Last week, Innovation, Science and Industry Minister François-Philippe Champagne tried to spin his approval of the Rogers-Shaw merger and the enhanced role of Videotron as a win for Canadians, arguing that somehow fewer competitors would lead to greater competition. But in recent months, the Canadian communications landscape has shifted, not only with this merger but also with the gradual disappearance of a half-dozen independent providers who have been swallowed up by the large companies. What does this mean for the wireless and Internet competition in Canada? Is there any hope for consumers for a respite from some of the world’s highest prices? Paul Andersen is the Chair of CNOC – the Competitive Network Operators of Canada – and the President of E-Gate Networks, an independent provider. He joins the Law Bytes podcast to talk about the implications of the merger, the loss of many independent providers and recent leadership changes at the CRTC.
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The Law Bytes Podcast, Episode 162: Paul Andersen on the Rogers-Shaw Merger and the Disappearing Independent Internet Provider in Canada
Innovation, Science and Industry Minister François-Philippe Champagne has worked hard to fashion himself as a future party leader based on boundless energy to sell Canada the world. Indeed, Champagne’s oft-repeated stories of cold calls that resulted in investments by companies such as Volkswagen and Moderna paint a picture of a minister jetting around the world in support of the Canadian economy. Unfortunately, Champagne’s record is also one of a minister less interested in what is actually happening at home. His privacy legislation has languished for months and he has been entirely missing on digital policy, where fishing expeditions such as the one involving Bill C-18 are likely to make companies reticent about entering the Canadian market. This morning there was another lasting and damaging development as the approval of Rogers-Shaw merger (or more accurately the approval of the transfer of licences that pave the way for the merger) will mean that Champagne will have presided over the destruction of the competitive communications market with both another major merger and the sudden disappearance of many independent providers.
The Rogers-Shaw merger saga was always destined to end on the desk of Innovation, Science and Industry Ministry François-Philippe Champagne. The merger has followed a familiar pattern: the companies started with a plan to merge without any divestitures that never stood a serious chance of approval, followed by adopting the Bell-MTS playbook of divesting assets to the weakest possible competitor in Xplorenet. When that didn’t fly, Videotron marched in to scoop up the wireless assets at a discount, complete with a story about exporting Quebec competition to other provinces and a politically attractive narrative for a Quebec-based minister who is reported to harbour future leadership ambitions.
The Law Bytes Podcast, Episode 153: Jennifer Quaid on the Competition Bureau’s Appeal of the Rogers-Shaw Merger Decision
The battle over the Rogers – Shaw merger has continued to escalate in recent days with TekSavvy filing an application with the CRTC on the wholesale access implications of the deal, a campaign to urge ISED Minister François-Philippe Champagne to reject the transaction, and a forthcoming Industry committee hearing on the situation. The merger heads for what may be its final legal showdown this week as the Federal Court of Appeal conducts its hearing on the Competition Bureau’s appeal of a recent decision from the Competition Tribunal that rejected its opposition to the proposed merger.
Jennifer Quaid is an Associate Professor and Vice-Dean Research in the Civil Law Section at the University of Ottawa, Faculty of Law. She is an expert on competition law and has been vocal throughout the Rogers-Shaw merger drama. She joins me on the Law Bytes podcast to unpack the legal arguments in the case, provides her prognostication on a potential outcome at the Court of Appeal, and offers insights into potential future competition law reforms in Canada in light of a national consultation on the issue.
The Law Bytes Podcast, Episode 144: Keldon Bester on the Rogers-Shaw Merger and the Problem with Canadian Competition Law
The proposed Rogers-Shaw merger was back in the news last week as Canadian Industry minister Francois Philippe Champagne held a mid-week press conference to announce that the original deal was dead, but that a reworked deal that brings in Videotron might be a possibility if certain government expectations on restrictions on transferring spectrum licences and consumer pricing outside of Quebec were met. Keldon Bester is a co-founder of the Canadian Anti-Monopoly Project (CAMP), a fellow at the Centre for International Governance Innovation and an independent consultant and researcher working on issues of competition and monopoly power in Canada. He’s been one of the most insightful and outspoken experts on the proposed Rogers-Shaw merger and he joins the Law Bytes podcast to discuss where things stand and the big picture weaknesses of Canadian competition law and policy.