BUSINESS
04/09/2019 11:36 EDT | Updated 04/10/2019 13:29 EDT

Loblaw Co. Gets $12-Million Carbon Reduction Subsidy From Ottawa, Sparking Online Outrage

Critics are roasting the retailer and Ottawa under the #LoblawsGiveItBack hashtag.

Justin Tang/CANADIAN PRESS
Minister of Environment and Climate Change Catherine McKenna speaks to reporters at a press conference in Ottawa on March 4, 2019.

The federal Liberal government is taking criticism online after announcing it's giving retailer Loblaw Co. $12 million under a clean energy program.

Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna announced on Monday that Loblaw would receive the money on top of its own $36-million contribution to upgrade the refrigeration units at 370 Loblaw-owned stores across the country.

The government estimates the changes will reduce carbon emissions from those stores by 23 per cent.

"By investing in these projects, from coast to coast to coast, the Government of Canada is making sure we are positioned to succeed in the $26-trillion global market for clean solutions and to create good middle class jobs today and for the future," McKenna said in a statement.

But many critics online questioned why Loblaw Co., which turned a profit of $754 million in the 2018 fiscal year, would need federal help to pay for equipment upgrades. The controversy spurred a hashtag, #LoblawsGiveItBack.

NDP leader Jagmeet Singh pointed out in a tweet that Loblaw Co. shareholders recently rejected a proposal to pay workers a living wage, after company executives campaigned against the proposal. The company has also vocally opposed minimum wage hikes.

The company revealed in 2017 that it was part of a multi-year conspiracy to fix the price of bread along with numerous other food retailers in Canada.

Though Loblaw was lauded in some circles for confessing publicly to the misdeed, others criticized the retailer for attempting to turn the issue into a marketing opportunity. The company offered shoppers $25 gift cards by way of apology.

The funding for Loblaws' retrofit comes from the $450-million federal Low Carbon Economy Challenge, a program that offers provinces, cities, Indigenous groups, businesses and non-profits co-financing for "innovative" projects that reduce carbon emissions.

Earlier on HuffPost Canada:

CORRECTION:An earlier version of this story implied that the total cost of the project would be $36 million. In fact, this is the amount of Loblaw Co.'s contribution.