Grocery code of conduct won’t drive prices higher: Empire chief executive

Empire Co. Ltd. chief executive Michael Medline said there’s no evidence that a grocery code of conduct would raise food prices for Canadians.

Empire chief executive Michael Medline leaves a meeting on the growing cost of food in Ottawa on Monday, Sept. 18, 2023. Medline is speaking at a Retail Council of Canada event in Toronto.THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Patrick Doyle

The president and CEO of Sobeys’ parent company made the comment at a Retail Council of Canada event in Toronto on Tuesday.

Medline said he wouldn’t support a grocery code of conduct for his industry if he thought it would make retail prices higher.

Last fall, Loblaw and Walmart said they wouldn’t sign the code as currently drafted, stalling progress as the code neared completion.

Proponents of the code say it will help level the playing field for suppliers and smaller grocery retailers.

But Loblaw and Walmart have said they are concerned it would raise food prices for Canadians. 

The impasse has led to talk of the code being made mandatory instead of voluntary, with the House of Commons committee tasked with studying food prices telling Loblaw and Walmart that if they don’t sign on, the committee will recommend the code be made law. 

Medline said he’s frustrated at how long the code has taken, but still believes there’s a way to keep it industry-led instead of bringing in legislation.

“It’s high time this was brought to a close,” he said. 

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