Canadian Lawyer

May 2021

The most widely read magazine for Canadian lawyers

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12 www.canadianlawyermag.com FEATURE CROSS EXAMINED MELANIE AITKEN first realized she felt a calling to public service in the late 1990s when she was litigating the Superior Propane case against the Competition Bureau. "It was, in our world, a big case," says Aitken, who was a partner at Davies Ward Phillips & Vineberg LLP at the time. "It was the first case where the efficiencies defence was relied upon. And because we didn't think efficiencies was going to be that important, I was put in charge of efficiencies." As luck would have it, the efficiencies argu- ment became very important, and Aitken took the case to the Supreme Court of Canada. But what struck Aitken when she worked on this case was how fascinating the govern- ment's role was. "I think it was eye-opening for me to see how interesting the job was on the public side. . . . It was a much more complex exercise in the sense of the constituencies that needed to be consulted and satisfied." A few years later, Aitken left Davies to take a role as senior counsel at the Department of Justice in Ottawa. After that two-year sec- the field has at least one tour of duty in one of the agencies." Aitken took her unconventional and more U.S.-based approach to the Competition Bureau in a now well-known tenure as the Canadian Commissioner of Competition from 2008 to 2012. Her focus on aggres- sive enforcement and high-publicity cases brought the agency out of the shadows and made her much better known than the aver- age bureaucrat. When Aitken's tenure ended, she moved to Washington not knowing what she would do. "I'm one of those people who strongly PUBLIC SERVICE AS A COMPETITIVE EDGE Melanie Aitken always felt that public service would make her a better lawyer, and her current role has proven her right ondment, Aitken joined the partnership at Bennett Jones LLP in 2003. She stayed at Bennett Jones until 2005, when she accepted a role that puzzled many of her private practice peers at the time: senior deputy commissioner of competition, mergers at the Canadian Competition Bureau. "I do recall everyone kind of scratching their head as to why I would do it. And to me, it didn't seem like such a crazy thing," says Aitken. "I also looked south of the border, where there's a much more robust revolv- ing door, particularly in areas like antitrust, where just about anybody who's anybody in "I think it was eye-opening for me to see how interesting the job was on the public side. . . . It was a much more complex exercise in the sense of the constituencies that needed to be consulted and satisfied."

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