Surprisingly, the economy did not take centre stage in the recent federal government election. Rather, the limelight was on the government’s pandemic performance and the growing government intervention in all aspects of our lives. Canadians, it seems, were not ready to turn the channel from their binge watching of the governments’ pandemic caretaking. However, as the ratings begin to fall for COVID-19 programming, the new government and the public will likely soon turn their attention to more traditional table steaks, such as economic policy execution, particularly if inflation continues to rise, ravaging the disposable income of Canadians, and store shelves remain empty. On the list of outstanding economic marketplace framework policy upgrades from the last parliamentary session are telecommunications and broadcasting (Bill C-10) and privacy (Bill C-11) reforms. In the last session, parliament also took a small step towards competition policy modernization via the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology hearings which informed a report recommending modest amendments to the Competition Act. The previous substantive refinement to Canada’s competition law took place in 2009 following an in-depth study and report by the Competition Policy Review Panel which predated the major digital transformation of the economy. Last week, in a speech to the Canadian Bar Association’s competition law fall conference, the Commissioner of Competition made an impassioned plea for a comprehensive review of the Competition Act to modernize it for today’s reality and keep up with other jurisdictions.
In my op-ed entitled, “Do we need new competition laws for Big Tech?”, I suggest that any changes to our competition laws should be made with care so not reduce competitive pressure for businesses to lower prices for consumers or to chill businesses’ incentives to innovate or invest in digital markets.
As Canada’s new government considers which policies it should prioritize for the upcoming parliamentary session, the time may be right to reframe assumptions about appropriate regulation, including the relevance of online-offline competition in certain industries, and begin with an evidence-based study of potential amendments to our Competition Act.