Commentary,  Inflation

Documentary Shines Light on Excessive Food Prices in Canada

Rapidly rising food prices have been a major component of the cost-of-living crisis affecting Canadian households in the aftermath of the COVID pandemic. Food price inflation was significantly faster than overall inflation in 2022 and 2023. Food inflation has slowed more recently (to 2.4% year-over-year by March 2024, the slowest in 3 years), but food affordability is a major concern.

Low-income households spend a much larger share of their total income on food than higher-income families: the lowest-income quintile of households spends 12.8% of total spending on groceries, versus just 6.5% for the highest-income quintile (data from Statistics Canada Table 11-10-0223-01). High food prices thus impose a particular burden on low- and middle-income households. Similar inequalities are visible across the various regions of Canada – none more so than in Canada’s north, where limited competition and very high transportation costs contribute to shocking grocery prices.

These factors were explored recently in a powerful documentary, “Who’s Minding the Store?”, produced by CBC’s flagship investigative program, The Fifth Estate. Led by veteran correspondent Steven d’Souza, the documentary covered several dimensions of the food price crisis. Working in partnership with reporters with the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN), the program revealed shocking details of food-price-gouging in isolated northern communities. It also featured detailed discussion with Centre for Future Work Director Jim Stanford on the economic and financial forces driving food prices – including the record-high profits being captured by the large grocery chains that dominate Canadian food retailing.

The full documentary can be viewed at:

A summary of the film’s main findings is published at:

For the latest on grocery store profits (which set a new all-time record in 2023, despite weakening sales and the slowdown in inflation), see the Centre for Future Work’s recent report on the resilience of corporate profits in Canada in 2023. 

Jim Stanford is Economist and Director of the Centre for Future Work. He divides his time between Sydney, Australia and Vancouver, Canada. Jim is one of Canada’s best-known economic commentators. He served for over 20 years as Economist and Director of Policy with Unifor, Canada’s largest private-sector trade union.