With Rising Food Prices Walloping Seniors, CARP Calls on Ottawa to Step Up Relief Measures


Responding to the affordable food crisis, a Parliamentary committee is asking CEOs of the big grocery chains Loblaw, Sobeys and Metro to come to Ottawa to explain how food prices have reached record-high levels. Photo: xavierarnau/Getty Images

Canadians who are already reeling from skyrocketing food prices this year can expect more pain in the checkout aisle in 2023, according to a recent report on food inflation.

Canada’s Food Price Report 2023, an annual collaboration by researchers at Dalhousie University, University of Guelph, University of Saskatchewan and University of British Columbia, projects that overall food prices will increase between five and seven per cent next year, with “substantial increases” in meat, dairy and vegetables.

The report cites the usual catalysts that are driving up prices: the war in Ukraine, climate change, supply chain issues, labour shortages, carbon taxes, droughts and floods, and rising transportation costs.

Responding to the affordable food crisis, a Parliamentary committee is asking CEOs of the big grocery chains Loblaw, Sobeys and Metro to come to Ottawa to explain how food prices have reached record-high levels. “When the costs we pay go up, our prices to customers have to go up, too,” explained Jodat Hussain, a senior vice-president of retail finance for Loblaw. It’s a common refrain we usually hear from the big grocery chains.

But with an economic slowdown likely on the way for early 2023, combined with high interest rates and a low Canadian dollar, the study suggests that we’d have to wait until the second half of next year before we experience some relief at grocery checkouts.

Seniors Hit Hardest

Spiralling grocery prices is unwelcome news for all Canadians but especially for seniors living on low incomes, says Bill VanGorder, chief operating officer at CARP (a ZoomerMedia partner). Because they’re often unable to get a job or do anything to increase their income, “they’re finding it difficult to cope.”

VanGorder points to CARP research suggesting that there are roughly two million people over 65 who are living at or near the low income cut-off line (formerly known as the poverty rate) who will be severely challenged to afford higher food prices.

In order to get by, he says, some of them are paring down their shopping lists or foregoing necessities, while others are turning to family members or charities for help. The 2022 HungerCount, which documents food bank usage in Canada, cited “soaring inflation” as the likely reason that nearly 130,000 seniors used food banks last year, an increase of 2.1 per cent from 2019.

Concerned that the federal government’s inflation relief efforts — which include doubling the GST tax credit (worth an average of $225 a year for seniors) and providing a $500 top-up for renters — aren’t enough to offset the higher food prices, VanGorder is calling on Ottawa to consider implementing farther-reaching financial measures in order to help the hardest-hit seniors, including:

  1. Boost OAS for Seniors aged 65 to 74 In July 2022, Ottawa increased Old Age Security (OAS) payments by 10 per cent – but only for those over the age of 75.  CARP feels the bump should apply to those between the ages of 65 and 74. “The government should end this two-tiered system and help seniors of all ages,” says VanGorder
  2. Provide Caregivers With a Refundable Tax Credit Family caregivers can claim Canada Caregiver Tax Credit, which is worth up to $7,348. However, this credit is non-refundable so it only benefits those who have an income and pay taxes
  3. Eliminate HST on In-Home Care Services “Being a caregiver isn’t cheap,” understates VanGorder, noting that family members must often pay out of their own pockets for countless goods or services, including nurses, personal support workers, medical supplies or equipment. Ottawa could provide relief from these burdensome costs by exempting in-home caregiver services from the federal portion of the HST, as it does for certain basic supplies
  4. Offer Free High-Dose Flu Shots Not all provinces or territories cover the high-dose flu shot recommended for seniors by the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI). Seniors living in B.C., Northwest Territories, Nunavut, Quebec and Nova Scotia who want the higher protection benefits offered by a high-dose flu shot, must pay for it themselves, which can cost up to $100, depending on where they live. CARP is calling on all provinces to provide the NACI-recommended high-dose for everyone over 65