During the COVID pandemic, much of life has been conducted online, and Canadians have relied on digital services more than ever before to work, communicate, entertain themselves and shop. At the same time, stores were shuttered and Canadian firms shifted to innovative new strategies to preserve their businesses and serve their customers. The role of certain companies has caused cries of "monopoly" in some sectors, and there is now a populist push in the US and Europe, and increasingly here in Canada, to use regulations and anti-trust measures to curb the influence of the likes of Facebook, Amazon, Apple, and Alphabet (Google).

It's time for some perspective in the debate. Major digital players are all very different, and they face competition in different ways. Canadian policy should be aimed at addressing real anti-competitive behaviour, while preserving innovation and considering the needs and preferences of consumers. A diversified retail sector that blends online and brick and mortar channels in Canada will continue to be a driver of new jobs and economic growth in the post-pandemic recovery, and Canada will need a nuanced approach to competition policy in a fast-changing world.

This commentary is based on the opening remarks by competition policy and business experts at MLI’s June 10, 2020 webinar examining popular concerns about the influence of major digital services like Amazon, Google and Facebook, and proposals to ensure competition, growth, innovation and benefit to consumers in the post-pandemic economy.

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