It took the Second World War to end the Great Depression of the early 1930s when a full quarter of Canadians were unemployed, starving, and often homeless.

The war demanded people and resources — people to be soldiers, workers and the manufacturers of goods, with the world in conflict lifting up Canada by the bootstraps.

Those who lived through the Depression earned a dollar a day if they worked at all.

Even seemingly cheap foods – 25 cents a pound for sirloin steak, 10 cents for a bottle of milk, 31 cents for a dozen eggs – were out of reach for millions of Canadians.

Canada, its economy dependent largely on agriculture, dovetailed even more due to the drought in the Prairies and the accompanying Dust Bowl.

It was hell on earth.

it’s been a long time since Yours Truly worked part-time behind the meat counter of Dominion Stores during my high school years of the 1960s, but there were still those who waited until closing time on Saturdays to get a bargain price on hamburger.

But no one complained of high food prices back then, and certainly not like the complaints of today where the cost of grocery staples has increased by four to five times the rate of inflation.

The latest Statistics Canada Monthly Average Retails Prices for Selected Products data was released last week with details of the dramatic price increases year over year.

Most Canadians were already aware it would not be the best of news because their grocery bill receipt is the tale of that tape.

StatsCan zeroed in on this.

One example is grapes. Canadian households who buy grapes are paying 34% more than they were in October 2022, with prices going from $5.28 to $10.14 per kilogram. This is the highest price  in over a year, with the cost being $6.64 in July 2022.

Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland said the latest Consumer Price Index report – where cost averages are based on direct comparisons such as apples to apples or grapes to grapes – was somehow “good news for Canadians.”

“Inflation in Canada is down to 3.4% the lowest rate in nearly two years,” said Freeland posted on Twitter June 27.

“This is good news for Canadians and good news for the Canadian economy.”

Odds are good, however, that the Bank of Canada will soon raise interest rates again, which will ring the bankruptcy bell in even more economic sectors beyond home ownership.

The data was released at the same time the Trudeau government issued its “grocery rebate,” a one-time payment to lower-earning Canadians who normally receive the GST credit.

According to the Parliamentary Budget Office, this piece of Trudeau government largesse will cost the taxpayer $2.4 billion.

Basic items like hamburger, once a 72 cents-a-kilo bargain at closing time at Dominion Store back in the 1960s. has gone from $10.64 per kilo this time last year, to $11.23 per kilo this month

In one month, that’s a 5% increase.

“The data source is scanner data obtained directly from Canadian retailers,” indicated StatsCan, stating the price report is intended to reflect true costs of “items commonly purchased by Canadian consumers,” with price increases reflecting the national averages.

“Transaction data provide a comprehensive electronic record of transactions made through a retailer’s point of sale system and contain relevant pricing information,” said StatsCan.

Butter for the bun for that hamburger? It has gone from $4.97 for a one-pound block in September 2022, to $6.42 per pound in July 2023, a 22% increase.

Romaine? It’s gone from $2 a head in July of last year to $3.54 a head today, for an increase for a 77% increase.

There’s no such thing as a “cheap” hamburger anymore.


  • Mark Bonokoski

    Mark Bonokoski is a member of the Canadian News Hall of Fame and has been published by a number of outlets – including the Toronto Sun, Maclean’s and Readers’ Digest.