August 5th, 2021

Canada should go all in on metric conversion or simply dump it

By Medicine Hat News Opinion on January 26, 2018.

There are numerous reasons why Canada is not fully metric and there is a case for arguing that the consumer is the one losing in the long run.

Take a look at grocery store flyers; when it comes to meat, fish, fruit and vegetables, in particular, you really need a calculator to compare prices.

One supermarket advertises apples per pound but when you get to the checkout it is rung up at a price per kilogram. You’d have to whip out your calculator to check that you have paid the advertised price.

It gets even more confusing when one store is advertising a price per 100 grams and the other per pound with yet another per kilogram.

To be a price comparison shopper a calculator is needed if you really want to compare apples with apples — excuse the pun.

Stores are not breaking any law. They are being creative in seeking your shopping dollars.

Canada went metric in 1970 but has maintained some imperial standards due to “historical ties with the United Kingdom and our proximity to the U.S.”

Metric conversion in Canada was implemented by Pierre Trudeau in 1970. It was the mid 1970s before metric labelling was introduced. Since 1976 prepackaged food had to state metric measurements. Road signs went metric in 1977 and in 1979 metrication of gasoline and diesel.

It was the Brian Mulroney government that ended the metric commission in 1985 and metric measurements are no longer enforced. One consideration was that training on metrication had been inadequate.

Canada sitting on the fence with metric and imperial has certainly complicated matters and the consumer may be paying the price.

Most countries that switched from imperial to metric made a complete switch and that included rounding up the volume of liquid in a container. For example a bottle of shampoo may have contained 12 ounces of liquid for a certain price. When that container was labelled in metric they did not convert 12 oz to the exact amount in millilitres but introduced new sizes so that the container held 500 ml or 550 ml. This makes price comparisons easier. You don’t need a calculator to figure out the price per millilitres to compare prices.

If we are no longer a metric country we would do better to return to the imperial measurement system or really go metric. We would at least be then talking one language and pricing would be clear. At the moment it is a case of buyer beware and clearly it has allowed businesses to be “creative” in pricing to suit their purposes. Nobody should have to walk around with a calculator to do price comparison shopping.

It has been said that younger people are more familiar with metrification than seniors. However the limbo we are currently in requires everyone to operate in both systems.

We have complicated — not simplified — our lives.

Surely it is time to climb off the fence and decide to follow one system or the other. Canadians deserve it.

(Gillian Slade is a News reporter. To comment on this and other editorials, go to, email her at or call her at 403-528-8635.)

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