September 23, 2023


Equality opinion

Canadian Government Consults on Far-Reaching Changes to Canada’s Competition Law

Fraudsters Now Find Easy Targets In Gullible Farmers

On November 17, 2022, Canada’s federal Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry formally declared that the federal federal government is launching a detailed assessment of the Competitors Act (Act) and Canadian competitiveness policy. This announcement follows through on the Minister’s previous indications that considerable reforms were being in the operates, and will come after the government enacted additional constrained but however sizeable amendments to the Act in June 2022.

The government’s goal in commencing the assessment is to invite a wide-ranging dialogue on no matter if Canada’s existing competitiveness enforcement framework is “suit for intent” and can “stand up to new issues” brought about by the electronic transformation of the Canadian financial system. The evaluation will cover a wide array of matters and could set the stage for really important adjustments to Canada’s levels of competition regulations. If executed, numerous of the changes currently being discussed would have significant implications for conducting company in Canada, together with with regard to pricing, distribution and promoting procedures, mergers and acquisitions and joint ventures or other competitor collaborations.


Scope of Possible Reforms

The governing administration has posted a dialogue paper that sets out its views of where likely reforms may well be warranted to “modernize” the Act. The dialogue paper identifies 4 central “themes” or queries that the government believes need to be tackled:

  • Is the legal bar for intervention much too large?
  • Is the Competitors Bureau far too constrained in its enforcement position?
  • Ought to the character and sorts of competitiveness cures and sanctions be rebalanced?
  • What is essential to satisfy the obstacle of info and electronic markets?

Within just individuals broad themes, the dialogue paper canvasses an array of prospective variations that would influence vital spots of the Act.


1. Merger Evaluate

Timing. The federal government raises for consideration no matter if the limitation interval for demanding mergers put up-closing should really be prolonged from 1 yr to a few many years. Amendments passed in 2009 lessened the time period from three a long time to a person, but the govt is now questioning if this should really be reversed, at the very least for non-notifiable mergers. Another issue for dialogue is making the expiration of the limitation interval for non-notifiable mergers conditional on voluntary notification. The authorities also appears to feel that it is “hard or extremely hard” for the Bureau to make your mind up whether to contest a merger when it has only 30 days from the receipt of supplemental info to make that final decision. Yet again, this time body was also introduced by the 2009 amendments. The 30-day time body also aligns with timelines for merger evaluate in the United States.

Notification requirements. Also up for discussion are doable modifications to the Act’s pre-merger notification criteria, together with a doable reduction in the “sizing of functions” threshold for pre-merger notification. This threshold involves that the events and their respective affiliate marketers (blended) have aggregate assets in Canada, or gross revenues from profits in, from or into Canada, exceeding C$400 million before a transaction will be notifiable. The governing administration is also thinking of how to far better guard from prospective competitive hurt – for instance, with respect to mergers that have an impact on “nascent” competition and that could not exceed economic thresholds for pre-closing notification.

Efficiencies. The federal government is “solved” to take a look at alterations to the efficiencies defence to or else anticompetitive mergers. The variations could vary from reforming aspects of the defence – for case in point, by hunting to undertake the methods in the United States, Australia or Europe, which relegate efficiencies to a solitary element among the many to be regarded, fairly than an affirmative defence – to abolishing the efficiencies defence completely.

Merger consequences on personnel. In what would be a signal change in solution away from classic competition plan if enacted, the federal government raises for thought no matter whether labour difficulties must have a more central role in merger examination – for case in point, by introducing impact on workforce as an express thought in merger assessment.


2. Unilateral Carry out

Abuse of dominance. The June 2022 amendments enacted important alterations to broaden the Bureau’s means to obstacle allegedly abusive carry out by dominant companies. However, the govt nonetheless believes that the Bureau faces an onerous load in hard abuses of dominance – for example, simply because it should confirm that the alleged anticompetitive perform is probably to cause a “substantial lessening or avoidance of competitiveness.” In the government’s perspective, this particularly impedes helpful enforcement motion versus dominant parties in digital marketplaces. Appropriately, the governing administration will examine distinctive ways that could require, among the other points, lowering the normal for intervention to allow solutions to be imposed the place dominant agency carry out is presumed or just has the probable to have anticompetitive results or there is only an “appreciable risk” fairly than a chance of harm or even exactly where the conduct is “unfair.”


3. Competitor Collaborations

Tacit collusion. The governing administration seems to be anxious about whether or not the present law prohibiting collusive agreements involving competitors can sufficiently handle the likely for smart algorithms to discover to reach joint earnings-maximizing results without the need of human involvement (i.e., agreement). Therefore, the authorities is contemplating reforms that would “deem or infer the existence of an agreement in far more situations,” so that “competitive damage could be addressed far more flexibly”.

Civil enforcement. The authorities asks no matter whether steps are demanded to increase enforcement of the Act’s civil conspiracy provision, which applies to carry out that is not caught by the prison conspiracy offence. In apply, the Bureau has taken official enforcement motion underneath this provision in only two scenarios. Among the other variations to be thought of is a proposal to introduce some variety of mandatory pre-clearance mechanism for specified varieties of competitor agreements that could be caught by the provision, to address difficulties the Bureau is seemingly facing in detecting these kinds of agreements.

Invest in-side coordination.Invest in-aspect” collaborations concerning rivals were being taken off from the previous felony conspiracy offence as portion of the 2009 amendments to the Act. The government now appears to be questioning the wisdom of that change. In June, the authorities amended the conspiracy offence to contain “get-side” agreements impacting the labour marketplaces – particularly, wage-fixing and no-poaching agreements. However, it is now floating the thought of reintroducing invest in-aspect collusion in general as a criminal offence, or most likely as a civil violation with no have to have to show anticompetitive results.


4. Deceptive Marketing and advertising

The government is thinking about adopting added enforcement resources to handle “the nature and ubiquity of electronic advertising” and its probable to give increase to novel misleading marketing and advertising procedures. Appropriately, the govt is taking into consideration possible amendments to improved define wrong or deceptive conduct.


5. Administration and Enforcement

A person of the government’s principal concerns is that the Competition Bureau’s powers are too constrained, which it sights as limiting the Bureau’s capability to intervene authoritatively and in a well timed fashion to secure the marketplace. To deal with individuals alleged constraints, the authorities is opening up for thing to consider reforms such as the subsequent:

  • giving the Bureau additional leeway to act as a conclusion-maker (i.e., a to start with-occasion capability to authorize or avoid types of carry out and to unilaterally compel the generation of information and facts) relatively than an applicant/litigant in enforcement issues
  • expediting litigation just before the Opposition Tribunal and courts like by way of the imposition of restrictions on rights of appeal, alterations to mediation techniques and stricter time frames
  • introducing new sorts of civil enforcement as options to felony prosecution for particular perform
  • facilitating the use of interim actions (i.e., injunctions) that are presently accessible but rarely applied
  • providing the Bureau with a “reasonable route with regard to the selection of information outside of the enforcement context,” which includes for conducting marketplace scientific studies and
  • supplementing Bureau enforcement by making it possible for private events to request payment for damages experienced from civilly reviewable (non-merger) conduct beneath the Act this sort of as abuse of dominance, refusal to offer, exceptional working, tied selling, current market restriction, and rate maintenance.



The govt is inviting the community to submit remarks on its dialogue paper, as well as any other “selections to improve the Act” by February 27, 2023. Roundtables will be held with important stakeholders to solicit discussion and discussion on these themes. The government has also emphasized that it wishes to listen to not only from common stakeholders but also “from a broad range of men and women and companies from all corners of our culture”. Information with regards to timing and participation in these roundtables have not nevertheless been declared.

The likely reforms lifted by the discussion paper are in truth sweeping and complete. There is substantially to consider, but also significantly to be vigilant about if these dialogue matters eventually flip into the following govt-backed package deal of amendments to the Act. This is especially true with respect to the numerous proposals in the discussion paper to take into account watering down the exams that the Competitors Bureau need to satisfy in purchase to receive remedies and exercising its enforcement powers. One of the vital concepts fundamental the Act is that, other than in constrained and egregious circumstances (this sort of as “hardcore cartel conduct”), the Bureau should exhibit evidence of probably damage to competitiveness ahead of it can invoke the coercive powers of the state. Another essential basic principle, next a seminal choice of the Supreme Court docket of Canada, is that the Bureau really should not fill the blended roles of investigator, judge and executioner, but need to go just before an independent entire body (irrespective of whether the Opposition Tribunal or the courts)  in buy to attain treatments or employ its intrusive investigative powers. It would be a spectacular phase to erode this division of powers by supplying the Bureau “a lot more leeway to act as a determination-maker” or by weakening the expectations for remedial action, e.g., by changing the necessity to present that conduct has a destructive effects on opposition with the even more amorphous and subjective benchmark that the perform is “unfair”.

In particular supplied the regulation of unintended consequences, it is also hoped that a shut study of prior enforcement motion beneath the Act be undertaken as section of the overview to assess whether or not alleged difficulties are exclusive to or crop up from the Act itself or fairly from other things, which includes subject-unique circumstances such as situation info or collection and Bureau resourcing.