Government should stay out of the retail grocery business, says industry expert


The Liberal government has decided to adjust course on its messaging, as evidenced by the trotting out of grocers during the first week of this Parliament sitting.

At issue: food cost inflation and what to do about it.

One of the potential targets is retail grocery store companies themselves, as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said this week that grocery owners could face an imposed tax if they didn’t do what they could to bring down food inflation.

John Scott, whose career was spent in the food and grocery sector, says that government involvement at the retail level is an all around bad idea. “Stay out of the marketplace, folks. The marketplace is competitive, it will find its way,” he says.

Not that it’s a surprising angle for a government to take, Scott says, as it makes for great political theatre — the rate of inflation has affected all of us, and grocery prices are right in our face several times a week. It’s an easy way for politicians to score points.

Scott says that grocery supply chains have faced increasing costs, but that recent data suggests that huge profits aren’t adding up on the retail side. What’s more, smaller grocers are struggling more in this high-cost era — a tax is not going to help matters.

Instead, Scott suggests digging in to what changes could be made to the Competition Act to address some of the larger issues in the supply chain.

Check out the full conversation, below:

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