Substitution (concentration)

Introduction: public and community ownership of food system resources


Transportation resources

Public grocery stores

Public Restaurants

Strengthening the provisions of the Competition Act (part II)

Introduction: public and community ownership of food system resources

We sometimes forget in Canada that state-owned enterprises co-operatives have been a significant part of the Canadian economy. Their low visibility partly results from the dismissive discourses around the state associated with neo-liberalism, recent privatizations of high-profile enterprises (cf. Qualman et al., 2018), such as Air Canada, Petro Canada, grain trade organizations, and several provincial telecoms and utilities, and the difficulties tracking provincial and municipal enterprises (federal ones are easier to identify, Crisan and McKenzie, 2013). At this stage of transition, privatized food system infrastructure can be reacquired, new uses of state-owned enterprises can be deployed and the state can facilitate community control of food system resources.


The private property and private land regulation means that land owners have expectations regarding control, decision making and income generation (Curran, 2019). This long-standing model of farming in Canada has numerous problems. The first is that most land in Canada was appropriated by settlers and the state from indigenous peoples (See Get Started, Colonial History; Kepkiewicz and Dale, 2019). Black settlers were also dispossessed in the 1800s. The profound paradox of this is that many settlers were themselves dispossessed in Europe with tragic consequence (cf. Rogers, 2020), thus repeating through the colonial state a cycle of violence in North America. The second is that it typically separates private decisions about land use and management from community and ecological function, often resulting in social dislocation and environmental degradation (see Get Started, Problems). Land consolidation is a long-standing phenomenon in Canada, exacerbated recently by the land grab process (see Current State).

All these problems encourage a re-assessment of private property and land. At this stage of the transition, the focus is on creating a more diverse mix of ownership, not on eliminating private property for food production. A continuous theme of ecological process is that functional diversity in any system is important and that this should also be applied to land "ownership". Borras and Franco (2012:6) name ‘land sovereignty’ as a useful framework: ‘‘the right of working peoples to have effective access to, use of, and control over land and the benefits of its use and occupation, where land is understood as resource, territory, and landscape’’. This conception challenges the neoliberal view of land as primarily an economic resource, reflecting instead linkages to identity, nature, and livelihoods (Desmarais et al., 2017). This different conception supports the notion and practice of communal management of land. Some of these proposals below can also contribute to reconciliation with First Nations.

Access to land is also a key issue in urban environments and this is addressed under Goal 1, Self- and community-provisioning.

Improved land ownership data

Public data on land ownership is very disaggregated and difficult to access. In some jurisdictions, the public rolls are available but there are charges for each individual record, making any aggregated interpretation completely unaffordable. "Provincial oversight and management of farmland ownership tracking and reporting could help to assess and improve ownership policies and promote the use of farmland for agricultural purposes" (Tatebe et al., 2018:30). A more coherent data set in each province is absolutely essential to most of the proposals for change. Given the public interest associated with these issues, privacy for landowners is a secondary consideration. Since business information (farms are businesses) is not considered personal information, it is not part of personal privacy laws. Better ownership data would also reduce fraud and manipulation. There are, for examples, concerns in Saskatchewan that poor data collection, monitoring and enforcement results in foreign investors buying land illegally through local residents (see below). The currently required statuatory declaration is considered by some a weak instrument of enforcement (Briere, 2020).

Land ownership rules

Under section 35 of the Citizenship Act, "a province or designated person or authority can prohibit, annul, or in any manner restrict the direct or indirect acquisition of real property located in the province by non-citizens or by corporations or associations that are controlled by non-citizens" (Senate of Canada, p. 28).

As a result, some provinces have imposed restrictions on foreign ownership of farm land, both individuals and corporations. These restrictions vary by province (see table).

Table: Restrictions on farmland ownership

Jurisdiction Limitations Act Responsible body
Canada Can review foreign takeovers of Canadian businesses Investment Canada Act Investment Canada; federal cabinet
BC No restrictions
AB Only 2 parcels and 20 ac max for foreign residents and corporations with 50% + foreign ownership. If traded, 2/3 of directors must be Canadian. Some exemptions Agricultural and Recreational Land Ownership Act

Foreign Ownership of Land Regulations

Foreign Ownership of Land Administration in Land Titles Office
SK Non-residents, non-Canadian corporations , and publicly traded corporations can only own 10 ac. Some exemptions SK Farm Security Act Farm Land Security Board
MB Non-residents and publicly- traded corporations can only hold 40 ac. Some exemptions Farm Lands Ownership Act Farm Industry Board
ON No restrictions
QC Non-residents and share corporations with <50% shares owned by Quebeckers can only own 10 ac. Only applies to farmland below 50th parallel or in agricultural reserve An Act respecting the acquisition of farm land by non-residents Commission de la protection du territoire agricole
NB No restrictions
PE 1000 acres for individuals, 3000 for corporations; non-residents need permission for more than 5 ac purchases or 165 ft. shoreline Land Protection Act; Island Regulatory and Appeals Commission Act Island Regulatory and Appeals Commission
NS No restrictions
NL No restrictions
YU No restrictions
NWT No restrictions
NU No restrictions

Sources: Norton Rose Fulbright; Gowlings: provincial web sites

PEI and Sask appear to have the most restrictive rules on corporations with Saskatchewan's legislation the most elaborated, despite periods of less stringent rules (Desmarais et al., 2017). The weakening of the rules in the 2003-15 period did allow large corporations, pension funds and investment firms to increase their holdings, but restrictions were imposed again in 2015 (Magnan and Desmarais, 2017).  Loopholes in PEI legislation allow corporations and individuals to disaggregate ownership on small acreages, potentially masking the scale of aggregate ownership. But there is some evidence that restrictions discourage foreign investors and suppress farmland price increases (Ferguson et al., 2006; Magnan and Desmarais, 2017; Arnason, 2024), which can help in assuring access to a wider array of domestic actors, but many of the forces of farm consolidation (see Get Started) must also be addressed to ensure diversity in ownership (see Goals 5 and 6).

At this stage in the transition, all provinces and territories should adopt legislation and procedures (or revise if measures are already in place) comparable to Saskatchewan's Farm Security Act. As part of this legislation, provinces should be empowered to limit how much land an existing Canadian landowner can acquire in a given year. La Relève (2015) in Quebec has proposed that the limit be 100 ha / year to reduce land consolidation and allow more land to be available to new entrants (see also Goal 8 New farmers). Through such interventions, provincial governments can control investor firm investments in agricultural land.

Formal private land sharing arrangements

The Treaty Land Sharing Network has been launched in Saskatchewan, agreements between private land owners and indigenous land users to share the land. It currently comprises 20 farmers and ranchers on Treaty 4 and 6 lands who welcome indigenous land users. It recognizes that indigenous peoples did not cede their land but agreed to share it with settlers, and as such is step in the direction of reconciliation. The network has a partnership with the Office of the Treaty Commissioner (Dekay, 2021). Funding comes from the Government of Saskatchewan's First Nations and Métis Community Partnership Projects Fund, SaskCulture's Multicultural Initiatives Fund; and the United Church's Seeds of Hope Program. All provinces and territories should support the creation of such a network within their province.

Public lands

Canada has a lengthy history of using public land for social purposes, including public housing, education, health care and directly relevant to food, farm land and community pastures. Many government jurisdictions do rent public lent to farmers (for Ontario examples, see Slater, 2024), though optimizing the sustainability dimensions  of the arrangement (e.g., new farmers, ecological production) have not necessarily been a priority. In certain ways this is a residue of the history of agricultural land as commons or open-access resource (cf. Duncan, 1996; Greer, 2012). As part of this Crown land can be used for certain kinds of activities. The Fisheries Act has provisions around temporary use of vacant land (with some caveats) that reflect this public approach,

(1) Every subject of Her Majesty may, for the purpose of landing, salting, curing and drying fish, use, and cut wood on, vacant public property that by law is common and accessory to public rights of fishery and navigation".

BC's ALR is 54% crown land (Provincial Agricultural Land Commission, 2022), suggesting also the possibility of using such lands for larger public purposes.

In a community pasture, " ... community members who own livestock have a common interest in having access to additional pasture. They all agree to abide by certain rules (and perhaps fees) in order to preserve the value of the pasture and continue to have access to a useful resource." (Hamilton, 2005:8). Historically, such pastures were organized on federal or provincially-owned land. The federal program dated to 1935 and the creation of the Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Administration (PFRA), a federal response to the drought of the 1930s. It occupied some 2.5 million acres in SK, MB  over about 85 pastures, involving some 2500 farmers and 220,000 livestock. The pastures were managed by professional managers with input from users and allowed for grazing access to permit holders, typically mixed farms with modest numbers of cattle, often lacking the resources to buy more land for grazing. As grazing land has become more expensive in certain regions of the country, this need for community pasture is augmented. They've been helpful for new entrants. In the mid 2000s the program cost about $22 million annually, but generated 2.5 times that in value, including conservation and biodiversity benefits (Arbuthnott and Schmutz, 2013). Unfortunately, the federal government has gradually transferred the community pastures to the provinces of Manitoba and Saskatchewan under Bill C-38 starting in 2014. Manitoba chose to maintain public ownership of most of it's original 23 pastures, with management of 20 ceded to a non-profit, but new rule changes will favour wealthier patrons and open up access to non-residents (Fernandez, 2018). Saskatchewan is privatizing  its 62 pastures, primarily by leasing them to patrons and will close the program by the end of 2019. Some believe the leasing costs will favour larger operations with more resources. AB had only 2 that were provincial and are now closed.

There are also 20,000 acres of community pasture in Atlantic Canada's 4 provinces, maintained under a variety of arrangements, including private ownership, public control and non-profit management.

Most of the pastures remain on crown land. State-run community pasture programs must be re-established or some of them transferred to First Nations for collective management (proposed by the Federation of Sovereign First Nations in Saskatchewan).

A twist on this model has been introduced by conservation groups. Ducks Unlimited has been buying cropped farmland and doing wetland restoration and pasture rehabilitation work on it, then selling it as grazing land to farmers with an easement on it that protects the wetland and grazing function in perpetuity. The land is sold at a slightly cheaper rate than would occur in the open market. If the farmers do not respect the easement, they are taken to court. The proceeds from the sale allow DU to buy more cropped farmland and continue the cycle, hence the program name, Revolving Land Conservation Program (Simes, 2019).

Land banks

Only 2 provinces/territories have ever had formal land bank programs, although most have land leasing programs (grazing leases being the most common, see Community Pastures discussion) for crown land in agricultural use (Arsenault, 2019).

Saskatchewan introduced a land bank in 1972, designed to allow the government to purchase farmland and lease it back to farmers, particularly young farmers as part of intergenerational land transfer efforts. This intervention was to help make land affordable and be a publicly owned resource that protected small farmers. Retiring farmers could also sell their land to the government. Before being cancelled in 1982, it represented about 2% of agricultural land holdings in the province (Desmarais et al., 2017), approximately 1.2 million acres. Fourteen years later, the government still owned over 3/4 of it and was still renting it to farmers under the original lease conditions (Ewins, 1997). But the terminating legislation removed the capacity to acquire private lands for the program (the Land Bank Repeal and Temporary Provisions Act and Regulations). From recent agricultural land auctions, it would appear that the Saskatchewan government still owns land from the land bank period.

PEI also had a program from 1969-1982 through the PEI Land Development Corporation that was terminated, in large part because of the startup capital and ongoing administrative costs. However, there remains public support for such an initiative in the province (Tatebe et al., 2018), and the provincial government commissioned a study on recreating one (Arsenault, 2019).

BC's Agricultural Land Commission essentially participated in land banking in its early years as it would buy land from farmers in financial difficulty or acquire surplus lands from other government departments and lease them to other producers, including a small program to support urban agriculture.  These initiatives were discontinued in the 1970s (see Curtis, 2023).

Manitoba has an Immigrant New Farmer Program that helps designated farmers access farmland and New Brunswick has a New Land Purchase Program to help farmers access farmland, with the New Brunswick Department of Agriculture acting as a holding company” through the Agricultural Development Board by acquiring land and then selling or leasing it (with a lease to own option) to a new farmer (Arsenault, 2019).

Land banks have also been proposed at the regional municipality level. Vancouver Island's Capital Region Growth Management Plan process received such a proposal (CRFAIR 2012) but the current Growth Management Plan by-law is vague on how agricultural land protection and farm viability will be assured. Municipal models are more challenging because most have fewer resources to acquire farmland.  However, senior governments in other jurisdictions have used a land bank approach to acquire urban fringe land that is susceptible to development pressures (Tatebe et al., 2018) so this might be appropriate in certain circumstances in combination with other measures to protect agricultural land (see Goal 5, Agricultural Land Protection).

Each province should have a land bank act and commission, comparable to what Saskatchewan established in the 1970s, with adjustments for current realities and assessments of what did and didn't work during the decade the land bank was in operation. One option is to allow the land bank to sell farmland rather than just lease it, but with sustainability and equity purposes attached to the sale, in order to advance the transition discussed on this site. This has been done in many countries in Europe (Tatebe et al., 2018). Arsenault (2019) sets out design options for PEI that could also guide other provinces.

This may be a way for governments to address historical disposition of lands. Rather than selling or renting land on a first-come first served, or competitive basis, some land accumulated could be preferentially allocated to BIPOC farmers and communities.

Community land trusts

"A community land trust is an organization created to hold land for the benefit of a community and of individuals within the community. It is a democratically structured nonprofit corporation, with an open membership and a board of trustees elected by the membership. The board typically includes residents of trust-owned lands, other community residents, and public-interest representatives. Board members are elected for limited terms, so that the community retains ultimate control of the organization and the land it owns" (Institute for Community Economics, 1982). The land trust is a hybrid ownership form, not state owned, not private, but usually community controlled.

According to Hamilton (2005), land trusts typically have the following characteristics in common:

  • incorporated as a non-profit corporation, separate from the state;
  • democratic in nature: one member, one vote.
  • membership is open to all within a given community, balanced between users and the wider community. This mechanism may also be suitable for BIPOC historically dispossessed
  • land use is restricted in a defined way.
When the land trust exists for ongoing human use there are often two additional features:
  • split ownership of the land (the trust) and the improvements to the land (the leasee).
  • the trust usually has first option to purchase improvements; the price is set by a formula that limits gains.

Land for trusts is donated or purchased, with the idea that the trust will control it in perpetuity. The land is then leased for long time periods for purposes determined by the trust, at costs generally much lower than the market value. The key concept is to separate the use value of the land from its speculative value. Leasees can own buildings and land improvements (Institute for Community Economies, 1982; Turnbull, 1986), which in agriculture would include soil improvement measures such as green manuring and compost additions. The value of such improvements is negotiated with the land trust corporation, although for many improvements existing trusts have developed value guides.

Investors can contribute directly to the purchase of land for a particular CLT or can contribute to a community development loan fund (CDLF). Land can also be donated, or an easement can be applied to the land. Easements can be purchased or donated. "Outside the Province of Quebec, eligible interests in land are covenants or conservation easements and can be donated through the program. The eligible right in land considered by the EGP for donation in the Province of Quebec is a real servitude. Such agreements are made when landowners wish to protect their land from certain activities in perpetuity" (Canadian Ecological Gifts Program Handbook).

Sustainable farming practices, inter-generational farm transfer, and access for beginning farmers are well-suited to the CLT framework because most rural CLTs specify that the land must be used in ecologically and socially benign ways (Institute for Community Economics, 1982; Hamilton, 2005). The flexibility of the CDLF in terms of typical rates of return, size of loans, eligibility criteria, and repayment schedule, is an important component of the fund's ability to assist the community and find suitable investors (Keith and Matthei, 1983).

Community land trusts for agriculture have not been widely deployed in Canada. The focus has more been on conservation and housing trusts. Hamilton (2005) reviews two agricultural land trusts in Canada: Genesis Land Conservancy in Saskatchewan; and the Southern Alberta Land Trust Society.

Title to land could pass to a land trust in cases of farm abandonment or foreclosure, and the client would then pay rent, which would be passed on to the lender. The Farm Credit Corporation and provincial agencies could encourage the formation of land trusts or non-equity co-operatives (Kneen and Kneen, 1987). These instruments would be distinctly different from equity trusts. These efforts could be linked to land banks programs as well.

One further variation on this theme ls the transfer (sale) of land to a land holding corporation that leases the land on a 25-45 year lease basis to farmers. This could involve a variable lease rate reflecting the difficulties of beginning farmers. The economics of such arrangements have been explored by Baker and Thomassin (1988).

Agricultural land trusts are not typically supported directly by the state. They are enabled or constrained by certain elements of the regulatory environment, particularly the rules governing charities, non-profit corporations and co-operatives, and programs governing donations and gifts of land. The federal Ecological Gifts Program (EGP) under the Income Tax Act is very useful for conservation land trusts because the capital gains tax is waived and the federal government approves the valuation, but not very helpful for agricultural land trusts with multiple social, economic and environmental objectives. The problem lies in the way ecological sensitive lands are defined. The criteria take a narrow view of ecological sensitivity, when the reality is that all agricultural land is ecological sensitive. The way agricultural land is managed and mismanaged has a profound impact on biodiversity (WWF, 2002; Clearwater et al., 2016) and GHG emissions (MacRae et al., 2010; Lynch et al., 2011; MacRae et al., 2013). The application of the ecologically sensitive lands criteria does not currently reflect this, even though the last element states, "areas or sites that contribute to the maintenance of biodiversity or Canada’s environmental heritage" (CWS, 2011). The program, reflecting the federal government's own work on agricultural biodiversity, must thereby identify all agricultural lands that are not already managed under an ecological management regime, as important for biodiversity preservation and GHG reduction. This would then widen the lands eligible for the Ecogifts program. The Rural Municipalities of Alberta (RMA) have passed a resolution asking the federal government to establish an equivalent "agri-gifts" program (Glen, 2020).

Following a different model, Ducks Unlimited (DU) operates a Revolving Land Conservation Program on the Prairies and in Ontario. They purchase and restore land with wetlands and pasture and then sell it to cattle producers with a conservation easement that protects the ecological sensitive features of the landscape.  Proceeds go back into DU programming.

Alberta and Ontario have legislation that is more amenable to agricultural land trusts. Ontario adopted the Conservation Land Act in 1995 to enable conservation easements, first for environmental stewardship purposes and then from 2005 on, also for protection of agricultural land. Alberta passed the Alberta Land Stewardship Act in 2009 which made agriculture an allowable purpose for easements, but an RMA resolution asking for support from the provincial government (Glen, 2020) suggests it hasn't really been employed. Every Canadian province should have equivalent legislation that facilitates such agricultural easements.

Agricultural Land Rent Controls

Many OECD countries have legislation to regulate agricultural land rents (Tatebe et al., 2018), something that doesn't happen in Canada. Many provinces have housing rent controls that limit rent increases for tenants. With urban development pressures, land consolidation and investor purchases, land prices and rents are increasing in many parts of the country. When land is government owned or covered by easements or agricultural zoning (see Goal 5 Agricultural Land Protection), then the terms of the lease, including longer lease terms and controlled rents, can readily be specified. However, most agricultural land leases are arrangements between two private parties and are governed primarily by private law (for example, in Ontario, the Commercial Tenancies Act), with general public law on fraud pertinent to prevent abuses.

Each province should pass an agricultural land tenancies act that amends their commercial tenancies act (or equivalent) and permits the province to set maximum rent increases and longer lease terms on agricultural landlords. The maximum increase would be determined using formulas comparable to those used for residential tenancy, or, as in some European countries, could be based on the revenue/acre.  Leases would normally be a minimum of 5 years and attached to the land so that the lease was not necessarily abandoned with the sale of the property. Farmers would also have first rights to purchase land they were renting if it came up for sale.  Leases could also be inherited which would help with intergenerational farm transfer (Tatebe et al., 2018). A shorter lease could be allowed if explicitly requested by the farmer.

Transportation resources

See Goal 5, Sustainable Transportation, Substitution regarding state re-acquisition of key transportation infrastructure

Public grocery stores (adapted from Mendly-Zambo et al., 2018)

Other jurisdictions have used the resources of the state to operate retail stores, serving in particular the needs of lower income communities. Chicago is undertaking a feasibiity study of a municipal grocery store following private grocery closures in low income areas of the city (Glasgow, 2023).  Some other countries have more experience than North America with these approaches.


In Izmir, a municipality in Western Turkey, Municipal Law 1580 (Item 15/43) required local governments to subsidize the cost of living through offering necessary goods, which include food, without third party involvement. Similar to the conditions of the establishment of crown corporations in Canada, local governments in Turkey started taking matters into their own hands and orchestrated market interventions following a market crisis in the 1970s (Koc and Koc, 1999). Private retailers black-marketed items in short supply and  the municipal government stepped in to fill the void. First, the municipally owned abattoir started selling meat and coal at lower than market price. Four years later, eight municipally owned retailers had been established. These retailers offered goods for 80% lower than the market price yet still posted profits (Koc and Koc, 1999). They successfully supplied low income communities for a number of years until neoliberal austerity measures recommended by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and a military coup resulted in the municipally owned stores shifting to profit making entities (Koc and Koc, 1999). Eventually, the municipally owned stores dominated the marketplace, and because of a new neoliberal state law, private entities were able to purchase shares in the company which led the municipality to be a minority shareholder with only 10% of shares (Koc and Koc, 1999).

Ultimately, then, the municipal model was a failure, but not because the public enterprise failed. In some ways, it was its very success that set the stage for its privatisation.


According to the USDA (2017), there are five food retail companies in Vietnam that are state-owned: An Phu, HARPO, Saigon Trading, Hapromart, and Vissan, with a total of104 state-owned outlets between them. Food safety and health have recently become a concern among Vietnamese people (Mergenthaler et al., 2009), with 75,000 people dying of cancer from “bad food”, Vissan announced that it will only sell pork that complies with VietGap, a voluntary food safety standard (Tomiyama, 2016). This shows how a state-run store that includes consumer health as one of its priorities can make positive changes in the supply chain that enhance citizen health. However, there is so significant data on the effectiveness and the impacts that these stores have on general food affordability and health. There is also no mention of the affordability of meat that complies with VietGap.

In 2012, the Vietnamese National Assembly introduced the Law on Price as a response to unreasonable prices set by the private sector across many domains, including retail. According to the law, one of the circumstances for which the state can use its power to manipulate prices of goods is when “the modified price level affects economic and social stability” (Tuan, 2012). However, this law does not define what level of economic and social stability is acceptable. Therefore, it’s largely up to the National Assembly to determine the circumstances of this. While this is an important framework and mechanism, it is largely only enacted to serve the middle classes who access supermarkets (15% of the market share) (Thang and Linh, 2015).

Workers' Big Bag Markets, To Supply, Straight from the Country and Workers' Convoy, Brazil (Rocha and Lessa, 2010)

As originally conceived in the 1980s, many of these different market programs were structured as public-private collaborations. The municipal government owned the markets and set the terms of trade, but contracted a private sector actor to run the market in a way that generated a profit for the entrepreneur yet also met the price and social purpose objectives of the municipality (usually 20-50% below market prices). The markets were typically set in low income neighbourhoods. Customers could buy 1 large bag of fruits and vegetables at one fixed price. To make the numbers work, the private sector actor would typically contract with local farmers to provide their second grade produce and could also sell unregulated goods at a higher markup.

Provincial food retail crown corporations

In almost every sector, when the market has failed to provide services to citizens, including low-income communities, the state has stepped in to either subsidize the market costs or directly deliver goods and services (Wright and Rogers, 2010). Examples include public education, public libraries, public transportation, municipal water and sewer systems, fire departments, police, healthcare, and social security.

A common mechanism is the crown corporation. A crown corporation is initiated and owned by the state. The Treasury Board of Canada (2005) labels crown corporations as instruments of public policy that sometimes have commercial objectives. While owned by the state, many crown corporations are operated independently and at arms-length from the government. For example, a typical crown corporation will have a board of directors that reports to a specific minister. The extent of the involvement of the minister depends on many factors and is managed on a case by case basis. Crown corporations are also sometimes funded or offered products that are partially subsidized by government. Many crown corporations were established after crises, most recently, the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA) established in 2002 to provide security and screening at airports as a direct response to the 9/11 attacks in the USA.

Provincial retail crown corporations have been used successfully in the past, most notably the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO), but not for food retail. The Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) was established in 1927 under very different political circumstances from the ones we have now. It was established as a crown corporation by the provincial government to be the only retailer of alcohol following the end of prohibition which lasted eleven years in Ontario. the LCBO is now one of the largest wine retailers in the world. It provides steady revenue to the province ($2 billion in dividend transfers), and unionized, well-paying jobs.

While LCBO and alcohol stores alike may have been established mainly for political reasons, these stores have proved to have some public health benefits such as the decreased consumption of alcohol in comparison to states and provinces that don’t have state-run liquor stores (Zullo et al, 2013).

Some argue that state-run food retail would not be permitted under trade agreements, but Chapter 15 Articles 1502 and 1503 of the NAFTA decree that state-run enterprises and monopolies are allowed to occur in each respective party signed to NAFTA, as long as Chapter 11 obligations are met (NAFTA, 1994). However, the ease by which companies can take legal action against NAFTA signatories in the name of: equitable access to markets, and “incurred loss or damage” (NAFTA, 1994) as a result of a perceived breach of Section B of Chapter 11 conditions demonstrates there is less of an incentive for governments to develop policies that may run afoul of Chapter 11, which in turn has an impact on the variety of choices the Canadian public has in different sectors, including food retail.

Legislation comparable to Ontario's Liquor Control Act would be required (see key provisions of an Act to Establish Public Retail Food Stores under Instruments, Legislation, Ontario). The purpose of the Act  is to establish a network of public food retail outlets that provide affordable, nourishing food to under-served neighbourhoods. The Board would report to the Minister of Health regarding food and diet related impacts and the Minister of Finance regarding financing, costs, and revenues.

Public restaurants

Similar to public grocery stores, the public (or popular) restaurant model has been used in many countries to support low income citizens. Brasil, led by the city of Belo Horizonte, has run public, subsidized restaurants for many years, offering healthy, balanced meals at affordable prices (Rocha and Lessa, 2010).

There are hundreds of municipally owned enterprises across Canada (Crisan and McKenzie, 2013), many with an economic development or social purpose (e.g., tourism destinations that provide food, affordable housing), so applying these forms to a restaurant enterprise is not a stretch. Municipalities are highly diverse in the ways they legally structure these entities, often agencies, boards and commissions. Regardless of the legal foundation, the most likely approach is for the municipality to own the infrastructure, but to contract restaurant services, under conditions specified by the municipality, to a private sector operator with strong experiences in food service. The entity would have an oversight board comprising citizens and city councilors. Key considerations would include the relationship between price, food quality, access and degree of subsidy.

Strengthening the provisions of the Competition Act (part II)

At this stage of the transition, the food system is being re-oriented away from its historical export focus and is reducing exports and imports while building domestic self-reliance. As it relates to food system activity (other sectors of the economy are beyond the scope of this website), more specific measures will need to be named. This means that Competition Act provisions that allow the Competition Tribunal to consider foreign competitors in the domestic food market should be removed as they relate to the food system (90.1.2a). Similarly, provision 90.1.6a should be removed as efficiency gains from export value should no longer be justification for domestic food market concentration. Provision 90.1.6b, however, can be retained as it speaks to a central shift in policy, that import substitution is desirable. Exception 90.1.8 should also be removed, again because the focus of policy will be to direct firms to focus more on the domestic food marketplace. All this will have the effect of tightening the thresholds for determining anti-competitive behaviour in the domestic food  marketplace.

Provisions in technical guidances associated with the Competition Act should explicitly ban certain anti-competitive practices that currently dominant the food system:

  1. Slotting fees, contract and promotional allowances. Such fees and allowances are charged by retailers to suppliers for space on store shelves. These fees have increased significantly over the years, amounting to billions of dollars annually. Such costs are at least partly passed on to consumers and they also severely limit the ability of small to medium enterprises to secure shelf space in grocery stores.
  2. Exclusive, long-term supply contracts. Such arrangements, while appealing to suppliers at first, often result in cost-price squeezes because the suppliers are locked into arrangements with a more powerful economic actor. Small to medium enterprises providing co-packing are often very negatively affected by these arrangements.
  3. Vendor food safety and cosmetic appearance protocols beyond government minimums. Retailers often use such protocols to control supply and price, and to shift liability to suppliers (McCallum et al., 2013). They contribute significantly to food waste (see Goal 5, Reducing Food Waste). Some provincial governments, such as Ontario, have removed many grade standards because retailer requirements were more stringent. These should be reinstated s ceilings, rather than floors, and retailers should be prevented from exceeding government standards.
  4. Bundling extension advice with product sales. Chemical input and biotechnology firms do this to bind farmers to their products. As government extension services have been reduced, there are fewer sources of information, especially independent ones. Invariably, this leads to over-use of such inputs and increases farmer reliance on them (see Goal 4 Pesticides and Goal 5 Sustainable Food).
  5. Prevent equipment manufacturers from barring third party repairs or voiding warranties, sometimes referred to as "right to repair" provisions. President Biden's 2021 executive order on competition named such a provision and Canada should amend the Competition Act to do similarly. It may require tweaking of Canadian copyright regulations (Bednar, 2021). See also Goal 8 Big Data, Automation and Food System Work.