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Milk prices soar across Canada as record price increases for farmers kick in –



Canadians are paying more for milk this week.

Steep price increases, which took effect at many grocery stores on Tuesday, are as high as 15 per cent in some provinces and coincide with a spike in the price farmers are paid for the milk they produce.

This dramatic price hike will affect everyone who consumes milk, but it will hurt low-income and food-insecure families most, consumer advocates say.

”If families start being unable to provide milk to their kids or they start rationing it or diluting it, you’re going to start to see an increase in health concerns,” said Arianna Scott, CEO of Alberta Food Banks.

Global News reporters in multiple provinces compared the price they paid for a four-litre bag of milk this week with the price they paid in January.

In Toronto, the price jumped to $5.39 from $4.69 at two grocery stores: NoFrills and Loblaws, which are both owned by Loblaw Companies. That’s a 14.9 per cent increase. At Longo’s, the price increased to $5.49 from $4.79.

In Halifax, the price at Atlantic Superstore, also owned by Loblaws, went to $6.29 from $5.79. That’s an 8.6 per cent increase.

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And in Calgary, the price at Superstore went to $5.39 from $4.65. That’s a 15.9 per cent increase. Price hikes were the same at grocery stores in B.C.

Jeff Doucette, general manager of Field Agent Canada, a digital marketing company based in Calgary that tracks the price of milk across Canada, said this week’s increase is the “biggest we’ve seen in one stroke” since it began reporting on milk prices in 2015.

“Supermarkets are not going to eat the price increase that dairy farmers are passing along to them,” he said.

Doucette said other supermarkets which had not yet put their prices up to match Loblaw’s would likely do so in the coming weeks.

Read more:

Dairy farmers pushed record-breaking price hike for milk even higher

Multiple requests for comment from Loblaws, Longo’s, Walmart and Sobey’s were ignored.

A spokesperson for Metro, which also owns Food Basics, refused to answer questions, saying: “Metro does not comment on future pricing or pricing strategies.”

The government didn’t answer any questions about the increased cost of dairy and whether it was justified given the economic strains many Canadians are facing due to rising inflation and the ongoing pandemic.

Why Canadian milk prices are rising

The Canadian Dairy Commission announced in November that farmers would receive an 8.4 per cent increase to the price they’re paid for the milk they make beginning Feb. 1.

This is the largest annual increase in history and nearly twice the previous record.

The price increase is meant to offset rising costs for dairy farmers, especially feed costs, which the commission said have gone up by as much as 30 per cent over the past two years. The commission said the price hike is also meant to give farmers a chance to recuperate some of the higher costs associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.

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“This decision, which represents six cents per litre of milk leaving the farm, was made after careful consideration and consultation with all the stakeholders across the supply chain,” said commission spokesperson Chantal Paul in a written statement.

“Farmers must be able to meet their expenses and pay their local suppliers and employees. These trends exist in all parts of the agriculture sector.”

But a Global News investigation found the record-breaking price hike was pushed higher by dairy farmers who asked for steeper increases than what retail and consumer groups wanted.

And while Doucette said he believes the increase given to dairy farmers this year was justified, he also said the whole pricing system, along with the regulation around dairy in Canada, is “really, really wonky.”

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“You can buy a two-litre bottle of coke at Walmart (in Calgary) and in Mississauga and it will be the same price,” he said. “But at the same two stores, there’s a $1 difference in a four-litre jug of milk.”

This is partly because farmers pass on their costs of production, Doucette said. If production costs go up, these costs are passed on to processors with the approval of the dairy commission. If production costs go down, the dairy commission would need to consider reducing the price farmers are paid. Doucette said this limits incentives for farmers to find efficiencies and cost savings.

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Rising milk prices will hurt diets of low-income families

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According to the 2021 Field Agent report, the cheapest place in Canada to buy a four-litre bag of milk, which is used as a benchmark due to a lack of price fluctuations across different stores in each province, is Sudbury, Ont., where shoppers pay an average of $4.68. Prices differ across the rest of the country, from $7.19 in Moncton, N.B., to $6.86 in Quebec City to $4.65 in Winnipeg.

The most expensive milk is in St. John’s, N.L., at $1.95 per litre, as the province doesn’t stock four-litre bags. The report didn’t include the country’s territories.

Differences in provincial regulations and the size of local markets also lead to varying prices, he said. In Atlantic Canada — where milk prices are highest — farms are smaller and there are fewer customers.

Processors left guessing

But it’s not just consumers who are being forced to pay more for their dairy this week — processors are feeling the squeeze, too.

Processors buy raw milk from farmers and then turn it into end products for the consumer, such as butter, cheese and yogurt. Those processors then sell their products to retailers. This leaves several opportunities throughout the supply chain for costs to be added to the final price consumers pay at the cash register.

Ashley Chapman, vice president of Chapman’s Ice Cream, said that along with the eight per cent increase paid to farmers for drinkable milk, other milk prices have skyrocketed, including a 22 per cent increase for skim milk powder and a 53 per cent increase for dairy whey. Both of these products are used to make ice cream.

Ashley Chapman, vice-president of Chapman’s Ice-cream.

Brent Rose / Global News

“In the past 14 months, not only has every single component to make my product gone up, but everything that supports my business in a 360 degree way has gone up — whether it’s a bolt for a machine or a cleaning product,” he said.

Chapman said he’s forced to guess what a large chunk of his costs will be each year because retailers, such as major grocery store chains, allow companies like his to negotiate prices for their products only once a year. This happens before increases to milk prices are announced.

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Chapman also said he supports supply management — which maintains a fixed price for farmers to protect them from market volatility — because it supports local dairy farmers, but the intricate system doesn’t work because there “doesn’t seem to be any end to the rising cost of doing business.”

Cost increases are necessary

The increased price paid to farmers is only part of the reason why milk prices have gone up. Other costs, from processing to transportation, plus retailer’s costs, are also factored into the final prices that appear on grocery store shelves.

Mathieu Frigon, president and CEO of the Dairy Processors Association of Canada, said the increase given to farmers is only part of the equation; processing and distribution costs also need to be added.

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Frigon wouldn’t comment on what those additional costs are, but said Statistics Canada data shows processing costs for dairy products increased 11.5 per cent in 2021 compared with the previous year.

“How those inflationary pressures are dealt with is obviously up to each individual dairy processor,” Frigon said.

Canada has three main dairy processors: Lactalis, Agropur and Saputo. Agropur and Saputo did not respond to requests for comment.

Mark Taylor, Lactalis Canada’s president and CEO, said all communications about pricing with retailers are “private and confidential.” But he confirmed the company has increased costs above and beyond the increase farmers started receiving on Feb. 1.

“Dairy has been … doubly impacted by both inflationary and regulatory increases including, but not limited to, manufacturing, transportation, ingredients, packaging and distribution costs,” Taylor said.

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Memorial service held for RCMP Const. Heidi Stevenson, killed in N.S. mass shooting



HALIFAX — An RCMP officer who was among 22 people killed in the 2020 Nova Scotia mass shooting was remembered Wednesday during a regimental service in Halifax for her “fierce” character and brave actions.

People lined a street leading to the service for Const. Heidi Stevenson, watching as Mounties and municipal police marched, bagpipers and drummers played, and a hearse brought the officer’s urn to the ceremony at the Cole Harbour hockey arena.

COVID-19 restrictions had delayed the official ceremony, though a family funeral took place five days after Stevenson was killed.

RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki said during the service that Stevenson would be remembered for “her courage and strength of character.”

She said the force will remember Stevenson’s “heroism that day and the bravery she demonstrated and the actions she took to protect the community she cared so deeply about.”

A public inquiry into the mass shooting has indicated that the veteran officer was racing to support an injured colleague on April 19, 2020, when the fatal encounter occurred on a highway interchange about 60 kilometres north of Halifax.

The 48-year-old officer died in a gunfight with the killer, who had jumped a lane of traffic in his replica police vehicle in order to drive the wrong way down a ramp and slam into Stevenson’s cruiser.

Public inquiry documents say bullet fragments from Stevenson’s pistol “likely” struck the killer’s head, and — about 35 minutes later — blood on his forehead tipped off an officer who shot and killed the gunman at a gas station.

The inquiry has also noted that Stevenson had at 8:44 a.m. that morning called for the public to be notified about the killer driving a replica RCMP vehicle. Her request never received a response.

During the service, four friends noted her strong personality and sense of justice.

Her longtime friend Angela McKnight described Stevenson as a “fierce woman” who chose the RCMP over kinesiology and developed physical strength through playing rugby at university.

She said Stevenson had to undergo laser eye surgery and overcome a torn knee ligament in order to make it into the RCMP following her graduation.

“Heidi surrounded herself with strong women focused on supporting each other,” she said. “I know no better … no tougher, more determined woman than her.”

Childhood friend Nona Heinbecker recalled Stevenson’s sense of loyalty to her female friends, telling those gathered how the officer had happily found a spot to sleep on a hospital floor when Heinbecker was in labour.

People watching the procession to the service also described their admiration for Stevenson, who is survived by her husband and two children.

Randy Stevenson, a military veteran, and Jan Hill, whose husband had worked with the constable, were among those waiting on the sidewalk for the procession.

The veteran, who is not related to the fallen Mountie, described her as exemplifying “what the police and the military are about,” while Hill praised the officer’s deep involvement in her community of Dartmouth, N.S.

Heidi Stevenson grew up in Antigonish, N.S., and attended university in Nova Scotia. She was with the Mounties for 23 years, developing expertise in drug recognition, general duty policing and communications. She also spent time in Ottawa as part of the RCMP musical ride, even though she had no previous experience with horses.

In a statement provided to the inquiry, the Stevenson family said community support was helpful following her killing. “There were months of meals provided and seeing the Nova Scotia Strong stickers on everyone’s car meant so much. The phone call from the Prime Minister was very personal,” the family said in their statement.

Police estimated about 1,300 people attended the ceremony, which was broadcast live.

The Anglican minister presiding at the service noted Stevenson’s Christian faith, and quoted from a New Testament text emphasizing that hope, faith and love “abide,” and that love is the greatest of the three due to its eternal nature.

Rev. Katherine Bourbonniere said during her homily that even in death, “she (Stevenson) will constantly be trying to touch you in different ways.”

She recalled accompanying Stevenson when she drove to homes to notify next of kin of a death. “I saw her love in her job and in her position many a time. She would show compassion for every person she met, and it was … beautiful,” she said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 29, 2022.


Lyndsay Armstrong and Michael Tutton, The Canadian Press

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Explosive devices found in a vehicle connected to B.C. bank robbers killed



SAANICH, B.C. — Multiple explosive devices were found in a vehicle related to the two suspects who were gunned down outside a bank in Saanich, B.C.

Saanich Chief Const. Dean Duthie said Wednesday an RCMP explosive disposal unit was able to transfer the devices from the vehicle to a local landfill and destroy them.

Police had evacuated the area shortly after the shooting on Tuesday as the RCMP’s explosives disposal unit was called in.

Six officers were shot and two suspects were killed in the shootout with police on Tuesday.

Duthie said three of the officers remain in hospital, including one who is in intensive care, while another officer will require more surgeries.

He said he spoke with one of the officers in hospital and said the police department will be there to support him.

“We’re here for his family … to let him know that the policing community is behind him 100 per cent.”

The chief said police are still investigating the possibility of a third suspect, although they don’t believe there’s a risk to the public.

He said police were acting on vague information.

“Our goal was to keep the public safe,” he said of police ordering residents near the bank to stay inside on Tuesday.

Police said in a statement that they aren’t able to confirm identities, background or motive of the suspects.

Duthie said work is underway to try to confirm the suspects’ names.

Duthie has looked at much of the video footage of the incident and said it’s a miracle that no one else died.

“It’s astonishing that there was no other citizen or member of the public injured,” he said, crediting the quick actions of officers who responded.

“Both patrol officers and Greater Victoria emergency response officers (put) themselves in harm’s way to bring it to a successful and safe conclusion as quickly as possible.”

A woman trapped inside the bank during the robbery told CFAX radio she was in a meeting with the manager when she heard a loud explosion and then silence.

Shelli Fryer, 59, of Langford said she looked from the doorway and a few feet from her was “a man in full assault gear, holding an assault rifle.”

Fryer said the masked man was wearing all black, had an armoured vest over his jacket and was holding a black rifle that was shorter and stockier than what she was used to seeing in the media.

“The energy from them was completely calm,” she said.

She heard one gunman quietly say to the manager, “vault,” and the manager handed him the keys and they both walked out of the office, she said.

Fryer said the other suspect was pacing the floor, just walking back and forth past the office, “like he was going for a walk in the park, just pacing as if he was waiting for something.”

The robbers put all 22 people who were in the bank against a wall in a back hallway and they waited for what felt like an eternity, she said. “We heard nothing at all of what was transpiring outside, we couldn’t hear sirens.”

She heard in a loud voice, “Police!” and then a hail of gunfire, and everybody ran to hide.

Fryer said every one of the police officers involved in the “absolutely insane incident” handled themselves professionally, and then later treated those who were in the bank with kindness and concern.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 29, 2022.


Dirk Meissner, The Canadian Press

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Montreal police announce second arrest in drive-by shooting that killed 15-year-old



Montreal police announced Wednesday they have arrested a second person in the drive-by shooting death of a 15-year-old girl last year.

Cmdr. Paul Verreault, head of the Montreal police service’s major crimes division, said a 27-year-old man was arrested Wednesday morning in connection with the February 2021 killing of Meriem Boundaoui.

Police believe the suspect arrested Wednesday and Salim Touaibi, who was arrested Monday, were “directly involved” in the shooting, Verreault told reporters Wednesday.

“These two people were in the vehicle at the time of the event,” he said, but he declined to comment further on what role each of them is alleged to have played in the crime.

“We’re still very early in the investigation,” he said. “This is an investigation that is still ongoing.”

Touaibi, 26, faces one charge of first-degree murder and four charges of attempted murder.

Verreault said he couldn’t say when the man arrested Wednesday, whose name was not released, would appear in court. He said police arrested four other people Wednesday morning who are allegedly part of a criminal group linked to the two men.

He said the shooting came after the escalation of a conflict between that group and another criminal group, but he did not provide more details. The four other people arrested will face charges of drug trafficking, uttering threats and assault, he said.

Boundaoui was sitting in a car with another person when a second car drove up and someone opened fire. Boundaoui and a 21-year-old man who was on the sidewalk were hit by bullets. Boundaoui had no link to the conflict, Verreault said.

Montreal’s interim police chief, Sophie Roy, said she hopes the arrests will give Boundaoui’s family some comfort.

“Like the rest of the public, we were shocked by the murder of young Meriem and other young people,” she told reporters. “We may be police officers, but we’re also humans with families and children.”

Boundaoui was the first of several young people to die violently in the past year and a half in Montreal, prompting widespread concern and calls to do more to reduce gun violence in the city.

Montreal has had one of the lowest homicide rates of major cities in Canada. In 2020, the most recent year for which data was available, the homicide rate in Montreal was less than half the Canadian average, according to Statistics Canada.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 29, 2022.


Jacob Serebrin, The Canadian Press

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