🦫 competition acting

get your Act together


🗞️ Robin Shaban and I make the case that one of the best arguments for updating competition policy in Canada to keep pace with a digital age is just the reality that other competition authorities won’t scrutinize digital dominance in our own backyard. But guess what? Modernization is a double-edged sword. 🤺

Companies like Shopify, MindGeek and Loblaw are not inherently bad actors, but they have the unique ability to use consumer data to create substantial advantages for themselves — in much the same way as Facebook, Google and Amazon do, albeit on a smaller scale — which should not be ignored by regulators.

Canada must make moves to modernize its competition laws so that our domestic digital firms do not exploit consumers and undermine innovation in an effort to protect their growing dominance. The potential harms of digital dominance have been well-established.

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So - what is the “deal”’ with competition policy, anyway?

A new report from the Centre for Media, Technology and Democracy at McGill surveys the history and mechanics of competition policy in Canada, with an eye to whether the legislation makes sense for a digital economy. It’s not exhaustive, but it’s a solid backgrounder on where we’re at, and how we got there, and where we could go. Yes I am bias because I wrote it with Robin. We’d love your reactions, critiques, and questions (for real) so please give us a shout.

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This paper reviews the current state of competition policy in Canada. It begins by contextualizing the purpose and goal(s) of competition policy against recent antitrust events in response to the power of large, dominant tech firms like Facebook, Google, Apple and Amazon. It then surveys a brief history of antitrust actions and subsequently considers the different schools of thought within competition policy discourse that have come to characterize competition policy before focusing on the features that distinguish competition policy approaches in Canada from those in the US or EU. It concludes by briefly considering opportunities for Canada’s competition policy to be at the forefront of the digital economy.

🙏 I’d like to thank Taylor Owen and Sonja Solomun for the opportunity to take on this research. It was a fun and challenging opportunity, and I got to learn a lot.

💖I also want to thank Robin - we’ve never met in person, and we met on a Zoom in the pandemic. To build trust, edit each other, stay up at night on the phone and make time on the weekend - well, it’s not the #1 way to make a friend but it worked for us. As she would say, “together we are a T” (*hint: I’m not the depth).

📺 Friday, May 14th at the Toronto Public Library, 12.00 ET

👀 Watching, 👂 Listening, and 💡 Learning: Feeding the Marketing Algorithms

I’ll speak to American academic Joseph Turow (@JoeProf) about his book “The Aisles Have Eyes,” and we’ll get a sneak peek of his new book, “The Voice Catchers.”

Register for the free lecture


Vass Bednar is the Executive Director of McMaster University’s new Master of Public Policy in Digital Society Program.