These restrictive covenants (caveats that are registered on the land title) left by Safeway after closing stores all over Edmonton are a barrier to building complete communities, and they undermine competition in the food retail sector. (The most recent report to Council on this issue last year can be accessed here for background.)
It was great to see Petrolia Mall roar back to life in Ward 10 this summer when the caveat was finally overcome, allowing a grocery store to open up – which was so warmly received, it prompted a festival of welcome arranged by the neighbours.
After discussing this matter recently with board members from the Edmonton Federation of Community Leagues, I saw an opportunity to get council involved, and moved the motion you see below.
I’m pleased to report that it was unanimously approved by Council earlier today.
The rationale was:
Whereas Restrictive Covenants limit the ability of other retailers, particularly small independent grocers and niche food economy players like butchers and bakeries from contributing to the revitalization of vacant former grocery retail sites, which in turn perpetuates ‘food deserts’ in mature areas of our city; and,
Whereas Restrictive Covenants that forbid or severely limit retail of food and/or pharmaceuticals on former grocery sites undermine fair competition in these sectors.
The proper motion read:
That the Mayor write a letter on behalf of Council to the Competition Bureau providing input to their deliberations on Sobey Inc.’s proposed acquisition of Safeway Inc. Specifically, that Council respectfully request the competition bureau consider imposing conditions on the transaction:
1. limiting the transfer of existing Restrictive Covenants held by Safeway Inc. that limit opportunities for competition from future grocery and/or pharmacy retail on sites subject to such covenants; and
2. further, that existing covenants be struck or time-limited in the short term, and that any future restrictive covenants be discouraged or, at the very least, time-limited to no more than 5 years.
It’s a long shot, but for building complete communities and for ensuring good cooperation – it’s worth asking the Competition Bureau to intervene.