Court Rejects Competition Bureau Appeal, Rogers Shaw Merger Now in Government’s Court

The Competition Bureau’s effort to block the Rogers Shaw merger has come to an end. The government is now weighing in.

Earlier this month, the Competition Bureau filed an expanded legal complaint to block the Rogers Shaw merger. The effort represented the first major initiative to finally offer representation of average, every day citizens in the debate by a major governmental organization. This after the CRTC failed Canadians by rubberstamping the deal and the Competition Tribunal basically all but admitting that they work for the monopolies, not Canadian consumers.

Recently, however, we learned of the disappointing news that the appeals court rejected the challenge. From the CBC:

Canada’s Federal Court of Appeal has rejected the Competition Bureau’s request to block the takeover of Shaw by Rogers, a decision that removes one of the final hurdles standing in the way of the $20-billion merger from going ahead.

The bureau appealed to a higher court to reconsider, and Tuesday’s hearing brought an end to that dispute, in the companies’ favour.

“According to the tribunal, this was not a particularly close case,” Justice David Stratas said. “It found, I would say, on the evidence rather decisively that there was no substantial lessening of competition.”

Obviously, this doesn’t pass the laugh test. Anyone with two brain cells to rub together will point out that taking an industry from four major player to three major players reduces competition in the sector. This is not rocket science here. So, it’s unclear if the judge in question ended the hearing with a rousing rendition of Everything You Know is Wrong:

(Epilepsy warning)

The article comes complete with a hilariously bad take from someone who calls himself a “Competition” lawyer in Toronto who seems to think that the Competition Tribunals insanely rushed process to meet Rogers imposed deadline was somehow good enough:

Toronto competition lawyer Michael Osborne with law firm Cozen O’Connor said in his view, there is no valid reason for the minister to drag his feet, given how extensive the original tribunal hearing was — with 17 days of testimony and experts giving reams of evidence both in favour and against the proposed deal.

“I think at this point, the industry minister is out of excuses,” he told CBC News. “I think he’ll have to do it. It’s not his place to second-guess the Competition Tribunal’s finding about competition — that’s their job. They made the finding.”

You might be wondering if the Competition Bureau will appeal, but they poured cold water on that by saying that they won’t be appealing:

“We are truly disappointed that the Federal Court of Appeal has dismissed our appeal of the Competition Tribunal’s decision in Rogers-Shaw.

“Although today’s developments are discouraging, we stand by the findings of our investigation and the decision to challenge the merger. We brought a strong, responsible case to the Tribunal after conducting a thorough examination of the facts.

“We continue to disagree with the Tribunal’s findings in this case. That being said, we accept the decision of the Federal Court of Appeal and we will not be pursuing a further appeal in this matter.

“We thank the many Canadians who provided their views as part of this process.

“We will never compromise in our efforts to protect and promote competition for the benefit of Canadians.”

So, indeed, the final decision rests on the Innovation, Science and Industry Minister, François-Philippe Champagne. Right now, there are hearings at House of Commons committee (cue Canadian’s shuddering). Specifically, that committee is the Standing Committee on Industry and Technology, or INDU. The main page for that is here. The meetings have been recorded and can be watched here (all you really need to do is look for anything mentioning Rogers or Shaw at this point as the committee does cover other topics as well.

For the Minister, there is a lot of push and pull here. On the one hand, approving the deal might cost the Liberal party considerable votes. On the other hand, rejecting the deal could make it a lot harder to get all those nice juicy campaign “donations” for the next election. One thing is for certain, if the Minister approves of the deal, it will mean that Canadians will no doubt pay a heavy price for years, if not, generations to come.

Article revised to include the Competition Bureau statement.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.

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