Written by Alex Cosh

Yes, you're reading that headline correctly. As reported by The Globe and Mail on Tuesday:

"Grocery executive Galen Weston received a $1.2-million raise in 2022, bringing his total pay to $11.79-million, after consultants hired by his family-controlled company determined that he was underpaid."

The Globe's article is behind a paywall, so I'll briefly summarize its key points. Weston's family controls George Weston Ltd., which in turn is the largest shareholder of Loblaw, a grocery chain that owns brands such as Shoppers Drug Mart, No Frills, Real Canadian Superstore and many more.

The Weston family-controlled company hired consultants who advised that Galen Weston, president of Loblaw and CEO of George Weston Ltd., should get a pay rise last year.

The consultants, Meridian Compensation Partners, stated:

"The results of Meridian’s 2022 review suggested that Mr. Weston’s total direct compensation was below the market median and Weston’s and Loblaw’s compensation policy objectives."

Weston told a House of Commons committee last month that his company's profits are "reasonable" amid public anger at soaring grocery prices.

According to an investigation by the Toronto Star published in December, all of Canada's major grocery chains have increased their gross profit margins by between 0.21 and 1.26 percentage points each since 2019, working out to hundreds of millions of dollars in extra profits during the pandemic and the onset of inflation.

Some of the reactions to the Globe's story were, shall we say, very blunt. Here are a few of the responses:

Speaking of high grocery prices: Last week, we asked readers to share their thoughts on a GST rebate marketed as a grocery support payment for low-income Canadians in the 2023 federal budget. The maximum rebate pays the equivalent of $9 per week for a family of four. We also asked for your thoughts on the budget as a whole.

Thank you to each and every one of you who took the time to write to us. As always, we read every single submission, and are grateful for all of your contributions, even if we didn't include them below.

Here are some of your thoughts.

Regarding the grocery rebate, Penny wrote: "At this rate you could buy three litres of milk for $6.00 and one loaf of bread. That might work for one day of the week. What a crock for sure!"

Kenneth said: "What I find missing is adequate attention to health care and affordable housing. If these were looked after we would not need $9 for food for a family of four."

Janet in Halifax wrote:

"Big business has such a grip on politicians that instead of bringing the essential needs monopolies to account for their exorbitant costs to us, and (not given lightly) force them to pay employees their rightful income, our ‘elected representatives’ dole out some small change of our own tax money. To take our mind off the hunger pains?"

Marven said:

"So each member of a family of four would get $2.25 per week towards their grocery bill. That is so nice for the Trudeau government to do that; I wonder who buys them their groceries? The rich get richer and the poor, poorer."

Scott in British Columbia wrote:

"I am surprised that the NDP has decided to support the Liberals as the Liberals seem to walk all over them until budget time, then pretend that they want to work together. The NDP are being fed scraps and treated like a junk yard dog. Hopefully Singh gets turfed as leader of the NDP and is replaced by an effective leader."

P. Sara said that when she was raising her child as a single mum in 2007, grocery costs ran up to around $800 per month for three people plus some provisions for her renter. She wrote:

"What does it take to feed a family of four today? The government touting an additional $500 as a yearly payment for groceries is completely shameful! This is not real help for food stressed families. It is a mouth piece for the government to say they are providing help."

Tim wrote:

"I think one area no government at any level is addressing is offsetting the high cost of rent through tax refunds. I realise that the feds gave low income renters up to $500 late last year, but like the grocery rebate, it is a drop in the bucket as to what real life costs are."

Prime Minister 'Concerned' By Israeli Forces' Violence Against Palestinians

Violent raids on the Al-Aqsa mosque, the third-holiest site in Islam, in Jersualem on Wednesday morning saw disturbing scenes of Israeli police brutally attacking Palestinian worshippers.

As reported by Al Jazeera:

"The Arab League (was) set to hold an emergency meeting to discuss an Israeli police raid on the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem that left at least 12 Palestinians injured, as Israeli Prime Miniser Benjamin Netanyahu said he was working to 'maintain the status quo' at the holy site."

The article continues:

"At least 400 Palestinians were arrested on Wednesday and remain in Israeli custody, according to Palestinian officials. They are being held at a police station in Atarot in occupied East Jerusalem ... Palestinian witnesses said Israeli forces used excessive force including stun grenades and tear gas, causing suffocation injuries to the worshippers, and beatings with batons and rifles."

Disturbing video footage from the raid showed Israeli police using their weapons to beat Palestinian worshippers who were attempting to shield themselves from the blows while lying on the ground. The police reportedly blamed "masked agitators" for provoking the assault.

Further raids occurred during the day on Wednesday, according to Al Jazeera. The attacks come during Ramadan.

The violent scenes prompted worldwide outrage and "concerned" statements, including from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who also called out Israel's far-right government and its extremist agenda. In a press conference Wednesday, Trudeau stated:

"We deplore what's going on right now in Israel. We're extremely concerned with the inflamed rhetoric coming out of the Israeli government. We're concerned about the judicial reforms that have an awful lot of Israelis concerned as well. We're concerned by the violence around Al-Aqsa mosque during this holy month. We need to see Israel, the Israeli government, shifting in its approach ... We are deeply concerned around the direction that the Israeli government has been taking."

As previously reported by The Maple, Trudeau initially welcomed Benjamin Netanyahu's government despite Global Affairs Canada staff warning about the influence of far-right extremists in the new administration. Last year, far-right Israeli politician Itamar Ben-Gvir, who is now Netanyahu's minister of "national security," led a march on Al-Aqsa that provoked violence against Palestinian residents and forced Canadian diplomats to take special safety precautions.

Following the latest assaults, Liberal MPs called for action and accountability beyond words of condemnation. Scarborough Centre MP Salma Zahid tweeted: "Canada cannot stand by and issue bland statements anymore. Either we stand for human rights or we don't."

Iqra Khalid, MP for Mississauga—Erin Mills, wrote: "Countries can make statements to condemn & caution. To what end? There have been decades of resolutions & condemnations & condoning of this tragedy. The government of Israel needs to do better Canada needs to do better. Palestinian lives matter."

What Does A Major Drop In Detained Youth Mean For Canada’s Carceral System?

From The Maple

From school closures to child mental health and family stability, the most reported-on facets of COVID-19’s impact on child wellbeing have been negative. However, a surprisingly positive outcome has been that youth detention facilities have far fewer inmates.

Read the full story.

10 points

Data of the day from Angus Reid: "New data from the non-profit Angus Reid Institute finds the NDP as the second-choice party of Ontarians with a 10-point gap over the Ontario Liberal Party, who are still looking to regroup after an election day humbling last year."

Other News

  • "Carleton University is using undercover private investigators in unmarked cars to conduct covert surveillance targeting contract instructors and teaching assistants on picket lines as their ongoing strike enters its second week," PressProgress reports.
  • British Columbia is raising its minimum wage to $16.75 this coming June, The Tyee reports.
  • Alberta Premier Danielle Smith said her United Conservative Party is footing the legal bill for a possible defamation lawsuit against the CBC, The Canadian Press reports, raising questions about why the government is not paying given the lawsuit concerns Smith's role as premier.

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