The government unveiled Bill C-56 yesterday, legislation it touts as supporting the building of more rental homes (through tax measures) and stabilizing grocery prices (through Competition Act reforms). While the proposed Competition Act changes include increased investigative and merger blocking powers for the Competition Bureau as well as the long overdue elimination of the efficiencies defence, the bill also includes provisions that undermine Competition Bureau independence. The government is not promoting those changes – there is no reference to it in the press release – but bill gives it broad powers to order inquiries into any market or industry and dictate the terms of the inquiry to the Competition Bureau. Those reforms are not subject to any significant limitations and are open to potential abuse.
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The Rogers-Shaw merger saga was always destined to end on the desk of Innovation, Science and Industry Ministry François-Philippe Champagne. The merger has followed a familiar pattern: the companies started with a plan to merge without any divestitures that never stood a serious chance of approval, followed by adopting the Bell-MTS playbook of divesting assets to the weakest possible competitor in Xplorenet. When that didn’t fly, Videotron marched in to scoop up the wireless assets at a discount, complete with a story about exporting Quebec competition to other provinces and a politically attractive narrative for a Quebec-based minister who is reported to harbour future leadership ambitions.
The Law Bytes Podcast, Episode 153: Jennifer Quaid on the Competition Bureau’s Appeal of the Rogers-Shaw Merger Decision
The battle over the Rogers – Shaw merger has continued to escalate in recent days with TekSavvy filing an application with the CRTC on the wholesale access implications of the deal, a campaign to urge ISED Minister François-Philippe Champagne to reject the transaction, and a forthcoming Industry committee hearing on the situation. The merger heads for what may be its final legal showdown this week as the Federal Court of Appeal conducts its hearing on the Competition Bureau’s appeal of a recent decision from the Competition Tribunal that rejected its opposition to the proposed merger.
Jennifer Quaid is an Associate Professor and Vice-Dean Research in the Civil Law Section at the University of Ottawa, Faculty of Law. She is an expert on competition law and has been vocal throughout the Rogers-Shaw merger drama. She joins me on the Law Bytes podcast to unpack the legal arguments in the case, provides her prognostication on a potential outcome at the Court of Appeal, and offers insights into potential future competition law reforms in Canada in light of a national consultation on the issue.
The Law Bytes Podcast, Episode 144: Keldon Bester on the Rogers-Shaw Merger and the Problem with Canadian Competition Law
The proposed Rogers-Shaw merger was back in the news last week as Canadian Industry minister Francois Philippe Champagne held a mid-week press conference to announce that the original deal was dead, but that a reworked deal that brings in Videotron might be a possibility if certain government expectations on restrictions on transferring spectrum licences and consumer pricing outside of Quebec were met. Keldon Bester is a co-founder of the Canadian Anti-Monopoly Project (CAMP), a fellow at the Centre for International Governance Innovation and an independent consultant and researcher working on issues of competition and monopoly power in Canada. He’s been one of the most insightful and outspoken experts on the proposed Rogers-Shaw merger and he joins the Law Bytes podcast to discuss where things stand and the big picture weaknesses of Canadian competition law and policy.
The state of Canadian wireless competition has been a much-discussed issue in recent years with numerous reports providing evidence that Canadians pay some of the highest rates in the world. In fact, even the Competition Bureau has concluded that “market power concerns persist in the Canadian wireless industry” and “when market power is exercised, prices are higher, and wireless penetration is lower, than in a market that is competitive.” In response to the Competition Bureau’s report, Telus argued that the CRTC should “reject the Bureau’s submission in its entirety.”