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Canada’s All-of-Government Approach to Competition + Digital
Studies estimate that Canada could realize a 4-5% boost in productivity through pro-competitive regulatory reform and reduced barriers to entry.
Competition reform is gaining mini-momentum in Canada, with initial amendments to the Competition Act in the Budget Implementation Act (BIA), hearings at INDU and BANC (the Senate Standing Committee on Banking, Trade, and Commerce), and a *likely* consultation. These are all super promising policy activities.
Denise Hearn is a Senior Fellow at the American Economic Liberties Project, and a co-lead of the Access to Markets initiative there. She is also the co-author of the Myth of Capitalism and a Canadian by birth.
She and I have two recent op-eds that contribute to the broader conversation on competition modernization. The first describes the less-sexy-but-still-super-important (!) competition issues that small businesses must navigate, and the second imagines what a more holistic, all-of-government approach to competition issues could look like and accomplish. I’ve linked to them below.
We also had the opportunity to testify at INDU, which is the House of Commons’ Standing Committee on Industry and Technology a few weeks ago.
In addition to offering five minute remarks, there is the option to submit a brief. The maximum length of a brief is ten pages. So we wrote a ten-page brief.
One of the questions we received was related to the recent “Amazon’s Toll Road,” report. Our colleague Robin Shaban tested the findings of the report in the context of the Competition Act in a recent blog post. I really appreciate the approach they took with this blog post - start with the issue and ‘back that truck up’ into the Act. 🚚
I then hauled V-ass BACK to INDU on Friday. We discussed the proposed amendments to the Competition Act that are in the BIA. My remarks were probably me at my most political.
Also someone was banging on my door while I answered a question, very stressful (turns out it was a plumber b/c a neighbour had a flood).
Bonus: Amazon content that didn’t make it to INDU
Amazon is also playing an increasingly active role in Canada, and may be subtly influencing competition policies at the provincial and federal level. As an online marketplace, Amazon competes directly with its third party sellers, and has referred to them as “internal competitors'' in its corporate documents. The company has been accused of copycatting its third-party seller’s products and selling them, more cheaply, under its Amazon Basics brand.
Regulators should be concerned, then, that Amazon’s “IP Accelerator,” which launched in 2019, came to Canada in 2021. The program matches third-party sellers on its platform with trademark and patent law firms, with which it has negotiated set rates to aid sellers in “protecting their brand months, or even years, before their trademark registration officially issues”
Given that Amazon’s corporate venture capital funds have been accused of stealing IP and copycatting products during the due diligence process, devastating promising startups, “protecting the IP” of businesses they consider competitors rings hollow.
📺 I’ll be moderating a virtual discussion on the Competition Act and Canada’s digital future on Thursday May 26th - that’s tomorrow!
📖 Suggested background reading: