By Arya Bari
After the lunch bell has rung at Harbord C.I, classes are dismissed and students begin to file from the stairwells. Like clockwork, crowds gather at the front of the school by the statue, the cafeteria comes to life, and OJJJ’s, the local corner store notorious for its prices and proximity, fills with people lining up at its entrance.
There has been a longstanding debate over the affordability and supremacy of OJJJ’s compared to the cafeteria. Recently due to inflation, however, it seems that OJJJ’s is charging more than it once did, bringing its once-established lunch and snack reliability into question as it is compared to other local stores like P.A.T, 7 Day Convenience, and the Cafeteria itself.
“Oh, the prices are different,” Mira Hocevar remembers thinking one day after walking into the familiar corner store. “Since when are the cookies $1.00?”
This price increase is a direct product of inflation. In simple terms, inflation is when the value of the Canadian dollar decreases, in turn reducing the purchasing power or number/amount of things you can purchase with that dollar, which causes prices to rise to compensate for it.
During the month of September, the inflation rate in Toronto was 6.9%, meaning prices have gone up 6.9% compared to September 2021.
According to Investopedia, the three primary causes of inflation or price increase are demand-pull inflation, when product and service production cannot match demand, cost-push inflation, when the production of services and products rise, and built-in inflation, when rising living costs cause workers to demand higher wages causing businesses to increase prices to offset new wage costs.
Currently, built-in inflation is extremely relevant as stagnant wages are creating financial strain for many and fueling protests for wage increases.
As recently as Friday, November 1st, the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), the lowest-paid education workers in the province, took to the picket lines to protest the government for an 11.7% wage increase demanding roughly $3.25 more per hour due to rising prices and living expenses.
All over the city, consumers continue to carry the weight of rising prices and living expenses, due to inflation impacts on grocery prices, utility costs, gasoline prices, and overall access to basic necessities.
Grocery stores, businesses that sustain our society, have raised their prices exponentially in the past few months due to rising prices within the supply chain. So far this year, the price of the average basket full of groceries has risen approximately 10%, making food very difficult for families to afford.
However, not everything is as transparent as it may seem. During inflation, grocery chains seem to be making excessive profits. On October 16, through Twitter, Federal New Democratic Party (NDP) Leader Jagmeet Singh made a rally call against grocery store profiteering, noting grocery chains have made $2.3 billion dollars in profit this year, exposing the industry.
Although, the idea of grocery stores ‘gouging their customers’ is being refuted.
“The higher profits that we’re seeing are largely driven by high commodity prices and high energy, oil and gas prices in particular. So that’s causing both inflation to increase and profits to increase,” said Trevor Tombe, an economist at the University of Calgary, after ‘crunching the numbers’ on corporate profits in search for evidence of undue profiteering.
Nonetheless, Canada’s biggest grocery chain, Loblaws Companies Ltd., which operates grocery stores: Loblaws, Zehrs, No Frills, and Real Canadian Super Store, is taking action to move away from the aforementioned narrative, whether it is true or false, by making certain products more affordable for their customers.
For the next three months until January 31, 2023, the company will freeze prices for the popular house brand, No Name, which includes more than 1,500 products, in an effort to provide Canadians with affordable food options and some financial relief during inflation periods.
It will also help repair the relationship between consumers and Canada’s big grocers, which was damaged by previous scandals and rising price disputes.
However, not all establishments have the means to freeze prices, and as they continue to escalate creating gaps between wages and expenses, we are being left with dying embers of affordable inflation.