Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism.
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Cancel Anytime
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to
Just $1.99per week for the first 24weeks
Just $1.99per week for the first 24weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](,dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); } //

Canada’s Competition Bureau says it will allow companies that normally compete with each other to temporarily work together to deliver key services or products in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Lawyers say the more relaxed approach to anti-collusion laws is meant to help ensure continued access to essential items, which could include groceries, cleaning supplies, medications and medical equipment, such as masks and gloves. Businesses could potentially co-operate by swapping information on stock levels or sharing distribution centres, for example.

In a statement on Wednesday, the federal competition watchdog said it recognizes the exceptional circumstances of the COVID-19 outbreak “may call for the rapid establishment of business collaborations of limited duration and scope" to ensure they can supply critical products and services."

Story continues below advertisement

“Firms may need to form collaborative buying groups or share supply chain resources such as distribution facilities to ensure access to the necessities of life for all Canadians,” the Competition Bureau said.

“Where firms are acting in good faith, and motivated by a desire to contribute to the crisis response rather than achieve competitive advantage, the bureau does not wish to see specific elements of competition law enforcement potentially chill what may be required to help Canadians.”

Leading anti-trust authorities in other jurisdictions have already issued guidelines to permit some collaboration between competitors, in some cases weeks earlier than Canada, including Britain’s Competition and Markets Authority, the European Competition Network and the U.S. Department of Justice and Federal Trade Commission.

In a general statement on the coronavirus crisis published March 20, Commissioner of Competition Matthew Boswell did include a paragraph noting that Canada’s existing laws “accommodate pro-competitive collaborations between companies to support the delivery of affordable goods and services to meet the needs of Canadians.” But some competition lawyers say the bureau’s new guidelines are a welcome resource.

What do provinces consider ‘essential’ businesses in a coronavirus pandemic? The lists so far

How to apply for EI and other COVID-19 emergency government income supports

Layoffs, salary, EI and more: Your coronavirus and employment questions answered

“This was a noteworthy addition and a needed one, because other jurisdictions around the world had released similar guidance, and the bureau’s was missing in action,” said Antonio Di Domenico, a competition-law partner at Fasken Martineau DuMoulin LLP. “There was certainly a demand for more clarity in Canada."

Michael Kilby, a partner at Stikeman Elliott LLP, said the statement adopts a “reasonable and balanced approach." He said regulators "clearly don’t want to chill collaborations to meet urgent demand or to resolve supply issues. ... They’re balancing that against their ongoing and constant desire to ensure that there isn’t illegal price-fixing or cartel conduct.”

Some Canadians have complained about price gouging on goods that are in high demand because of COVID-19, but the Competition Bureau does not regulate pricing. Some provinces address it through consumer protection legislation and, in the case of Ontario, through an emergency order passed in late March that prohibits charging “unconscionable prices" for necessary goods, which include: protective medical equipment, non-prescription medication used to treat COVID-19, disinfecting products and personal hygiene products including soap and paper goods.

Story continues below advertisement

Mr. Di Domenico said the Ontario price-gouging list, while not exhaustive, provides some examples of where the bureau’s new guidelines might permit collaborations to deliver much-needed products.

The bureau also said Wednesday it will offer a “rapid assessment” process to give companies greater certainty before proceeding with a proposed collaboration.

Randall Hofley, a partner at Blake, Cassels & Graydon LLP, said the bureau should be able to reallocate resources to providing such assessments in part because merger activity has slowed as a result of the pandemic.

“I am hopeful that the assessments and the informal guidance will be rapid, as that is what business needs and must receive to make the process of use and effective in the public interest,” he said.

However, he noted that the statement includes a number of caveats and also says the bureau could seek input from all levels of government as well as other parties, a potentially time-consuming process that could dissuade companies from asking for an assessment in the first place.

“I suspect that in many cases, parties will rely on their judgment and [advice from] their counsel and elect not to rely on this procedure. But the fact that it’s an option is useful,” said Stikeman’s Mr. Kilby.

Story continues below advertisement

With unemployment skyrocketing during the coronavirus pandemic, personal finance columnist Rob Carrick offers some tips on how to deal with creditors and make a bare-bones budget. The Globe and Mail

Sign up for the Coronavirus Update newsletter to read the day’s essential coronavirus news, features and explainers written by Globe reporters.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies