DEMOCRACY WATCH CALLS FOR REMOVAL OF COMPETITION
HEAD, REVIEW OF BUREAU
Thursday, September 30, 1999
OTTAWA - Today, at a news conference, Democracy Watch released its petition
to the federal Cabinet calling for the removal of the head of the Competition
Bureau, Commissioner Konrad von Finckenstein, and a full review of the
enforcement of the Competition Act. The petition, which sets out in detail
the flaws in the Bureau's review of the takeover of Provigo by Loblaw,
was submitted to the Cabinet and others yesterday. The Commissioner approved
the takeover on August 12, 1999. The petition cites the following problems
with the Bureau's review and approval of the Loblaw-Provigo takeover:
- Loblaw was represented by a lawyer, Mr. Robert Russell, who had represented
the Commissioner before the Competition Tribunal from February 1995 to
- The Commissioner and the Attorney General of Canada failed to take
appropriate, effective and timely measures to prevent or address the above
- The Commissioner authorized Loblaw to buy Provigo's shares in November
1998, effectively approving the takeover nine months before the review
- Loblaw set out in its 1997 Annual Report a plan to open three to five
stores annually in Québec, and had opened stores since then, but
these plans were ignored by the Bureau.
- The Commissioner failed to seek approval from the Competition Tribunal
of the irreversible decisions made during the review, as required under
the Competition Act.
- Similar situations in the U.S. have resulted in much more effective
rulings requiring the sale of stores and measures that maintain competition
and choice for consumers.
"The Loblaw-Provigo takeover is an example of regulatees regulating
regulators" said Daniel Martin Bellemare, Counsel for Democracy Watch
and new Coordinator of Democracy Watch's Montreal office, "The lack
of enforcement of competition laws has negative impacts on all Canadians,
and the replacement of the Competition Commissioner and a full review of
enforcement are key first steps to ensuring protection from abusive big
businesses." Democracy Watch's petition calls on the federal Cabinet
to do the following:
- Remove the current Competition Commissioner, and appoint a new Commissioner.
- Appoint an independent ad hoc commissioner to review the approval of
the Loblaw-Provigo takeover, specifically to apply to the Competition Tribunal
for orders that will halt any further steps from being taken in the takeover
- Direct the House of Commons Standing Committee on Industry to hold
hearings reviewing the enforcement of competition laws since they were
passed in 1986.