Canada’s federal government announced it would triple funding for consumer research, with a particular focus on Canada’s retail sector, including groceries.
Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry Francois-Philippe Champagne announced his ministry would boost annual funding for the Contributions Program for Non-Profit Consumer and Voluntary Organizations to $5 million for the next five years from the current $1.69 million. The program is a substantial source of income to conduct research for Canadian consumer organizations, including Consumers Council of Canada.
Champagne met with leaders of consumer groups Tuesday afternoon to discuss the changes. He also announced targeted research projects on practices harmful to consumers, listing both shrinkflation and dequaliflation, and a desire for new tools to support consumers in making informed choices and reducing household costs.
Shrinkflation is a portmanteau of ‘shrinkage’ and ‘inflation’, a practice where vendors effectively raise per unit costs to consumers by reducing quantity in retail packaging, while maintaining prices. Dequaliflation (sometimes known as ‘skimpflation’) is a practice where producers substitute less expensive ingredients to reduce product costs.
In a release following the meeting, Champagne cited a need for Canadians to have strong advocacy groups to represent their interests.
“We are providing further support to consumer organizations so they can continue to be strong allies to Canadians in identifying harmful practices, such as shrinkflation and dequaliflation in the retail sector. By working in closer collaboration with consumer advocacy groups, our government will be help to hold the grocers and manufacturers more accountable.”
Funding for consumer research under the OCA contributions program has not increased in more than 20 years, making it more difficult for consumer groups to deal with ongoing expenses or to answer regulatory agency calls for consumer group intervention at consultations and hearings. Consumer groups were more broadly funded by government until the early 1990s, when funding for specific projects became the norm.