Was Nigel Wright BCE’s Source on Telecom Policy?

BCE CEO George Cope is claiming that the company approached the government with concerns about the forthcoming spectrum auction (as I note in this post, Bell has been a longstanding opponent of changes to the foreign investment rules and spectrum set-asides). BCE was particularly concerned with the potential for a large company like Verizon to enter the market as part of a set-aside. Cope says that the government assured him that would not happen and that the source was “the most senior bureaucracy in the country.” Leaving aside comments from Rogers Vice-Chair Phil Lind that the government is actively courting Verizon with trips to New York to convince them to enter the market and the public campaign from the Prime Minister’s Office to support greater competition, both of which seem to contradict such assurances, Cope’s comments raise the question of who provided the information.

Over the past year, there are eight lobbyist communication reports for BCE involving telecommunications.  There is one that reasonably involved “the most senior bureaucracy in the country.” On April 25, 2013, BCE officials met with then-Chief of Staff to the Prime Minister Nigel Wright to discuss telecommunications. Wright resigned less than a month later as part of the Senator Mike Duffy scandal. There was an earlier meeting with Wright and Deputy Chief of Staff Derek Vanstone on June 25, 2012 on telecommunications. 

In addition, there were two meetings with Industry Canada Deputy Minister John Knubley (May 28, 2013 and December 5, 2012) that qualify as senior bureaucracy. The remaining five meetings involved assistant deputy ministers or policy advisors (March 4, 2013, March 20, 2013, April 8, 2013, May 29, 2013, and June 28, 2013). Note that there were additional meetings with Nigel Wright and Andre Bachand, a senior advisor the Prime Minister, last August, but both of those meetings are listed as involving broadcasting (presumably the Astral deal).

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  1. Wow, this blog is starting to look like the Huffington Post and the National Inquirer without the ads – a thinly disguised soapbox for personal or political opinions. Whatever happened to the discussions on real issues like privacy, copyright, and licensing? Seriously, who cares if Nigel Wright met with BCE back in April or not?

  2. Michael McNally says:

    It will be particularly interesting to see if Cope’s claim can be substantiated. Given that the government announced the changes to the foreign investment regime in the telecommunications sector (along with 700 MHz Policy Framework) under the contention that it was doing so to support Canadian families (“Harper Government Takes Action to Support Canadian Families”, it would, if Cope is telling the truth, suggest that the government was being disingenuous. Furthermore, if Cope’s claim is true, it would help obviate why the announcement of the changes to the Telecommunications Act that was in line with the initial phase reform recommended in the 2006 Telecommunications Policy Review Panel (TPRP) was not accompanied with any sort of plan, or even a mention, to follow through second phase reform in the TPRP.

    Alternatively, as you note, it is likely that the government has in fact been seeking foreign investment, and it is Cope not the government that is attempting to mislead Canadians.

  3. I care
    “Seriously, who cares if Nigel Wright met with BCE back in April or not?”

    I care very much who meets with government officials to lobby them. Why would we not care?