"Disgusting" – Premier announces anti-price-gouging order

The photo of a sign, at Puseteri's in Toronto

Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced his government would introduce anti-price-gouging legislation Thursday, as he ranted about a local foods store selling a can of Lysol wipes for $30.

“I’m calling them out, Pusateri’s, I hear that they’re selling hand wipes for $30 a tin? That’s disgusting, absolutely disgusting,” he said. “I can’t even describe the words I’m about to say, but I’ll tell you what we’re doing, we’re bringing this to cabinet.”

The premier’s office said the order would be made under the Emergency Management Act and that the government had been working on the bill for some time.

Similar legislation was introduced in 2001, but only passed first reading.

“It’s absolutely beyond belief, but a message to anyone who price gouges, we’re coming after you,” Ford said. “We’re coming after your, we’re coming after you hard, I’m going to protect the people of this province.”

Ford said he opted not to bring in the legislation earlier because most companies had been acting in good faith and taking care of the public, while there’s only a small group of bad actors, but this incident took him over the edge.

“Nothing gets me more furious than someone taking advantage,” he said.

In a statement released shortly after Ford’s comments, Pusateri’s President and CEO Frank Luchetta issued a statement saying while there’s no excuse for what happened, his stores are facing “immense pressure on all levels of operation.”

“As a result of this mounting pressure, critical elements were overlooked including the incorrect pricing of this product. This was our mistake, our error, our oversight and we apologize to everyone impacted. We are promptly reviewing and adjusting any and all products that may have been improperly listed and every individual who purchased this product will be fully refunded by emailing info@pusateris.com

“We are a family owned and operated business and we share in the concern of the new realities that COVID-19 has created for everyone.  This never should have happened, and it will never happen again.” 

Ford’s comments came as he touted his government’s fiscal update in response to the outbreak, which is projected to put Ontario’s deficit to over $20 billion in 2020-2021.

While the update does include some direct payments, such as for parents and seniors, other provinces are sending residents who lose their jobs or who are in self-isolation direct cash, on top of financial relief from the federal government.

Finance Minister Rod Phillips reiterated his comments from Wednesday, saying the province is there to accommodate the larger direct payments from Ottawa and emphasized spending such as emergency child care for front-line workers.

“That’s the support that we think makes the most sense right now,” he said.

Ford also said the government would make sure that no one who can’t afford their rent will get evicted, but urged those who can pay to continue to.