Winnipeg shelter, food bank starting to reap Loblaw card rewards after price-fixing scandal

Local charities say they're starting to receive promised $25 Loblaw gift cards from the public, which the grocery chain sent out after admitting to being part of an industry-wide bread price-fixing scheme.

Winnipeg Harvest, Siloam Misson say they're starting to receive promised cards from public

Canadians have started to receive their Loblaw gift cards, which many are donating to charity. (Submitted by Michelle Enzinas)

Winnipeg charities say they're starting to receive Loblaw gift cards promised to them by the public, after the grocery company started sending them out as an apology for its role in a bread price-fixing scandal.

Siloam Mission says it's received several of the $25 cards, and many people have contacted the shelter on social media to ask how they can donate theirs.

"It looks like we've got about a half dozen of them that we've been processing just today," said Siloam spokesperson Luke Thiessen. "We're starting to see them come in and we love to see that.

"The cost of those cards is quite close to the cost for us to feed and house someone in our shelter for one day," he added. "It's the cost of three meals and the cost of a shelter stay here."

Winnipeg Harvest says it has received about $800 worth of cards so far.

"The gift cards that we do receive, they will be going towards the purchase of baby formula for our First Steps program," said Colleen McVarish, spokesperson for Winnipeg Harvest.

Baby formula is a rarely donated item and the food bank often has to purchase formula outright, she added.

The food bank has also told people they can donate the value of the gift card instead of sending it in, as a cash donation is tax deductible, while the card donation is not.

The cards all come with an activation process, said McVarish, and Harvest volunteers are happy to activate the cards.

Price fixing

In December, Loblaw and its parent company, George Weston Ltd., confessed to taking part in what the Canadian Competition Bureau alleges was an industry-wide bread price-fixing scheme that involved five major grocers and two bakeries.

They all allegedly agreed to bump up the price of bread by at least $1.50 over the course of about 14 years, starting in 2001. According to Statistics Canada, Canadian households have spent an average of $260 a year on bread since 2010. 

To make amends, the company offered free $25 gift cards to every Canadian who signed up for one. While it's unknown how many Canadians have signed up for the cards, the company has begun shipping them.

When the free cards were announced, many people pledged on social media to send their cards to local charities and food banks.

Despite the free cards, there are still several class-action lawsuits pending, including a $1-billion class-action lawsuit.

There have also been concerns about privacy after Loblaw started asking Canadians for more information after signing up for the card. 

Canadians have until May 1 to sign up, with cards delivered six to 12 weeks later, said Loblaw. 

A request for comment from Loblaw was not returned by press deadline.

Bread price-fixing

5 years ago
Duration 2:01
CBC's Jacqueline Hansen with the latest in the bread price-fixing scheme


Elisha Dacey


Elisha Dacey was a journalist with CBC Manitoba. She is the former managing editor of Metro Winnipeg and her work has been seen in newspapers from coast to coast.

With files from Sophia Harris