Skip to main content

All grocers need to sign code of conduct for it to be successful, Metro CEO tells MPs

Eric La Flèche told MPs Metro is willing to sign the code as it's currently drafted

All major industry players need to sign on to the grocery code of conduct in order for it to be successful, said Metro Inc. president and CEO Eric La Flèche.

La Flèche told MPs at a House of Commons agriculture committee meeting on stabilizing food prices that Metro is willing to sign the code as it's currently drafted.

"Our team played a leading role in the development of the code. And we are convinced that the participation of all grocers and suppliers is essential to its success," he said in French on Monday (Dec. 11).

Last week, executives from Walmart Canada and Loblaw Cos. Ltd. told the committee that they can't sign the code in its current form because they're concerned it will raise prices for consumers.

On Thursday, federal Agriculture Minister Lawrence MacAulay and Quebec Agriculture Minister Andre Lamontagne called on all the major grocers to sign the code.

The major grocers have been under pressure from the government to help stabilize food prices. Earlier this fall, the heads of the five biggest grocery companies were summoned by the government to present their plans.

La Flèche told MPs that food inflation has been driven by global market forces, and while prices are stabilizing, he said that can't be achieved overnight, and nor can it be the responsibility of grocers.

"Metro stands at the end of a very long supply chain, which continues to experience instability. And we are already facing pressure for cost increases in the new year," he said.

The company is in a blackout period between Nov. 1 and Feb. 1, meaning it won't accept any supplier cost increases, said La Flèche. This is a long-standing practice, he added.

La Flèche said he met with federal Industry Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne three months ago, and committed to two things: to "continue to work to deliver the best value possible," and to sign the grocery code.

"We have a commitment to delivering value to our customers and offering the best prices. We've always done it and we will keep doing it. And we are doing it even more now in a context of inflation."

READ: Grocery code of conduct nears the finish line

La Flèche said that while the amount of money Metro makes has increased over the past two years, the company's profit margins haven't.

Executives from Loblaw, Empire and Walmart shared some details of their plans to stabilize prices with the committee last week.

Loblaw chairman Galen Weston said a meeting with Champagne resulted in "materially lower prices" for 35 often-purchased items and categories, such as milk, butter, eggs and chicken.

In previous appearances before the committee, the grocers pushed back against the idea they have unduly profited from inflation.

On Thursday, MacAulay and his provincial and territorial counterparts, along with Champagne, met to discuss the government's efforts to stabilize food prices and the grocery code of conduct.

"Following over two years of industry negotiations and missed deadlines, Ministers MacAulay and Champagne are extremely disappointed that some supply chain partners, including two of the five major retailers, have indicated that they will not sign on to the code," the ministers said in a press release Monday evening.

"The government of Canada continues to explore all available options and requested that the provinces and territories do so as well."

Weston told MPs last week that the company is concerned certain provisions in the code will raise grocery prices for Canadians as it gives too much negotiating power to large multinational manufacturers.

He said the grocer will sign the code, but not in its current form.

Walmart Canada CEO Gonzalo Gebara told MPs the company is "not in a position at this time to commit" to the code. He said the current version includes provisions that "create bureaucracy and cost, cost that will inevitably end up on shelf prices."

Advertisement - article continues below
This ad will auto-close in 10 seconds