Want to learn how grocery competition should work? Look at the U.S.

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Sylvain Charlebois

Troy Media

In the realm of competition within the food industry, Canada finds itself trailing behind its neighbour to the south. While both nations grapple with antitrust concerns, the United States distinguishes itself through its unwavering vigilance against monopolies and publicly owned entities.

Notably, the U.S. Department of Justice actively pursues companies and their executives, often leading to convictions and jail sentences. Remarkably, their investigations are characterized by swiftness, taking mere months instead of dragging on for years. Even complex cases, such as the canned tuna price-fixing scandal, have been met head-on.

Conversely, in Canada, we predominantly rely on corporate goodwill, hoping that companies will voluntarily plead guilty in exchange for immunity. Take, for instance, the bread price-fixing scandal, in which Grupo Bimbo, now the owner of Canada Bread, was fined $50 million but continues to engage in business with the federal government. In stark contrast, Loblaw and Weston Bakeries received immunity by blowing the whistle, and the investigation remains ongoing – an astonishing eight years and counting. The disparity in approach is glaring.

U.S.-based companies have become remarkably cautious and strategic when pursuing mergers and acquisitions. A prime example is the Kroger-Albertsons saga, where Kroger divested itself of over 413 stores to secure regulatory approval, a move akin to Canada’s leading grocer Loblaw’s selling 354 stores prior to an acquisition. It represents a fundamentally different landscape.

According to Mark Warner, a prominent Canadian competition lawyer, Kroger is taking proactive steps to address potential Federal Trade Commission (FTC) concerns in the U.S. They are proposing sales as remedies, effectively challenging the FTC to block the merger and leaving the decision to a judge to assess the remedy’s effectiveness. This trend may become more commonplace among well-funded merging companies, particularly as antitrust enforcers become more proactive. In the past, before the Biden administration, antitrust agencies were more inclined to accept proposed remedies and approve mergers. Canada, it appears, still adheres to a similar approach.

Significant transactions have been scarce in Canada lately, reflecting, as Warner suggests, a potential shift in the activist landscape. The most recent major deal, Sobeys’ acquisition of Safeway, required a consent agreement and the sale of 23 stores – merely 1.5 percent of Sobeys’ total operations. This pales in comparison to the rigorous oversight happening in the United States. Notably, some of those 23 stores divested by Sobeys remain closed even after a decade.

However, we must confront a stark truth. While Congress scrutinized the Kroger-Albertsons deal from its inception, few Canadians raise an eyebrow when major grocers change hands. In Washington, antitrust concerns evolved into a highly politicized issue, compelling the involved companies to publicly acknowledge public apprehensions. Now, with food prices on the rise, Canadians are beginning to genuinely care about how the architecture of the industry influences food pricing.

One major divergence between the United States and Canada becomes evident: Lawmakers and policymakers in both nations reached a consensus many years ago that the intricacies of the food industry are too complex for the general public to fully grasp. Instead, the paramount concern of the public lies in how the industry directly affects their daily lives, particularly in terms of food affordability, access, and safety. Consequently, lawmakers in the United States have been willing to proactively shoulder the responsibility of addressing these concerns on behalf of their fellow citizens.

Canada, on the other hand, has opted for a different approach. Many politicians have resorted to accusations of corruption and the “greedflation” campaign as their primary strategies. Regrettably, these tactics often discourage the broader public from engaging with and comprehending the intricacies of food distribution and policies.

When we assess the challenge of fostering competition within the food sector, it becomes unmistakably clear that this is a substantial obstacle confronting both nations. Yet, the fact that Canada is even contemplating emulating what France has recently undertaken – calling upon the food industry to freeze prices of 5,000 products – serves as a poignant reminder of how out of touch our lawmakers are with the workings of our own country.

If Canadians do not voice their concerns and demand change, they will ultimately receive the food industry they are willing to tolerate.

Dr. Sylvain Charlebois is senior director of the agri-food analytics lab and a professor in food distribution and policy at Dalhousie University.

Grocery chain profits only a minor factor in high cost of food

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Steve Ambler

Troy Media

Justin Trudeau has summoned Canada’s top grocers to Ottawa to come up with a plan to solve surging food prices, saying, “It does not make sense in a country like Canada that our largest grocery chains should be making record profits while Canadians are struggling to put food on the table.” He then added that if the grocers do not come up with a credible plan, “we will take further action and we are not ruling anything out, including tax measures.”

This sounds like a threat to punish supermarket chains by taxing them if they don’t lower their prices.

The Trudeau government should get an F in basic economics on at least three counts.

The first count is the idea that imposing a tax on grocery chains would lower food prices. This is patently absurd. Taxes would raise their costs, and some of the increased costs would be passed on to consumers.

The second count is blaming grocery chains’ profits for food price increases.

Grocery chains have been enjoying record profits in absolute dollar terms, but of course, record dollar profits don’t look quite as high when adjusted for the increase in the consumer price index (CPI) since inflation began to surge in early 2021. Also, their volume of sales is huge, translating into pretty small markups over costs.

Economist Jim Stanford of the Centre for Future Work calculated that the net profit margin in food retailing increased from 1.62 percent in early 2020 to 2.85 percent in early 2023, an increase of 1.23 percentage points in three years. Food has a weight of about 17 percent in the CPI, so the increase in profit margins can explain about a 0.21 percent increase in the CPI. Spread out over three years, this means that grocery chain profits may have added about 0.07 percent to Canada’s headline inflation rates. Not much more than a rounding error.

Much of the blame for increased profit margins can also be laid at the doorstep of the federal government itself. The pandemic lockdowns led to many smaller grocery stores shutting down temporarily, and the temporary closures, in many cases, turned into permanent closures. This had the effect of reducing competition in the food sector, and it’s a well-known fact of economic life that markups in an industry are inversely related to the degree of competition in that industry.

The third count: the impact of the federal government’s carbon taxes on food prices has been considerably higher than grocery chain profits.

Troy Media contributor and Dalhousie University professor Sylvain Charlebois, one of Canada’s top experts on food and food distribution policy, noted in 2019 that it is hard to estimate the exact impact because energy is required at all stages of food production from planting the seeds to refrigerating the produce on store shelves. He does cite a study from 2012 suggesting that a carbon tax of $50 per tonne would increase food prices by about three percent.

Since Apr. 1, we have had a carbon tax of $65 per tonne, up from $20 in early 2020, which will have increased food prices by about 2.7 percent. Once again, spreading this over three years and multiplying by the weight of food in the CPI, this works out to juicing food price inflation by 0.153 percent, over twice the impact of grocery chain profit margins. And this, of course, neglects the impact of carbon taxes on prices in other sectors, which also use energy at all stages of the production process.

Finally, we know that CO2 diffuses throughout the atmosphere. To the extent that CO2 emissions are a problem, they are a worldwide problem. Completely eliminating Canada’s emissions would have little or no effect on the world’s climate, and would be more than offset within a year by the increase in emissions from China, which is building six times more coal-fired power plants than the rest of the world combined – a fourth reason for an F in Econ101.

Steve Ambler is a professor emeritus of economics in the École des sciences de la gestion, Université du Québec à Montréal.

Trudeau pokes a hornet’s nest in India

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Randlolph Mank

Troy Media

Upon returning from a diplomatic assignment overseas in 2006, I was put in charge of one of the Canadian foreign ministry’s Asia bureaus and tasked with developing a re-engagement strategy with India.

Countless drafts were produced before we finally found a modest path forward. Along the way, we were constantly reminded of a hornet’s nest of reasons why we couldn’t engage easily with India: its weaponization of our CANDU nuclear reactor exports in the 1970s; its resistance to liberalization throughout the evolution of global trade rules; its military relations with Russia; its mistreatment of minorities, including Muslims, Sikhs and Christians; and so on.

For its part, India’s main interest seemed to be that Canada should crack down on Canadian Sikhs waging the separatist “Free Khalistan” campaign for an independent homeland in the Punjab region.

Now, suddenly, after almost two decades of modest progress, the diplomatic relationship is again spiralling downward. It comes just as hopes had been raised that India could become the replacement for Canada’s soured relations with China.

The new diplomatic rift erupted following Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s recent troubled visit to India for G20 meetings. He rose in Parliament this week to allege that Indian authorities were complicit in the assassination of Sikh leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar, who was shot to death in June this year in front of a Gurdwara temple in Surrey, a suburb of Vancouver.

Following the Prime Minister’s statement, his government announced the expulsion of an Indian diplomat, a move quickly reciprocated in New Delhi, which also issued a travel warning for Canada. Trade talks have also been suspended, along with a planned visit to New Delhi this fall of a highly anticipated Team Canada business mission led by our trade minister.

And, with that, the air came out of the much-hyped relationship, and the “Indo” in Canada’s Indo-Pacific Strategy became tenuous, to say the least.

The Canadian government had high hopes for progress. One of Canada’s top trade negotiators, Cameron MacKay, had been deployed as High Commissioner in New Delhi to capitalize on the potential. The world’s most populous country, India is already Canada’s 10th largest trading partner. Canada exported $11.5 billion of goods and services to India last year, and imported almost $9.5 billion in return. It is also Canada’s single largest source of foreign students.

According to the 2021 census, about 1.4 million Canadians identify as ethnic Indian. The community includes such current prominent leaders as Harjit Sajjan, the federal Cabinet’s emergency preparedness minister; Jagmeet Singh, the head of the New Democratic Party; Niki Sharma, the Attorney General of British Columbia; and Goldy Hyder, the CEO of the Business Council of Canada. Of this diaspora, close to 800,000 identify as Sikh, the largest such group in the world outside of India.

Prime Minister Modi’s government, like others before it, has not been especially tolerant of minorities, certainly not ones demanding a separate homeland in the Punjab. India ranks a lowly 119 out of 165 countries on the Human Freedom Index. It has a long history of inter-communal tension between its Hindu majority and Sikh minority. Hostilities erupted in June 1984, when the Indian military raided Sikh’s holiest shrine, the Golden Temple in Amritsar, to root out separatists. Some four hundred people were killed in the raid, and thousands more perished in the bloodshed that ensued. Four months later, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated by her Sikh bodyguards in revenge.

Eight months later, the violence came to Canada.

In June 1985, a bomb planted by Canadian Sikh extremists on an Air India flight from Montreal destined for Mumbai exploded near Ireland, killing 329 mostly Canadians on board. The 2006 Canadian Commission of Enquiry into the mishandling of the case pointed the finger at a lack of co-ordination between Canadian intelligence and security agencies. Those agencies have paid closer attention ever since.

Nevertheless, instead of pursuing closer relations with India as intended, the Canadian government must now deal with a flurry of awkward questions: Where is the proof behind the allegations? Why hasn’t anyone been charged? If the intelligence and security agencies knew about and warned Mr. Nijjar about assassins, why couldn’t they stop them? If those killers came from India, how did they get visas to enter Canada? If they have returned to India, how did they evade our law enforcement authorities? If we knew that the Indian government was involved in such activities on Canadian soil, why did we think we could partner with it on an Indo-Pacific strategy? What measures will we take now to avoid collateral damage to our commercial interests?

Political pundits will speculate about the timing of the Prime Minister’s allegations and his reliance on the Sikh leader of the New Democratic Party for control of Parliament. As a foreign policy matter, if it is proven to have deployed assassins in Canada, ‘Shining India’s’ reputation will be severely tarnished everywhere. If disproved, the same goes for Canada.

Randolph Mank is a former Canadian diplomat and business executive. He currently heads MankGlobal consulting, serves on boards, and is a Fellow of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute, Triple Helix, and the Balsillie School of International Affairs.

Why Ontario’s Greenbelt is crucial for Canada’s agricultural future

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The Greenbelt should remain inviolate, without exception or compromise

Sylvain Charlebois, Troy Media

It’s inspiring to see farmland management taking the forefront in today’s headlines, emerging as a significant political issue in Canada’s largest province – a truly fascinating development.

In a world grappling with the massive challenge of feeding a growing population amidst rising urbanization and environmental pressures, preserving farmland close to cities has become more important than ever. Amid recent political controversies at Queen’s Park, the Greenbelt shines as a beacon of hope – a policy firmly opposed to relentless urban sprawl. It not only preserves nearby agriculture but also bolsters our food security.

A bit of history: In 2005, under the leadership of Dalton McGuinty, the Liberal government took a momentous step by enacting legislation to create the world’s largest Greenbelt. Encompassing the Niagara Escarpment, the Oak Ridges Moraine, and nearly one million acres of prime farmland, it now blankets over two million acres of fertile land. Over the years, its effectiveness in protecting farmland has been consistently demonstrated. A study by the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs underscores the undeniable impact of the Greenbelt in preserving prime agricultural land.

The results of this study, released a few years ago, are both enlightening and profound. From 2005 to 2019, only 32 hectares of prime agricultural land were lost within the protective embrace of the Greenbelt. This seemingly small figure takes on immense significance when compared with the staggering loss of 11,172 hectares of prime agricultural land outside the Greenbelt during the same period. The data unequivocally reaffirms the Greenbelt’s fundamental mission: safeguarding agricultural land and preserving natural features.

Regardless of any narrative spun by the Ford government regarding land protection and any purported compromises involving prime farmland, one unassailable truth remains – the Greenbelt should remain inviolate, without exception or compromise.

Other urban centres in Canada have paid a steep price for unchecked urban sprawl. Take the example of the island of Montreal, where some of Quebec’s most fertile agricultural land now lies beneath asphalt and concrete. Ontario cannot afford to repeat such a blunder.

Preserving the Greenbelt isn’t just about resisting urban renewal and development; it’s about finding space in the real estate sector. Today, we have the opportunity to expand residential areas while simultaneously safeguarding our capacity for food production and farming.

Well-planned public transportation and communication networks can facilitate urban development while keeping the Greenbelt intact. Preserving the Greenbelt also offers urbanites the prospect of agricultural proximity.

Preserving is not just about food security; it’s very much about education and our collective awareness of food production. The stark rural-urban divide in Canada has led to misguided policies detrimental to farmers. This disconnect is further exacerbated by the fact that, according to Statistics Canada, 98.4 percent of Canadians do not reside on farms. Allowing urban residents to at least glimpse farmland is vital for fostering a connection between Canadians and farming. For many Ontarians, driving through the Greenbelt may be their sole opportunity to witness a working farm.

And let’s be honest. Preserving our biodiversity, especially near or within urban centres, can only benefit our collective mental health. Numerous studies have highlighted the importance of green spaces for our mental health.

In essence, the Greenbelt policy was not just a commendable idea; it was an imperative. It ensures the protection of green spaces near Canada’s most urbanized region. It is essential for food security, education, awareness, and the well-being of our society. These vital aspects should never be open to sacrifice.

Dr. Sylvain Charlebois is senior director of the agri-food analytics lab and a professor in food distribution and policy at Dalhousie University.

Classic car contest raises money for cancer support

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Saskatchewan car contest fuels $510,560 donation to cancer foundation

Dale Johnson, Troy Media

A classic car contest has raised more than half a million dollars for cancer support in Saskatchewan.

A bright orange 1970 Dodge Charger RT with a 6.4 litre, 500-horsepower crate Hemi engine was displayed at car shows across Saskatchewan throughout the summer. This resto-mod, which combines a classic car style with modern technology, is valued at $185,000.

People could buy tickets, either for a chance to win the car or for a 50/50 draw. In all, $510,560 went to the Cancer Foundation of Saskatchewan, the fundraising partner of the Saskatchewan Cancer Agency.

Submitted photo. A bright orange 1970 Dodge Charger RT with a 6.4 litre, 500-horsepower crate Hemi engine was displayed at car shows across Saskatchewan throughout the summer. This resto-mod, which combines a classic car style with modern technology, is valued at $185,000.

“Not only did this car raffle raise funds for cancer care in Saskatchewan, but the tour also allowed us to raise awareness about the Cancer Foundation of Saskatchewan,” explains Nora Yeates, CEO of the Cancer Foundation of Saskatchewan.

The Foundation helps facilitate the best possible outcomes for Saskatchewan cancer patients and their families by supporting innovative treatments, funding the latest technologies, and funding outstanding cancer care for Saskatchewan cancer patients and their families.

The Charger was donated by a group of private donors. One of the people behind this fundraiser is former Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall – who happens to be a car buff. Wall, who has owned several classic cars, is a dedicated Dodge devotee. His first car was a 1966 Charger that he bought while he was in high school.

Submitted photo. A bright orange 1970 Dodge Charger RT with a 6.4 litre, 500-horsepower crate Hemi engine was displayed at car shows across Saskatchewan throughout the summer. This resto-mod, which combines a classic car style with modern technology, is valued at $185,000.

I once asked him, “What was the best vehicle you ever owned?” He responded: “A 1966 Dodge Charger, a 1973 Dodge Challenger 340, and my 1967 Dodge Coronet 500 are all tied for first.” So it’s really no surprise that Wall would be behind this project. The Charger was built by the Knight Automotive Group.

The winner of this car is Joe Holtorf of Neuanlage, a hamlet located between Prince Albert and Saskatoon.

Holtorf loves cars and motorcycles – everything from 1968 to the mid-’70s. He has fond memories of a 1975 Dodge Dart he owned many years ago. His father died of cancer, and he thinks the Cancer Foundation is a good cause because it helps people. And now he’s the winner of this 1970 Dodge Charger GT.

“I’m just super stoked,” he says.

Also, in the 50/50 draw, Brian Trebish of Yorkton, SK., won $56,160.

Although Holtorf is considered the major winner, there are lots of other people benefiting – because of the $510,560 this car raised for the Cancer Foundation of Saskatchewan.

Dale Johnson is an award-winning author, broadcaster and journalist who has worked in TV, radio, print and online.

Saskatchewan desperately needs a better budget plan

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by Gage Haubrich

The Saskatchewan government’s first quarter results reveal the cracks in its budget plan.

Budget 2023 initially projected a $1-billion surplus, but after four months, that supposed surplus has been cut in half and is now predicted to be $486 million.

Compared to its 2023 budget, the government is now projecting to take in $529 million less in resource revenue. Last year, it raked in a record amount of resource revenue that helped it balance the budget and was counting on near-record amounts to do it again this year.

Spending is also up compared to the budget. This year, the government plans to spend $408 million more than it budgeted. And that’s the problem. When faced with a large drop in revenue, instead of stopping and looking for savings, the government continues to spend.

If the government had held the line on spending, the province would be projecting a surplus of $893 million instead since tax revenue is up from the budget.

Last year, the government took credit for the large surplus.

“Our finances are strong,” said Finance Minister Donna Harpauer.

But what will provincial politicians say now that more than half a billion dollars is predicted to vanish from government coffers?

Unfortunately, this is the Saskatchewan government way. Spend taxpayer money like it’s going out of style when times are good, continue to spend when it gets tough and pray that some higher power bails out the province with a surge in oil prices.

This year, the government’s resource revenue take is expected to fall because the price of both potash and oil has dropped. Politicians will remark that this is out of their control, but this is nothing new. Resource revenues are predictably unpredictable, and for them to change drastically over the course of a year is not unexpected.

The government decided to hinge the budget on an oil price of $79.50 per barrel. The government now forecasts it will be $5 less. It also predicts that the price of potash per tonne will decrease by more than $30. Over the last year, the price of oil has ranged from $63.64 to $93.74 and the price of potash from $328 to $513.75.

The government is foolish to be pinning its entire fiscal strategy on revenue that is not guaranteed. Something needs to change. Saskatchewan needs a coherent plan to get its finances back on track.

At this point, the government still plans to pay back up to $1 billion of debt, but this plan could be in jeopardy if resource revenues drop further. By the end of this year, the debt will be $18.1 billion, or about $15,000 per Saskatchewanian. Taxpayers cannot afford for the debt to keep increasing.

In the past five years, the government has spent $2.5 billion on debt interest payments. That’s enough money to build 87 new schools or cut the provincial sales tax by one point for each year. Instead, that money has been completely wasted, paying for the government’s inability to keep the budget balanced and pay down the debt.

The Saskatchewan government paid back $1.5 billion in debt last year. It can’t let that good work go to waste by sliding back into deficit.

The government’s first quarter update shows that something needs to be done to safeguard the province’s resource revenues in the good times and weather the storm during downturns. Former premier Brad Wall commissioned a report that recommended the province set up a heritage fund to invest the province’s resource revenue. It’s time to give that report another look.

The first quarter update should be a wake-up call for the government to get control of its finances. Instead of praying for revenues to stay high, the Saskatchewan government needs to focus on reducing expenses and keeping the budget balanced.

Gage Haubrich is the Prairie Director for the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.

Are sugar taxes really about your health?

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Sylvain Charlebois

Sugar taxes are gaining momentum worldwide. A study published in June by the Journal of the American Medical Association revealed the existence of 118 sugar taxes worldwide, including 105 national taxes and 13 subnational taxes, impacting 51 percent of the global population. It’s worth noting that this approach receives substantial support from the World Health Organization (WHO).

Many citizens are already subject to this “sin tax” policy, primarily aimed at discouraging the consumption of sugar-rich food products. Over the past few years, some Canadian provinces have decided to follow suit.

For instance, in April 2021, British Columbia imposed a seven percent provincial sales tax on sugary beverages. The primary aim, according to the province, was to discourage consumers from buying high-sugar foods. Yet, even after two years, the BC government has provided little substantive evidence of tangible outcomes of the tax or conducted comprehensive assessments on the tax’s effect on product consumption.

On September 1, 2022, Newfoundland and Labrador also implemented a sugar tax on beverages. However, unlike British Columbia, Newfoundland opted for a more subtle approach by imposing the tax at the manufacturer level rather than at the retail level. But like in BC, the tax has not yet undergone a thorough evaluation of its effectiveness. Data regarding consumption or sales simply remains unavailable.

However, the province’s Department of Finance has announced that the tax generated $11 million in revenue over the past year, 22 percent more than anticipated.

The province claims that these funds will go towards supporting programs like a continuous glucose monitoring pilot, a tax credit for physical activity, and the development of leisure, physical activity, and sports. Although these goals are commendable, it’s unclear whether the funds will genuinely be directed towards achieving them.

Scientific studies indicate that municipalities, particularly in the United States, that have imposed such taxes have shown greater success in meeting spending obligations linked to sugar taxes than other government levels. Oakland, Philadelphia, and Berkeley serve as good examples. Nevertheless, some provinces or states may be swayed by conflicting political priorities, with the collected funds becoming entangled in the intricacies of public finances.

Ultimately, it appears that the sugar tax in Newfoundland and Labrador has had little impact on consumer habits. According to a study from the University of California to be published in October, only a fraction of the sugar tax imposed on manufacturers is passed on to consumers. Retail prices barely change, with most of the tax being absorbed by the supply chain. Moreover, available scientific evidence does not consistently demonstrate that sugar-sweetened beverage taxes have either encouraged increased purchases of healthier beverages or led to an overall reduction in the consumption of sugary drinks.

In essence, the government of Newfoundland and Labrador seems to have introduced this tax for the sake of taxation itself – an ill-conceived notion. For agri-food businesses, dealing with a moralistic state represents a significant risk, as they may fear becoming the target of punitive policies in the future, discouraging private sector investments. Newfoundland and Labrador is in dire need of investment.

Taxing food products in grocery stores, regardless of the method chosen, is a complex endeavour. The most effective tools for reducing sugar consumption are education and labelling. Education, in fact, according to IBISWorld, has already contributed to a decline in soft drink consumption in Canada since 1998, when per capita consumption was 117.4 litres.

Consumption was already declining before sugar taxes came along. Today, consumption stands at 48.4 litres per person – a remarkable difference. Furthermore, new rules for nutritional labelling, which will take effect in 2026, will compel manufacturers to affix a label to products high in sugar, fat, or sodium. This will provide consumers with relevant information to make healthier choices.

Taxing for the sake of taxation can open the door to state abuses. It is important to seek balanced, evidence-based approaches to encourage healthier dietary choices.

Dr. Sylvain Charlebois is senior director of the agri-food analytics lab and a professor in food distribution and policy at Dalhousie University.

Trudeau carbon taxes undermine his claims he’s making life more affordable

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Franco Terrazzano, Troy Media

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau claims he’s “making life more affordable,” but his own government agencies continue to prove his carbon tax makes life more expensive.

“Nova Scotians saw prices at the pump increase by 14 percent in July compared with June,” Statistics Canada reported. “The introduction of the federal carbon levy in the province and higher wholesale prices contributed to higher gasoline prices.”

It’s not just Statistics Canada.

The Canada Revenue Agency shows the carbon tax currently increases the price of gasoline by 14 cents per litre, the price of diesel and home heating oil by 17 cents per litre and the price of natural gas by 12 cents per cubic metre.

The Bank of Canada, the federal government’s central bank tasked with keeping inflation low, wrote in a note to Parliament’s finance committee: “If the charge were to be removed from the three main fuel components of the consumer price index (gasoline, natural gas and fuel oil) it would reduce the inflation rate by 0.4 percentage points.”

In other words, life would be more affordable if Trudeau scrapped the carbon tax.

The Parliamentary Budget Officer is the federal government’s non-partisan, independent budget watchdog. The PBO also notes the carbon tax makes Canadians poorer.

“Most households will see a net loss, paying more in fuel charges and GST, as well as receiving lower incomes, compared to the Climate Action Incentive payments they receive and lower personal income taxes they pay,” according to the PBO.

The carbon tax will cost the average family between $347 and $710 this year, even after the rebates are factored in, according to the PBO.

Trudeau’s carbon tax bill is only getting bigger. The carbon tax will increase the price of gas by 37 cents per litre in 2030, according to the CRA.

Trudeau also imposed a second carbon tax through fuel regulations. The second carbon tax doesn’t come with rebates and it’s layered on top of Trudeau’s original tax.

Analysis from the Department of the Environment shows the second carbon tax will “disproportionately impact lower and middle-income households,” including Canadians “currently experiencing energy poverty,” “single mothers,” and “seniors living on fixed incomes.”

Independent government regulators in Atlantic Canada estimate the second carbon tax initially costs between four and eight cents per litre of gas.

By 2030, when the fuel regulations are fully implemented, Trudeau’s two carbon taxes will increase the price of gas by about 55 cents per litre and cost the average family more than $2,000 every year.

While Ottawa has made life more expensive with yearly carbon tax hikes, other countries have provided gas tax relief.

The United Kingdom announced billions of dollars of fuel tax relief. Australia cut its gas tax in half. South Korea cut its gas tax by 30 percent. Germany temporarily cut its fuel tax by 30 cents per litre of gas. The Netherlands cut its gas tax by 17 cents per litre.

India cut its gas tax to “keep inflation low, thus helping the poor and middle classes.”

While Canadians are now paying two carbon taxes, more than 75 percent of countries don’t pay a national carbon tax, according to the World Bank.

Trudeau knows the carbon tax makes life more expensive. After all, the objective of his carbon tax is to increase the price of gasoline, diesel and heating fuel.

Trudeau wants Canadians to think he’s trying to make life affordable. In reality, Trudeau is failing to do the one thing that would immediately make life more affordable: scrap his carbon taxes.

Franco Terrazzano is the Federal Director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.

The Metro strike could redefine Canada’s grocery industry

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Metro strike is a battle against the inexorable march of automation and artificial intelligence in the grocery industry

Sylvain Charlebois, Troy Media

Amidst the summer heat, a cold front has descended upon the Greater Toronto Area. However, this frigid front has nothing to do with the weather and everything to do with a growing chasm between grocery giant Metro and its 3,700 striking workers. The consequences of this clash extend far beyond the picket lines, threatening to reshape the entire grocery industry in Canada.

The strike, which started on July 29, has thrown 27 Metro stores across the GTA into disarray. Workers walked off the job after rejecting a tentative agreement recommended by their own bargaining committee – a move that sent shockwaves throughout the industry.

Until this week, the strike impacted only these 27 stores, but its effects are steadily rippling outward. Most Metro consumers in Ontario will likely witness the consequences of this labour dispute through empty spaces in various sections of their grocery stores. Halting trucks departing from distribution centres could sadly result in more food waste, as discarding food may be necessary if the cargo is no longer safe to consume – a bold move indeed by the striking workers.

But make no mistake; this strike is a litmus test for the public’s moral compass, and so far, the workers have garnered substantial support. Despite the potential for a settlement favouring workers to push food prices even higher, the public’s response has been surprisingly muted.

When the “Hero Pay” program was introduced during the pandemic, it revolved around work hazards and the risks associated with the virus. The public sympathized. However, with higher food prices now at the forefront, the context has shifted. This is about making the grocery industry an attractive career option, but more importantly, it’s about ensuring dignified work.

While Metro allocated millions in bonuses to a handful of executives, employees received a gift card of up to $300, exclusively redeemable at Metro-owned stores. It’s no wonder Metro finds itself embroiled in a strike.

Nonetheless, while this dispute undoubtedly centers on wages and benefits, it signifies a larger battle – one that pits traditional labour practices against the inexorable march of automation and artificial intelligence. The workers on the picket lines are not simply pursuing personal gains; they are essentially championing the cause of every grocery store employee in Canada. Their strike symbolizes a broader struggle against a business model that relies on top-heavy organizations while prioritizing low margins and meagre wages.

Conversely, grocers across Canada are watching closely. If the workers succeed in their demands, it could set a precedent that resonates far beyond the picket lines. The prospect of fair wages and improved working conditions may become the new normal, but it could also usher in a seismic shift in how groceries are delivered to our shelves.

Automation and AI are knocking on the doors of the grocery industry, promising efficiency and cost savings. If workers secure concessions through this strike, grocers might be encouraged to explore alternative avenues, such as increased utilization of AI and automation. The traditional model of hiring around 80 full-time employees to operate a store could give way to hiring fewer than 50 workers with higher wages and an entirely different skill set focused on managing and maintaining automated systems. The public should prepare for this potential transformation as well.

As the strike continues, it is likely to intensify with each passing week. The longer it endures, the deeper the scars it will leave on both sides. The grocery industry, like many others, stands at a crossroads. How it navigates this strike and its aftermath will establish a precedent for the entire Canadian labour landscape.

If Metro’s workers succeed in their fight for fair compensation and humane working conditions, the way grocery stores operate in Canada could undergo a profound transformation. The substantial influx of self-checkouts, as irritating as it may have been to many Canadians, could only mark the beginning of this evolution.

Dr. Sylvain Charlebois is senior director of the agri-food analytics lab and a professor in food distribution and policy at Dalhousie University.

Demand rising for Canadian oil

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Canada’s heavy oil outshines WTI benchmark

Deborah Jaremko, Troy Media

Demand for oil from Canada is rising as world oil consumption hits new records.

Heavy, sour oil grades like those Canada primarily exports are experiencing what one analyst calls a “price renaissance,” outperforming the U.S. light, sweet oil benchmark West Texas Intermediate (WTI).

“Heavy is the crude that wears the crown,” Toronto-based Rory Johnston, founder of Commodity Context, wrote recently.

“While the most commonly referenced light sweet crudes are on an uninspiring price run, heavier crudes are actually having a pretty great year. As just one example, the price of Western Canadian Select (WCS), a heavy sour crude that represents Canada’s main crude export blend, is up a whopping $15 per barrel (about 20 percent) year-to-date.”

That’s compared to an increase of about US$5 per barrel for WTI this year.

There are several reasons for the higher Canadian heavy oil prices, says Phil Skolnick, New York-based oil market analyst with Eight Capital.

Maintenance at oil sands projects has reduced available supply while, at the same time, demand has increased. The new Dos Bocas refinery in Mexico is drawing heavy oil away from refineries on the U.S. Gulf Coast, and petrochemical plants in China are ramping up production using heavy oil from both Canada and Latin America, Skolnick says.

Additional demand is expected when the U.S. government purchases sour crude to refill its Strategic Petroleum Reserve.

“Demand is increasing for sure,” he says.

Canada’s oil exports to customers outside of the United States reached a record 291,000 barrels per day this spring, according to the Canada Energy Regulator.

Meanwhile, American oil imports from Canada remain steady at above 4.5 million barrels per day, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Even though it’s not a global benchmark like WTI, the improved pricing for heavy crudes like WCS is important because it has “a material impact” on the earnings of producing companies and nations, Johnston wrote.

Canada’s Parliamentary Budget Office has said that an increase of US$5 per barrel for Canadian heavy oil would add $6 billion to Canada’s economy over the course of one year.

With the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion now more than 80 percent complete, Canada is closer to expanding its ability to supply growing oil demand in global markets, with the benefits flowing to Canadians.

Deborah Jaremko is director of content for the Canadian Energy Centre, a Troy Media Editorial Content Provider Partner.