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Food inflation in Canada shows signs of easing, but grocery prices to remain high

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Food inflation appears to be easing in Canada, but experts say shoppers shouldn’t expect lower prices at the grocery store.

Statistics Canada said Tuesday the cost of groceries in February rose 10.6 per cent compared with a year before, down from an 11.4 per cent year-over-year increase in January.

Yet a falling food inflation rate doesn’t mean the price of food is coming down.

Instead, it means prices are rising less quickly, signalling the worst of the grocery price hikes could be behind us.

“Consumers may still feel sticker shock at the grocery store because the products they buy are up closer to 15 or 20 per cent,” said Sylvain Charlebois, director of the Agri-Food Analytics Lab at Dalhousie University.

In the month of February, multiple pantry staples increased by nearly double the overall inflation rate for food purchased from stores.

Pasta prices rose 23.1 per cent last month compared with a year earlier, flour jumped 22.9 per cent and butter increased 19.7 per cent, according to Statistics Canada.

Fats and oils also climbed significantly higher than the food basket average, up 18.8 per cent year over year. Sugar and syrup prices rose 15 per cent, cereal was up 14.8 per cent and eggs increased 13.6 per cent.

Still, the overall pace of food price increases eased in February and is expected to abate further in the coming months, Charlebois said.

“We expect the food inflation rate to continue to drop as we head into spring and early summer,” he said.

Fraser Johnson, a professor of operations management at Ivey Business School, said he expects a “steady progression to more normalized price increases” by the end of the calendar year.

“What I’m seeing is a shift in power between the suppliers and the buyers,” he said.

“A year or 18 months ago, certainly there was more supplier power in terms of pricing, but now things are starting to stabilize in terms of wait times, in terms of supply chain disruptions. Buyers are starting to exert more force and prices are … not rising as quickly as they were.”

But factors such as high costs for delivery, packing and labour, coupled with historically high commodity prices, are still contributing to rising grocery bills.

Johnson noted that while the price of oil has fallen in the last month, there is a lag until the effects are seen on the price of food.

“It’s easier for prices to go up than to go down,” he said.

“It takes time for contracts and pricing to work their way through the system. If you take a look at grocery chains like Loblaw or Sobeys, you’ve got multiple suppliers and multiple products which means that you’ve got to negotiate with your suppliers to be able to bring the pricing back in line, and that all takes time.”

Meanwhile, restaurant prices eased even more than grocery prices in February.

Statistics Canada said food purchased from restaurants rose 7.7 per cent last month compared with a year before, down from 8.2 per cent price growth in January.

“People are being extra careful with their budget these days and restaurant operators are being very prudent with menu prices,” Charlebois said.

– With files from Sammy Hudes

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 21, 2023.

 

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Ongoing LCBO strike a strain on Ontario wedding venues during peak season – CP24

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Wedding venues in Ontario are hoping their alcohol stocks don’t run dry as a strike by the province’s liquor store workers enters its second week. 

It’s peak season for the venues that host weddings and other summer gatherings, with plenty of champagne toasts, signature cocktails and specific requests from brides and grooms. 

But with the Liquor Control Board of Ontario shutting all its stores across the province for two weeks after workers went on strike last Friday, venues have had to do some careful calculations while assessing their alcohol supplies. 

Online ordering from the LCBO is available for smaller orders, and alcohol is available at some other outlets such as certain grocery stores and wineries, but venues say their typical purchasing options have diminished significantly. 

Farmhill Weddings in Peterborough, Ont., stocked up before the strike but owner Jenn Austin-Driver said those supplies will dwindle as the venue hosts weddings every weekend, in addition to a weekly summer concert series. 

“I’ve got a container full of alcohol and I’m just hoping that that’s enough,” Austin-Driver said in a phone interview. 

The alcohol needs of a wedding differ from a bar or restaurant, which can predict more reliably how much and what kind of drinks they might go through on a given night, said Austin-Driver.

“There’s such a fluctuation in our guest count and what their drink of choice is, so it is challenging to predict, weekend-to-weekend, what we’re going to go through,” she said. 

In the event that her alcohol stocks dry up, Austin-Driver said she’ll lean on friends in the industry for help.

“We’re hoping that we can call upon them if someone’s wedding is depending on a gin and tonic, you know?”

If the strike continues past next week, the LCBO has said it plans to open 32 locations three days a week with limited hours. It has not said where those locations will be.

Kaitlyn Pipe, the manager at Brussels Four Winds, said her rural event venue will need to replenish its alcohol stocks after about two weeks, as it has to host two more weddings before the end of July. 

“By the end of the month, I think we’re going to need more alcohol,” she said, adding that Brussels, a rural community northwest of Kitchener, Ont., doesn’t have as many options to purchase alcohol as larger urban communities do. 

In the community of Hammond, Ont., east of Ottawa, Mallity Estate spent a significant amount of funds to bolster its alcohol supplies before the strike began. 

Even so, venue staff have been scrambling to find what they need in grocery stores to meet clients’ specific requests. 

“They only put 94 products in there (for LCBO online orders) that we had access to in the wholesale,” said owner Lexine Menard.

“So hopefully when they open the stores on the 19th, we’re going to be one of those that maybe camp outside to get in and get what we need.”

The union representing liquor store workers has said the government’s move to open up the alcohol market in the province is a key sticking point for them – a position they’ve now doubled down on, while still leaving some room for negotiation. 

At issue is Premier Doug Ford’s plan to allow ready-to-drink cocktails to be sold outside LCBO stores. The Ontario Public Service Employees Union said it does not want those types of drinks – among the fastest growing market – sold outside LCBO stores as they believe it will eventually lead to job losses due to lost revenue.

“To us, seeing those products go into 8,500 new private retail locations (like gas stations and convenience chains) means less hours of work, fewer jobs, and lower public revenues,” said Colleen MacLeod, chair of the union’s LCBO bargaining unit.

Ford said earlier this week that ready-to-drink cocktails will be sold in convenience and grocery stores and the matter is a non-starter for negotiations.

The LCBO then said it was seeking clarity on the union’s position about ready-to-drink cocktails.

“If OPSEU is now prepared to agree that ready-to-drink beverages are a matter of public policy and not something that should be discussed as part of bargaining, we strongly encourage them to respond to our July 4 offer,” the LCBO wrote in a statement.

The union took issue with the LCBO’s position. 

“The employer does not get to unilaterally decide what is discussed at the table – that’s why it’s called bargaining,” MacLeod said. “We’re willing to return to the table at any moment – and for us, nothing is off the table.”

The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario said that under the government’s alcohol expansion plans, it has issued licences for alcohol sales to 3,105 convenience stores and 37 new grocery stores. Newly licensed convenience stories can start selling alcohol in early September while newly licensed grocery stories can do so from Oct. 31 onward. 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 12, 2024.

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Lower interest rates don’t lure buyers back to housing market – CBC News: The National

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Victoria Gold warns it might not reopen Yukon gold mine or have the money to remediate it

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The company responsible for the Eagle gold mine near Mayo, Yukon, says it might not have the money to remediate the impacts of its heap leach failure.

It also might never reopen, Victoria Gold Corp. said in a statement Friday.

“There can be no assurance that the company will receive [the government] authorizations necessary to restart production or that the company will have the financial resources necessary to repair damage to equipment and facilities or remediate impacts caused by the incident or restart production,” it wrote.

The news comes weeks after the failure of the mine’s heap leach pad, a facility that used a cyanide solution to extract gold. Last week, the Yukon government confirmed it had found cyanide in a creek downstream from the mine.

Yukon NDP Leader Kate White told CBC News reading Victoria Gold’s statement was “like watching Yukoners’ fears play out in real time.”

“That fear of the mining company saying, ‘We don’t have the capital to clean up the disaster that happened on our watch,” she explained. “It’s the fear I’ve had since the incident happened on June 24, and I think, unfortunately, this is an example of big mining leaving a mess for Yukoners to clean up.”

White said she doesn’t think Yukoners have the full picture yet of the situation. She said a briefing by the territory for opposition parties that was supposed to happen this week was postponed.

She also said it fits with a pattern of mining disasters that have happened since 2006, when the Yukon government became responsible for approving new mines.

“We have an example of Wolverine, and then we have Minto, and now we have Victoria Gold sitting on the cusp,” she said.

“And so, really, it can’t be business as usual … So minerals legislation is more needed now than ever before.”

In its Friday update, the company also detailed the mine infrastructure that has been affected by the failure, including the heap leach embankment itself, piping, pumping, liner, two short lengths of fixed conveyors and some electrical infrastructure.

It said with production suspended, it will “continue to work to minimize impacts to the environment, with the safety of employees as a foremost priority.”

The failure at the mine site last month saw a landslide rip off part of the mine’s heap leach pad, used to process ore and extract gold.

According to the company, it cannot reopen without authorization from the Yukon’s mineral resources director.

The statement also included information about its water samples, in which it states only water samples from Haggart Creek on July 2 contained cyanide. The most recent samples it includes date up until July 4.

“As of July 4, 2024, based on final sampling results … the company has not exceeded its downstream water quality objectives pursuant to its water use licence,” it said.

 

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