MISSISSAUGA, Ont. — The chairwoman of a government-appointed panel looking at Canada’s telecommunications and broadcasting laws says it must take into account that international borders are disappearing.
Janet Yale says the panel’s goal is to come up with recommendations for legislation that will guide the communications industries for the next 20 to 30 years.
Yale was commenting at the Canadian Telecom Summit, an annual event that will feature a speech on Wednesday by Navdeep Bains, one of the two ministers who appointed the panel last year.
Since then, Bains has proposed a new policy direction for the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission that puts more emphasis on competition and affordability.
Bains is also promoting a new “digital charter” released last week as the Trudeau government prepares to defend its record in the run-up to the federal election in October.
The Trudeau government has also said it will decide before the election whether to allow Chinese equipment maker Huawei to supply equipment for Canada’s new networks despite U.S. opposition.
Yale said after her speech to the conference that members of her panel are going to keep their minds “open and independent of the political machinations that may be going on around us.”
“And what I said today was to encourage everybody, when they see our final report, to think not just about whether our recommendations align with their short-term interests, whoever they are,” she said.
“Think about what it’s going take for Canada to have a successful future that leverages digital technology, on the one hand, (and) addresses our cultural sovereignty and enhances the rights of digital citizens and digital consumers. That’s the goal.”
Canada’s telecom network companies have been spending billions of dollars annually to prepare their home and wireless services for new generations of technology that are about to become commercial.
At the same time, Canada’s media owners — including telecom providers like Bell and Rogers — are forced to confront the impact of international companies like Google, Facebook and other giants.
“I think the work of the panel has to take into account that borders are disappearing when it comes to the way in which consumers access information and audio-visual content.
“And we have to be mindful in the ways which the global environment is changing and the way in which regulators in different parts of the world are addressing both the opportunities and challenges that go with that.”
But Yale declined to comment on what governments may chose to do before or after her panel is done its work.
Prior to releasing its recommendations next year, the panel will issue an interim report this month to summarize feedback gathered last fall through a series of public hearings and submissions.
Yale told her audience that they should limit their expectations for the interim report, saying it will only deal with what the panel has heard and not what it will recommend to legislators.
The panel is overseen by Bains, the minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, which is responsible for the Telecommunications Act, and Pablo Rodriguez, the minister for Canadian Heritage, which is responsible for the Broadcasting Act.
Companies in this story: (TSX:BCE, TSX:RCI.B)
David Paddon, The Canadian Press