On September 14, 2023, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made a public statement relating to issues of inflation, Canada’s middle class and competition policy. The statement was focused on measures which are aimed at reducing the cost of housing across Canada, supporting small businesses and addressing the escalating cost of groceries.
Notably, in the statement Trudeau announced that the government will be taking “immediate steps to enhance competition across the Canadian economy, with a focus on the grocery sector” in an effort to “help drive down costs for middle-class Canadians”. Specifically, Trudeau went on to note that the government intends to introduce a first set of legislative amendments to the Competition Act (the “Act”) to:
- “provide the Competition Bureau with powers to compel the production of information to conduct effective and complete market studies”;
- “remove the efficiencies defence, which currently allows anti-competitive mergers to survive challenges if corporate efficiencies offset the harm to competition, even when Canadian consumers would pay higher prices and have fewer choices”; and
- “empower the Bureau to take action against collaborations that stifle competition and consumer choice, in particular situations where large grocers prevent smaller competitors from establishing operations nearby”.
As discussed in a previous blog post, on November 17, 2022, the Honourable François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, launched a broad consultation for potential wide-ranging amendments to the Act. This consultation was open for public submissions until Spring of 2023.
While currently the timing for the next step of the consultation and alleged wide-ranging amendments to the Act is unclear, the Prime Minister’s statements suggest that, with respect to at least some of the amendments to the Act relating to market study powers, the efficiencies defence and abuse of dominance issues, comprehensive legislative reforms to the Act could be expected shortly in the coming months.