January 15, 2007
To understand the development of Canada's competition bar, it is helpful to look at the evolution of its law. While the first Canadian competition law was drafted in 1889, the emergence of a modern set of regulations occurred almost a century later, when the director of competition, Lawson Hunter, was asked to draft legislation that would recognize modern business practices and harmonise Canadian competition policy with Europe and the United States.
The subsequent publication of Canada's Competition Act in 1986 led to the recognition of competition law as a distinct practice area in Canada.
Jay Holsten, who is ranked by Global Competition Review as a highly recommended practitioner, helped draft the Act's pre-merger notification provisions. The year 1986 was when competition really took off in Canada, he says. "Before then, the merger and monopoly provision of the act was criminal. There was never a successful prosecution, and the section really wasn't enforced. The merger provision created a civil reviewable matter, making merger work the cornerstone of any competition practice in Canada."
Indeed, most major firms launched a competition practice around this time, when it started to become clear that the law was evolving into something besides mere form-filling.
Furthermore, as enforcers became increasingly confident, the importance of having a first-rate competition practice grew. Many of Canada's top practices earned their spurs by quickly recognizing that a good competition practice could attract new clients, or that failing to field a fire-rate competition team could hinder the growth of the corporate practice. The presence of someone intimately connected with the development of the country's competition laws was a boon to any firm's practice.