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Bill that lifts GST from rental developments, amends competition law to become law

Legislation that marks a significant shift in Canadian economic policy is on the brink of becoming law, as the Senate passed a bill introduced by Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland. This legislation addresses two critical issues gripping the nation: the housing crisis and concerns over stifled competition.

One of the key provisions of the bill involves the lifting of Goods and Services Tax (GST) charges on rental developments. The move is a strategic effort by the federal government to encourage developers to invest in and construct purpose-built rental units, a category of housing that has been alarmingly scarce. Industry experts have long emphasized the urgent need for increased investment in this sector to alleviate the pressure on the housing market.

The legislation, introduced this fall, aligns with the government's commitment to tackling the escalating challenges of housing and affordability. By removing GST charges from rental developments, the government aims to create a more favorable environment for developers, fostering growth in the rental housing sector and addressing the shortage of affordable housing options for Canadians.

In addition to the measures addressing housing concerns, the legislation also introduces substantial changes to the country's competition law. The bill grants enhanced powers to the Competition Bureau, allowing it to compel information from companies for market studies and enabling the prevention of collaborations that impede healthy competition and consumer choice.

An integral aspect of the competition-related amendments is the elimination of the "efficiencies defense" in the Competition Act. This defense previously permitted the approval of anti-competitive mergers if the efficiencies generated were deemed to offset the potential harm to competition. The removal of this provision signals a more stringent stance against practices that may undermine fair competition.

Furthermore, the legislation includes amendments secured by the New Democratic Party (NDP) to the Competition Act. Notably, the maximum penalty for anti-competitive behavior has been increased to $25 million for the first infraction and $35 million for subsequent infractions. These adjustments underscore the government's commitment to deterring and penalizing practices that hinder fair competition within the Canadian marketplace.

The NDP's successful push for amendments also empowers the Competition Bureau to target businesses abusing market dominance to engage in anti-competitive behavior. This expanded scope enables the bureau to address a broader range of practices that may threaten fair competition, thereby fostering a more level playing field for businesses and safeguarding consumer interests.

As the legislation moves closer to becoming law, it represents a comprehensive effort by the Canadian government to address pressing issues in both the housing market and competition landscape. The proactive measures outlined in the bill demonstrate a commitment to fostering economic growth, ensuring fair competition, and creating a more inclusive and affordable housing market for all Canadians.

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