Mr. Speaker, when he spoke on October 24, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Industry voiced his comments and concerns on Bill C-248 which proposes modifying the exception based on gains in efficiency, i.e. section 96, in connection with mergers The hon. member for Pickering—Uxbridge—Ajax also explained the circumstances leading up to the introduction of this bill. I would not repeat what has already been said in these presentations, except to identify the points I believe to be important.
I understand that Bill C-248 proposes the addition of two subsections to section 96 of the Competition Act in order to clarify situations which would give rise to the use of the gain in efficiency defence. Briefly, the first one addresses the effects of gains in efficiency on the price of products sold to consumers. The second addresses a situation in which a merger would create or reinforce a dominant position in a given market.
On the latter point, my hon. colleague for Pickering—Ajax—Uxbridge spoke of a situation in which a merger creating a monopoly would be authorized on the basis of gained efficiency. I presume he was referring to the Competition Tribunal decision in the Superior Propane case, in which this situation occurred in a large number of local markets.
I will spare you the details on this case and the legal proceedings, because the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Industry spoke very eloquently of this on October 23. A few points are worth raising, however.
The federal appeal court refused to prescribe the method to be considered in order to determine the extent of the anti-competition effects of a merger. Instead, it referred the case to the Competition Tribunal so that it might assess the effects of the merger on competition for the purposes of application of section 96.
The tribunal recently heard the Superior Propane case and a decision will soon be forthcoming. The outcome is being anxiously awaited because its consequences will go far beyond the Canadian propane market.
Having heard the comments by my colleagues on Bill C-248, I believe that everyone agrees on the importance of the Canadian policy on competition and gains in efficiency. I do not believe it would be in the interest of Canadians to proceed with Bill C-248 at this time and amend section 96 of the Competition Act when the Competition Tribunal is on the verge of providing us with clarifications on this both complex and controversial matter.
Accordingly, in my opinion, it is inappropriate to speculate at the moment on a defence of gains in efficiency. All debate will have to be put off until later, if necessary, when the legal process has run its course.
I would like to thank the member for Pickering—Ajax—Uxbridge for bringing this matter before the House. I take this opportunity to point out the excellent results of the government's expanded and improved policy on private members' business.
We will recall that the process has been improved since 1993 and is much more regularly used by members of the opposition, as it is by Liberal backbenchers. The backbenchers can have their say, get laws changed and improve the way our country works.
We will also remember that my colleague from the riding of Pickering—Ajax—Uxbridge has succeeded twice now in getting changes made. The first change concerned the criminal code and the question of escape, that is, people who flee police. Second, thanks to my colleague, the organ donor program was introduced in Canada and was adopted and refined by the provinces.
In conclusion, this process really helps Liberal backbenchers fill in gaps in the opposition parties and make major changes to the lives of Canadians.
I thank the House for the opportunity to speak on this.