw chair Galen Weston on why their companies have not yet signed the code.

Gebara said the company has participated in the development of the code, but is “not in a position at this time to commit” to it.

Weston said Loblaw will sign the code, but not in its current form. He urged the committee to look at the details of the code, which he said as drafted could raise prices and cause empty shelves.

“We’ve always said that we would sign the code. We just need to sign a code that doesn’t increase the risk of higher food prices to Canadians.”

In their statement, MacAulay and Lamontagne said the major grocers and all supply chain partners need to adopt and adhere to the code.

“In the coming days, we will be reviewing all possible options available to us. We encourage all industry partners to quickly commit to signing on to the Grocery Sector Code of Conduct for the benefit of consumers,” the ministers said.

Michael Graydon, CEO of the Food, Health & Consumer Products of Canada association and chair of the interim board of directors of the grocery code of conduct, said the code is “fundamentally done.”

He praised the statement from the ministers, calling it “much overdue.”

Graydon, who was co-chair of the steering committee developing the code, said it’s not yet clear whether Loblaw, Walmart or Costco will sign the code.

Costco did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In November, Graydon pushed back on claims that the code would raise prices for consumers: “We just don’t believe that that’s true.”

The grocers have also been under pressure from Ottawa to provide plans to stabilize food prices at their stores. The government summoned the heads of Loblaw, Metro, Empire, Walmart Canada and Costco to present their plans earlier this fall.

Federal industry minister Francois-Philippe Champagne has said those companies’ plans included discounts, price freezes and price-matching.

Earlier this week, Empire’s CEO Michael Medline said his company, which owns Sobeys, has expanded its annual November-to-January price freeze.

“We also have meaningful plans and development to help stabilize food prices past January, but will not discuss these publicly as they remained commercially and competitively sensitive until launched in our stores,” Medline told the agriculture committee.

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