By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, May 8, 2013 - 0 Comments
And so it has been nearly three years since we, the previously vulnerable people of this vast land, were freed from the tyranny of the most-accurate data. Nearly three years since Tony Clement took a stand against all those interested in a particularly reliable basis for understanding the demographics of this country. Nearly three years since the Harper government vowed that Canadians should not be made to answer questions that no one seems to have been interested in asking.
And yet, oddly, with the release today of the results of the National Household Survey, that tribute to personal freedom and individual rights, Thomas Mulcair seemed rather uncelebratory.
“Mr. Speaker, today we have begun to see the consequences of the Conservatives’ backward decision to kill the mandatory long form census,” the NDP leader declared this afternoon. “Experts at StatsCan have confirmed that the data in the Conservatives’ new survey is deeply flawed. It contains contradictory information and 30% of Canadian families did not even bother filling it out. That is five times more than the last census.”
It seemed here that Mr. Mulcair had decided to hate freedom.
“The Prime Minister is not just satisfied to make public policy based on flawed information, that is his goal,” Mr. Mulcair ventured. “We have been calling on the Conservatives to reinstate the mandatory long form census for over three years. Will the Prime Minister finally listen?”
To listen, of course, is one thing. To heed is quite another. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, April 10, 2013 at 10:34 AM - 0 Comments
If Mr. Boulerice does indeed oppose World War I, he would join the likes of Pope Benedict XV, Bertrand Russell, Helen Keller and Henry Ford in opposition. In Canada, World War I also precipitated the Conscription Crisis of 1917.
By Peter Nowak - Monday, January 7, 2013 at 9:37 AM - 0 Comments
With the start of a new year, there’s no better time to review and reflect on the federal government’s complete and utter failure in providing leadership on digital issues. The country has been waiting on a digital strategy–a comprehensive plan for how Canada intends to compete in the global information economy–for years. For example:
“More than one hundred representatives from libraries, museums, archives, publishers, copyright collectives, the education community and government gathered last week in snowy Montebello, Que. for a national summit on a Canadian digital information strategy. The by-invitation-only event marked the culmination of a year-long cross-country effort to ensure that Canada is not left behind as our trading partners race to develop their own 21st century digitization plans.” – Toronto Star, Dec. 11, 2006
“Free access to government data and equitable access to the Internet itself are key to a prosperous digital economy, say many of those who took part in recent federal consultations. For two months, the government has been seeking public input on its strategy for a digital economy… [Industry Minister Tony Clement] did not provide a specific timeline, but suggested Canada would take about the same time as other countries, who have typically developed strategies in six to 18 months.” – CBC, July 14, 2010
“For over a year Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his government have been talking about the need to create a digital economic strategy for the nation, with Industry Minister Tony Clement promising to reveal details this spring.” – IT Business, Mar. 23, 2011
“I will launch a Canadian-made digital economy strategy by the end of the year.” – Industry Minister Christian Paradis, Aug. 28, 2012
If the government’s latest broken promise is any indication, the wait is going to continue, despite numerous consultations and reports having already taken place. For those paying attention to other countries and their digital strategies (New Zealand had one in 2005, Japan in 2001), it’s exasperating at best, infuriating at worst.
Yet, the government could do worse. It could, as many fear, release a digital strategy that is low on specifics and without any real teeth. Such a plan would be a disservice. Canada is already behind in many ways, from web usage by businesses, to Internet access pricing, to research and development spending, to venture capital access. There are many problems to be fixed, so any digital strategy must take specific actions to get the country back on the right track.
The other danger with any sort of digital plan is the tendency to throw money at a problem in the hopes that it’ll fix itself. That’s also the wrong way to go, since government-provided funds are often squandered without any concrete results to show at the end.
Most importantly, a digital strategy must be bold. There is no sense in aiming for the future if you’re not aiming high. Timidity has no place in such a plan.
The government has already heard from a broad range of Canadians as to what the country’s strategy should contain. Here is a list of 10 suggestions, some of which are repeated from submissions and some of which are my own additions. The list–sort of a set of New Year’s resolution for government–is by no means comprehensive, but it would make for a good starting point.
Technology Minister: Creating a cabinet ministerial position that would deal with all things technological would go a long way to showing the public that the government does indeed take digital issues seriously. Which it currently doesn’t, obviously.
Merge Telecom and Broadcasting Acts: Telecom and broadcasting technologies have converged, as have their owners, so why are the laws governing them still separate? Indeed, the government should move to liberalize foreign ownership in broadcasting the same way it did last year with telecom. Maintaining the restrictions does much to counter any positives introduced by telecom ownership liberalization.
Infrastructure regulatory holiday: Any new company that wants to build a telecom network in Canada, whether wired or wireless, gets a 10-year exemption from any regulations affecting access to that network (in other words, they won’t have to give access to third-party independent internet service providers). The holiday could be even longer for northern Canada, where things are even more dire. Some might say this is unfair to the likes of Bell or Rogers or Northwestel, but those companies got to build their networks and customer bases with government-granted monopolies. Such an exemption might seem especially intriguing to certain search engine companies that are currently building fibre networks in the United States.
Broadband targets: Speaking of which, the government should institute pricing, speed and usage targets that ISPs must reach within three years. The targets would be set based on projections of what will be needed to measure among the top countries at that time. Failure by the ISPs to hit the targets would result in the government launching consultations on how to structurally separate network owners from retail operations, and/or the feasibility of building a nationally-owned fibre network. Is this de facto regulation? Yes indeed, but it’s market forces that have caused Canada to fall behind. When the carrot doesn’t do the trick, sometimes you need to turn to the stick.
Internet access subsidies: With broadband simply being too expensive for many poorer Canadians, a simple subsidy program is needed –- if your household income is under a certain amount, the government pays part of your monthly Internet bill. Not only would this connect the people who need Internet access the most, it would also saddle the government with a continually escalating tab. If that doesn’t cause politicians to spur better Internet service and prices, nothing will.
Computer programs: In that vein, there are also too many households that don’t have computers, wherein Internet access would obviously not make a lick of difference. The digital strategy should outline a specific plan to work with private-sector companies to provide such households not just with computers, but with the training required to use them effectively. Certain individuals have expressed a desire to help on this front; these people should be sought and hired to lead such projects.
Tech export credits: Canadian businesses aren’t using the Internet enough to reach global markets, so applying further tax rewards on sales specifically made using digital means might spur some to finally take online expansion seriously.
Foreign recruiting: Going the other way, the government should step up recruitment in countries that have large numbers of the sorts of skilled people needed here. Universities have tried various recruitment drives over the years, but they can only promise students so much. Government is much better positioned to deliver such workers jobs, not to mention a life in Canada.
Incubators, incubators, incubators: The venture capital problem might actually be one that can be helped with money. With early-stage investment identified as a real issue for Canadian startups, the government could accomplish much by funding lots of technology incubation projects, where entrepreneurs can cut their teeth until they get noticed by proper VCs.
R&D tax breaks: The federal government should take a cue from the provincial governments of Quebec, B.C. and Ontario, which created a vibrant video game industry through tax breaks. Those governments attracted large multinationals by giving them big discounts on labour costs, with the result being thousands of new jobs. More importantly, an ecosystem of very talented developers has formed, with Canada now becoming a leader in independent game design. The same model should be used to attract multinationals to set up research and development centres, with similar benefits likely to result.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, December 3, 2012 at 4:54 PM - 0 Comments
The Scene. Thomas Mulcair charged into the afternoon with a litany of concerns.
“Mr. Speaker, last quarter, Canadian economic growth slowed to a rate of just six-tenths of one per cent,” he reported. “Conservatives have now missed their own economic growth targets three quarters in a row. They have had to downgrade their economic growth forecast for 2012 by nearly a third and it is now widely expected that the Bank of Canada will have to downgrade its own economic forecast as well. The Minister of Finance announced new economic numbers just three weeks ago. Does the minister still stand by those numbers today, or will we have to downgrade his economic projections yet again?”
The Minister of Finance was not in the House, so John Baird stood to handle this one. But first, a nod to the expectant royal couple.
“Mr. Speaker, I would be remiss if I did not first stand up and extend our congratulations to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge on the announcement coming from Burn’s House earlier today,” enthused the Minister of Foreign Affairs.
The Conservatives duly applauded.
At the far end of the room, Bob Rae leaned forward and put his head in his hands. Ralph Goodale patted him on the shoulder.
A mostly—particularly—dull and witless afternoon proceeded with little or no progress to report on much of anything. There was though at least one reasonable question. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, November 27, 2012 at 4:20 PM - 0 Comments
Further to John Baird’s warning that a carbon tax “would kill and hurt Canadian families,” Christian Paradis sought this afternoon—while responding to a question about foreign investment, mind you—to clarify the extent of the destruction.
It is not a responsible approach to try to impose a $21.5 billion carbon tax on the shoulders of Canadians and to have a plan to tax everything. Everything would be lost. The economy would be lost and family would be lost.
It is a good thing Mr. Paradis avoided reading the platform he ran on in 2008 and plugged his ears when the Prime Minister, the Finance Minister and successive environment ministers championed the idea of putting a price on carbon. He no doubt would’ve been horrified to know of the destruction his colleagues were openly advocating for.
Of course, it is perhaps to wonder why British Columbia and Alberta have not (as yet) been reduced to post-apocalyptic hellscapes.
Here again is a rough guide to the Conservatives’ carbon tax farce.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, November 2, 2012 at 7:27 PM - 0 Comments
Christian Paradis announces that the Harper government is extending the review period for the CNOOC/Nexen acquisition. The new deadline is December 10.
After the Harper government announced a first extension three weeks ago, a decision was supposed to be due next week.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, October 22, 2012 at 5:10 PM - 0 Comments
The Scene. Of the Petronas decision, Thomas Mulcair stood and suggested Christian Paradis had behaved like a “thief in the night.”
This was most certainly unfair. For one thing, most thieves, even in this age of social media, do not advertise their actions with late night news releases.
Mr. Mulcair wondered if Mr. Paradis might explain himself, but Mr. Paradis’ first attempt in this regard did not satisfy the NDP leader.
“Is this the kind of transparency we are going to get?” Mr. Mulcair wondered aloud. “The criteria for evaluating foreign takeovers are not clear or transparent. Conservative ministers make multi-billion-dollar decisions in the dead of the night. No wonder investors are left in the dark.”
Whoever came up with that turn of phrase no doubt feels immensely proud of themselves this evening.
“It is not good for business and it is not good for the economy,” Mr. Mulcair continued. “Without clear criteria, we do not know whether these decisions are influenced by cronyism or by partisan political purposes. The Conservatives promised reform of the Investment Canada Act but have not delivered. Why can they not make the net benefit desk clear for investors, Canadians and for all to see?”
Mr. Paradis stood up straight and recounted the events as he understood them. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, October 22, 2012 at 8:00 AM - 0 Comments
After a long stretch when the deal seemed to be on track, the transaction “came unglued” quite suddenly Friday after the federal government unexpectedly sought to extend talks, said one of the people. Behind the scenes, Petronas had made offers of concessions but was getting little feedback on what it would take to get the deal done, the person said, and was out of patience.
The government had already used up its chance to unilaterally extend talks, and by law could only continue the negotiations with Petronas beyond the deadline with the agreement of the Malaysian company. Petronas did not want to continue talking “indefinitely,” so it took the risk of demanding the federal government make a call, said a second person with knowledge of the situation.
The New Democrats are unimpressed.
“The lack of transparency is starting to reach new heights. Who releases such an important decision at midnight on a Friday? Someone who has something to hide and no way to explain,” Mulcair said.
By Aaron Wherry - Saturday, October 20, 2012 at 1:40 AM - 0 Comments
Two weeks ago, Human Resources Minister Diane Finley announced a policy change at 4:26pm on a Friday afternoon. Tonight, Christian Paradis made that look early with a news release issued at 11:57pm to announce that he would not approve a takeover of Progress Energy Resources by Malaysia’s Petronas.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, September 21, 2012 at 2:59 PM - 0 Comments
Among the Conservaties who stood in the House this week and criticized the NDP’s stance on cap-and-trade were Kyle Seeback, Peter Van Loan, Gord Brown, Leon Benoit, Shelly Glover, Chris Warkentin, LaVar Payne, Gerry Ritz, Pierre Poilievre, Christian Paradis, Rick Dykstra, Randy Hoback, Pierre Lemieux, Ed Fast, Tony Clement and Andrew Saxton. These individuals—like Phil McColeman, Joe Preston and Ed Holder, who attacked the NDP last week—were all Conservative candidates in 2008 when the Conservative party platform included a commitment to pursue a continental cap-and-trade system.
Here, again, is everything you need to know about the Conservatives’ carbon tax farce.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, September 14, 2012 at 3:44 PM - 0 Comments
A little less than a year ago, the House voted on an NDP motion that called on the Harper government to support the listing of asbestos as a hazardous chemical product under the Rotterdam Convention and provide measures to assist the transition of workers in the asbestos industry. The motion was defeated with the vast majority of Conservatives voting against.
This afternoon, the Harper government has announced that—with the Parti Quebecois
moving to prohibit the industrypromising to cancel a government loan for the Jeffrey Mine—it’s dropping its opposition to the listing of asbestos under the Rotterdam Convention and will be providing funds to help transition workers out of the industry.
Today, the Honourable Christian Paradis, Minister of Industry, Minister of State (Agriculture) and Member of Parliament for Mégantic-L’Érable, announced an investment of up to $50 million to support the diversification of the economy of asbestos producing communities due to the decision of the Premier-designate of Quebec to prohibit chrysotile mining in Quebec.
Minister Paradis said it is clear that Mrs. Marois’ decision is final, and it is not time for “academic” consultations but to take action. « Mrs. Marois’ decision to prohibit chrysotile mining in Quebec will have a negative impact on the future prosperity of the area. Right now, there are hundreds of workers in the region who do not have a job and live in uncertainty. The last thing they need is a false consultation, when the decision to close down the industry has already been taken by Mrs. Marois. My priority is therefore to work immediately with local partners on the transition needed to create jobs for our workers as soon as possible,” said Minister Paradis.
Minister Paradis highlighted the excellent cooperation that exists between the partners of the region, who were once again able to show that the people of the region can stand shoulder to shoulder in the face of adversity. “Our region will have to live with the consequences of Mrs. Marois’ decision, but we will continue to work together on the continued economic development of the community,” highlighted Minister Paradis.
Minister Paradis also indicated that Mrs. Marois’ decision means that from now on, Canada will no longer oppose the inclusion of chrysotile in annex III of the Rotterdam Convention. “It would be illogical for Canada to oppose the inclusion of chrysotile in annex III of the Rotterdam Convention when Quebec, the only province that produces chrysotile, will prohibit its exploitation,” said Minister Paradis.
In conclusion, Minister Paradis reminded that since 2006, the Harper government has been a key partner in the development of the region. “Through sound investments, including the natural gas project, the Harper government allows our region not only to survive, but also to flourish. It is in that spirit that our government will keep supporting our region to tackle this new challenge.”
The NDP’s Francois Lapointe has a motion (M-381) about asbestos on the notice paper that is due to be debated on September 26 (with a vote as early as October 3).
For all previous coverage of the asbestos debate, see here.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, September 7, 2012 at 9:00 AM - 0 Comments
The Liberals are reportedly considering a motion on the Clarity Act for the purposes of making trouble for the NDP, which gives Christian Paradis a chance to express his disappointment in both the Liberals and New Democrats.
Industry Minister Christian Paradis, a Conservative MP who represents a Quebec riding, denounced both parties for using sovereignty as a political football. ”It’s deplorable and terribly irresponsible to see the two opposition parties playing petty politics with such an important issue,” Paradis said in a statement. ”Quebecers were clear: they don’t want to revisit old constitutional squabbles and we should all respect their will. Rather, they want us to address the real issues facing their families, such as the economy and job creation.”
The Ontario Liberals apparently turned this Clarity Act debate into a by-election handout in Kitchener-Waterloo yesterday (where the NDP candidate upset both the Liberal and Progressive Conservatives candidates).
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, July 16, 2012 at 9:52 AM - 0 Comments
The Canadian Press obtains the paper trail behind meetings Christian Paradis’ office organized for two businesses in his riding.
E-mail traffic shows that when bureaucrats first got the edict from Mr. Paradis’s office to hold a meeting with Pultrall, they suggested the company simply attend a seminar offered close to the riding on how to do business with the government. Pultrall manufactures composite materials for construction. But Mr. Paradis’s office rejected that idea, and asked for the meetings to be held in the Ottawa area, specifically naming ten bureaucrats it wanted to attend the meeting with Pultrall in April 2009.
At one point, an employee in the deputy minister’s office raised a red flag. “There is no need to have 15 representatives at this meeting,” wrote the bureaucrat. “The DM would not see this as the best use of their time.” But in the end, about a dozen bureaucrats attended the meeting from across Public Works and even a pair from Foreign Affairs.
By Paul Wells - Monday, June 25, 2012 at 11:03 AM - 0 Comments
Kelly McParland has this much right: of course any federal government would work with any government of Quebec on routine files. That doesn’t change if the government in question belongs to the Parti Québécois. Trudeau and Chrétien did, and sometimes not just on routine files. Trudeau sat around a table with René Lévesque at nine first ministers’ meetings. Chrétien and Lucien Bouchard amended the constitution to eliminate denominational school boards in Quebec, even though Bouchard wailed and gnashed his teeth throughout the process. So when Christian Paradis says he’ll get along with a PQ government, he’s not doing anything particularly nutty.
It’s still worth noting that in 2006 and 2007, Stephen Harper worked hard to support Charest, whom he repeatedly (and accurately) called “the most federalist Quebec premier in my lifetime.” Back then Harper’s strategic goal was to set up a sharp distinction between the treatment a Quebec Liberal government could expect and the fate reserved for a PQ government. That goal seems to have been abandoned, or pursuing it seems to be too hard for Paradis. One’s almost tempted to suspect that if Paradis is saying nice things about the PQ, it’s in the hope that some of the Harper government’s unpopularity will rub off on Marois, but the real explanation is probably less complicated.
The real question, highly hypothetical, is how a federal government would respond if, say, a Pauline Marois government announces a referendum on a plan to seize a bunch of areas of federal jurisdiction for Quebec. Such a plan was the centrepiece of Jean-François Lisée’s unreadable 2000 book Sortie de secours. But we’re getting several steps ahead of ourselves now.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, June 25, 2012 at 9:56 AM - 0 Comments
Christian Paradis says the Conservatives are prepared to work with whoever the people of Quebec elect.
“No matter what government is elected, we’re going to work with the Government of Quebec,” said Paradis, who was joined by Harper at a BBQ near Quebec City for the province’s annual Fete nationale. “We can’t always be in harmony with the province of Quebec, but I think you need to do is identify our common interests and need to grow.”
The Prime Minister’s Office says it’s up to Quebeckers.
Andrew MacDougall, the Prime Minister’s director of communications, warned not to get too excited about Mr. Paradis’s comments: “This is all hypothetical as there isn’t even an election. When that time does come, it will be up to Quebeckers to decide who to vote for.”
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, June 22, 2012 at 1:33 PM - 0 Comments
The only thing more fun than a cabinet shuffle is speculating about a cabinet shuffle. The Star, Huffington Post, CBC and Postmedia have your first guesses, including mentions of Peter MacKay, Bev Oda, Julian Fantino, Christian Paradis, John Duncan, Peter Kent, Vic Toews, Maxime Bernier, Denis Lebel, Rob Nicholson, Jason Kenney, James Moore, John Baird, Chris Alexander, Michelle Rempel, Candice Hoeppner, Kellie Leitch, James Rajotte and Greg Rickford.
That leaves just 144 Conservatives (excluding the Prime Minister) left to be speculated about between now and whenever Mr. Harper goes to Rideau. Actually, 145 if you include the stuffed dog that participated in last week’s C-38 vote marathon.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, April 11, 2012 at 9:30 AM - 0 Comments
Liberal MP Gerry Byrne alleges Conservative MP Andrew Saxton is trying to ensure senior departmental officials don’t testify during committee hearings into the Auditor General’s F-35 findings.
“His motion is for one purpose and one purpose only, it’s to stop the witness list that I’ve proposed from being called and it’s to ensure that basically only the ministers will get called and they can run roughshod with the truth as they see fit,” Mr. Byrne told The Hill Times after Mr. MacKay explained the government’s position following a scathing report on the F-35 from Auditor-General Michael Ferguson…
Mr. Byrne said Mr. Saxton made it clear during an in-camera discussion of his motion after Mr. Ferguson appeared at the committee that the government will allow only the main Cabinet ministers involved—Mr. MacKay, Public Works Minister Rona Ambrose (Edmonton-Spruce Grove, Alta.,), Associate Defence Minister Julian Fantino (Vaughan, Ont.) and Industry Minister Christian Paradis (Mégantic-L’Éerable, Que.)—to show up and testify.
When Tony Clement and John Baird testified about the G8 Legacy Fund last November, they brought four officials with them.
Update 12:20pm. Responding to the Hill Times story, the Prime Minister’s Office dismisses Mr. Byrne’s version.
The chief spokesperson for Prime Minister Stephen Harper (Calgary Southwest, Alta.) said the government does not want to restrict the committee witness list for hearings on the F-35 report and called Mr. Byrne’s allegation and The Hill Times’ story “100 per cent incorrect.”
“At no time was Saxton calling ministers. That is a complete fabrication from Byrne. Had you bothered to ask, you would have learned that the government plans on welcoming officials to testify at committee,” Andrew MacDougall, Mr. Harper’s communications director, said late last night in an email to The Hill Times. “At any rate, you needn’t have relied on Mr. Byrne to speak to the government’s plans. Mr. Saxton’s motion was public for all to see.”
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, April 3, 2012 at 5:44 PM - 0 Comments
The Scene. “They knew it.”
What did they know? They knew the cost of purchasing the F-35 would be higher than they had let on. This much, Thomas Mulcair explained, had now been proven by the Auditor General.
“Why,” the leader of the opposition thus asked, “did the Conservatives deliberately gave false information to Parliament and Canadians?”
The Prime Minister stood here, shrugged and dismissed it all. “Mr. Speaker, I do not accept these conclusions of the opposition leader,” Mr. Harper said, without elaborating. The Auditor General had, Mr. Harper explained, made “certain findings” and “identified the need for greater supervision.” The government accepted this much.
Switching to English, Mr. Mulcair was sharp and stinging in response. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, April 3, 2012 at 11:07 AM - 0 Comments
A release issued by the offices of Julian Fantino, Peter MacKay, Rona Ambrose and Christian Paradis.
The Honourable Julian Fantino, Associate Minister of National Defence, the Honourable Rona Ambrose, Minister of Public Works and Government Services and Minister for Status of Women, the Honourable Peter MacKay, Minister of National Defence, and the Honourable Christian Paradis, Minister of Industry, today released the Government of Canada’s comprehensive response to Chapter 2 of the 2012 Spring Report of the Auditor General of Canada.
In Chapter 2, Replacing Canada’s Fighter Jets, the Auditor General recommends that the Government refine its estimates for the full life-cycle costs of the F-35 and make those estimates public. The Government accepts the Auditor General’s recommendation and conclusions.
The Government of Canada is taking the following seven steps to fulfill and exceed the Auditor General’s recommendation: Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, March 28, 2012 at 8:30 AM - 0 Comments
The NDP notes that on May 23, 2002, the leader of the opposition stood in the House and asked for a government minister’s resignation.
Under the circumstances, I want to know if the minister of public works has done the honourable thing and offered his resignation, and has the Prime Minister done the right thing and accepted it?
The minister in this case was Don Boudria, who had confessed to staying in the luxury chalet of an individual who did business with Mr. Boudria’s department. The leader of the opposition at the time was Stephen Harper.
Christian Paradis told the House yesterday that no lobbying took place during his stay at Marcel Aubut’s hunting lodge, but government officials now say the topic of Quebec City arena did come up.
Speaking with reporters after QP yesterday, Thomas Mulcair said he is eager to hear what the Prime Minister thinks of the variously embattled Industry Minister. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, March 27, 2012 at 12:19 PM - 0 Comments
CTV News has learned that in 2009, when Paradis was public works minister, he stayed at the lodge of Marcel Aubut, the former owner of the Quebec Nordiques. At that time, Aubut, who is now president of the Canadian Olympic Committee, was lobbying Ottawa to help fund a $400-million arena in Quebec City.
By Jesse Brown - Thursday, March 15, 2012 at 12:08 PM - 0 Comments
Yesterday Industry Minister Christian Paradis emerged from the secret invisible fortress he’s been hiding in since his appointment to announce the new rules that will govern the upcoming auctions of wireless spectrum. He revealed a number of conditions designed to foster competition and extend services to rural areas, chief among them being the welcoming of foreign capital into our newer, smaller wireless providers. Let’s hope the measures achieve these goals, and more. If ever there was an industry in need of disruption, it’s Canada’s wireless sector.
It’s not that we pay too much (although we do). It’s not that our services are lagging behind international standards in speed and coverage (although they are). The real problem is that we’re getting left behind. Wireless networks are getting so fast in other parts of the world that they are rendering moot the infamous “last mile” problem of networking. First, each and every home needed its own telephone line. Then cable. It looked like fibre would be next, and the costs would be enormous, especially in a country like Canada where we’re all so darned spread out.
But while we’ve been wringing our hands over this problem, countries unlucky (read: poor) enough to have skipped telephone and cable networking have entered the wireless era with guns blazing. Foreign mobile firms have entered 2nd and even 3rd world economies in South American, Eastern Europe and Africa, investing hundreds of millions of dollars in state-of-the-art wireless infrastructure and then charging whatever the people can afford for access. Eventually the investment is returned and almost all new income is profit. Governments have eagerly welcomed these companies, as they connect entire populations in a handful of years. The benefit to these economies has been incredible. After decades of digital isolation, entire populations are rapidly getting online, joining the information economy, performing digital services and starting businesses.
And then there’s Canada.
If wireless service here were comparable in price and speeds to wired service, Canadians would quickly grow uncomfortable with the many bills we pay for our data. Why pay a cable TV bill, a phone bill, a broadband Internet bill, a cellphone bill and a datastick bill when all of these services boil down to zeros and ones we send and receive through the air? It would be like having to pay one bus ticket if you’re only wearing pants, another if you wear a shirt and another for your shoes. The bus doesn’t know or care what you’re wearing, and zeros and ones don’t know or care if they add up to a Skype call, an episode of 30 Rock or an MP3 download.
But our incumbents do. If we leave wireless innovation to our handful of massive telecom firms, we can expect to remain a digital ghetto. Sure, they have and will invest in next generation wireless networks, but they can be counted on to mete out these services in drips and drabs, charging us through the nose for every minor incremental improvement in speed. Worst of all, they will fight tooth and nail to segregate our data, resisting the natural convergence I’ve described. If they don’t, they know that wireless will cannibalize their incredibly lucrative “last gen” services. They know this will happen eventually, but they want the process to take as long as possible. We can’t afford that.
Ottawa’s last wireless spectrum auction, with its set-asides for new entrants brought us WIND, Mobilicity and Public – bargain providers who largely piggyback the incumbent networks in order to offer us reasonably priced cell phone service (CORRECTION: since launching, the new carriers have built out their own networks and only “piggyback” for roaming services. Thx Jamie). In just a few years, they have succeeded in driving prices down across the board. They have challenged the fictions of “system access” fees and domestic long-distance charges. But all together, they only comprise 4% of the market.
We need more than for these providers to simply stick around. We need them to disrupt. We need foreign firms to pump money into them, build out their own networks, and offer services that are not only faster than anything we’ve seen, but cheaper and use-neutral.
I’m still parsing the difference between set-asides and caps, but let’s hope Ottawa’s new terms for the next two spectrum auctions will bring revolution to our market- not evolution.
To put it bluntly, the first company to offer Canadians all the high-speed wireless data we can eat, however we care to eat it, for under $100 a month, will win this market. And it’s a plum.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, February 6, 2012 at 7:40 PM - 0 Comments
Peter Julian, already speaking at a certain volume, attempted to oblige, punctuating his question with exclamation points.
“When(!) is the government going to show leadership? When is it going to work on a jobs plan so that Canadians(!) can get back to work?
The subject here was the recent closure of Electro-Motive Diesel in London, Ontario—a closure notable not only for the 450 individuals it put out of work, but because the plant was once selected as an ideal scene to demonstrate the Prime Minister’s economic stewardship. And so a silly picture of Mr. Harper pretending to conduct a train is now a symbol of some kind. And so Mr. Julian was yelling this afternoon in the general direction of the Finance Minister. Continue…
By Peter Nowak - Friday, December 2, 2011 at 5:56 PM - 8 Comments
There was quite a bit of speculation leading up to Tuesday’s speech by Industry Minister Christian Paradis at a telecom conference on whether he would address the festering issue of foreign ownership. The speech came and went, and Paradis–although he visibly gave the speech–continues to be, policy-wise, the Invisible Man.
Despite the fact that two successive government-appointed panels–one Liberal, the other Conservative–urged lawmakers to lift restrictions that limit foreign entities from having any meaningful ownership of Canadian telecom companies with an actual physical infrastructure, Paradis et al. continue to show a lack of backbone to do what’s necessary. As both panels have pointed out, removing those restrictions would not only bring Canada in line with every other developed nation, it would also improve competition and lead to better services and prices.