Editorial – Unsustainable inflation

The sting in the wallet is being felt by nearly every Canadian right now. There are staggering prices at the gas pump, the grocery store, and in every direction you turn. Inflation is here and is likely to stay. How long your wallet will cringe at the mere sight of increased prices really depends on many factors. Despite the popular opinion of some politicians, there are some solutions at home that can help.

Federal Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland addressed inflation during a Bay Street-type meeting last week, saying the $8.9 billion already announced – including the national childcare program – was the federal government’s plan to tackle the inflation issue. That sum of money is a large amount, but it was in the books and really does little to staunch the red ink from Canadians’ wallets.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford promised minimal relief by re-promising his 2018 election promise to cut the gas tax, a measure that will last six months once he and the other MPPs decide to get back to work at Queen’s Park. That, coupled with a planned October minimum wage increase and an unplanned election promise of increasing ODSP rates five per cent, is all that is planned to help Ontarians.

Here is the real issue though – gas prices have increased by 54 per cent in six months. In a rural area, there is no public transit option: you must drive to go anywhere. The impact of gas prices is staggering to family budgets. In the grocery store, if you are not hit with prices increasing about seven per cent due to the inflation rate, then what you buy has likely suffered from a case of “Shrinkflation”, meaning the price is unchanged, but the amount of product in the package has shrunk.

Experts everywhere have pointed out ways for people to save money to get through this inflation crisis, none of which are practical or helpful. For example, changing vehicles to save fuel just front loads now high costs on to consumer wallets. There are only so many “extras” a family can cut back on before difficult decisions must be made on what to buy, or what gets paid first.

Freeland blamed external forces for the inflation spike: that is only partly correct. Profiteering by large corporations hasn’t helped. Canada’s “big-three” grocery retailers saw an average profit of 30 per cent in the first quarter of 2022. More importantly the “big-three” also saw margins, the difference between wholesale and retail price, increase. The same is true for non-grocery retail chains, petroleum, and financial companies. Governments are likely hesitant to act too much more on inflation, as those entities also are doing well. High inflation has increased tax dollars filling up the federal and provincial coffers, which means more of your money to spend on what they want. Canadians must speak up and demand relief.

Finite tax measures like saving 5.7 cents per litre on gas for six months, will do nothing to help Canadians at the pump – even if you trust the companies will pass on the “savings.” Telling people that a daycare program is coming, does not help in deciding what you are buying at the grocery store.

Real measures by both levels of government need to be introduced. They must aid those who are struggling under the weight of increased prices and wages not increasing at the same rate – and control overt profiteering at the expense of Canadian households. Ignoring the problem will only make things worse. Our inflation issue is unsustainable.

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