COVID, double-digit inflation of basic staples, and decades of wage stagnation have caused Canadians to hit an affordability wall. Social media is now full of tearful testimonials from citizens who after taxes don’t have enough left over to meet their basic needs without going further into debt, going hungry or even becoming homeless.
Over 1.5 million Canadians a month have visited a food bank in 2023 which represents a 35 per cent increase over the last four years while unemployment has dropped to decade lows.
When it comes to buying groceries, most Canadians buy their food in stores owned by a handful of industry giants. In 2022, Canada’s three largest grocers reported more than $100 billion in sales and earned more than $3.6 billion in profits compared to $2.4 billion in 2019. That’s a 50 per cent increase in profit in only four years, during a global pandemic! A study by the Competition Bureau of Canada concluded that more competition is needed in the grocery sector.
Wage increases, which have largely flatlined relative to productivity growth since the 1980s, need to be allowed to rise significantly so that full-time workers have a living wage that allows them to meet the costs of food, clothing, transportation, and housing.
Without these changes, we are going to see more people, including children, going hungry, more crime, more suicides and more employed people becoming homeless.
Phil Venoit, business manager
International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 230 Vancouver Island