Sunday, April 12, 2009

Notice of Vacancy for Commission of Competition

The Government has recently posted a notice of vacancy for the position of Commissioner of Competition. Here's an article about the departure of the previous Commissioner, Sheridan Scott. Since her exit, the Bureau has had an acting Commissioner.

This is an extremely critical position for the future of Canada's international competitiveness and for the operation of Canada's economy on an efficient and productive basis.

In recent years, the "Chicago School" seems to have been very influential at the Bureau, with the result that there has been little apparent interest in taking on major cases involving classic and basic antitrust issues, and virtually no interest in challenging excesses related to IP rights. Instead, the Bureau seems to have focused mainly on deceptive (tele)marketing practices, and false and misleading advertising cases. For example, the Bureau has apparently had little difficulty rationalizing the increasingly pronounced duopoly nature of the Canadian ISP industry, and the increasingly deep and complex vertical integration in broadcasting and telecom generally, much of which involves IP related issues. The last time I checked, which was a month or two ago, the Bureau has never once exercised its mandate under s. 70.5 of the Copyright Act to examine the hundreds (or more) of agreements involving collectives filed at with the Copyright Board in order to invoke immunity from the conspiracy provisions of the Competition Act.

This is an extremely difficult job to do well, because it requires not only a lot of experience and knowledge, but outstanding management and political skills and a high degree of independence. One would hope that in the current climate, where the dangers of excessive deregulation and forbearance have been so painfully exposed, that the Government will appoint someone with a sufficient skill set and sufficient independence to deal with some very imposing challenges.


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