Part 2 of Spotlight on Industry Minister Maxime Bernier

InterGovWorld’s Spotlight series profiles executives, decision-makers and their initiatives across all levels of Canadian government.

In Part 2 of InterGovWorld’s Spotlight on Maxime Bernier, the federal Industry Minister talks about nuclear energy and fuel cells, trucking plants and tricky telecom laws. Bernier steps back to assess industry and consumer reaction to his proposed reversal of a controversial CRTC decision; he tells us what he learned from a technology institute; and how he believes an online initiative dubbed BizPaL is helping the growth of Canadian business.

How is this new regulatory framework for the telecom sector more modern, flexible and efficient?

Canada’s telecommunications sector is a critical element of the country’s productivity and overall economic wellbeing, but in some cases unneeded regulations constrain competition, inhibit economic growth and limit innovation.

With the right framework in place, companies will compete and invest in the telecommunications market, spurring competitive pricing and innovation. It is the innovative products and services developed by the private sector that will drive economic growth. The changes that we are instituting in the telecommunications sector will help to take full advantage of market forces.

Minister Bernier delivers a keynote address
at the 2006 Canadian Telecom Summit in
Toronto. (Photo court
esy of Industry
Canada) Credit: Cliff Spicer

What has been the reaction that Industry Canada has received from both consumers and the telecom industry to this proposal?

Overall interest in the proposed changes [variance of the local forbearance decision, which ended January 15] during the 30-day consultation period has been very high. The number and comprehensive nature of the comments received demonstrate the importance that many Canadians attach to this issue.

Comments were received from individuals, associations and companies involved in the sector. Many of the comments were extremely positive toward deregulation, others suggested changes. Departmental officials and I are now reviewing those submissions. I will be taking into account all comments received before moving on to the next steps in this process.

The Canadian Consumer Initiative (CCI) – a coalition of six major consumer groups – is urging the government to reverse its decision to hasten the deregulation of local telephone service, and argued that you appear to be favouring the interests of the large telecommunication firms over the needs of consumers. What is your response to this?

The interests of consumers are at the heart of the proposed variance of the CRTC local forbearance decision. Consumers want and deserve the most advanced services and they want the benefits that a competitive marketplace provides. As part of our analysis of the public consultations, we will give due consideration to any and all comments from all parties who made submissions through that consultation process.

You recently visited the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) with Oshawa M.P. Colin Carrie. What was the purpose of that visit?

I visited the automotive research and development facilities at UOIT with Dr. Carrie during a visit to Oshawa. I also toured General Motors Canada’s truck assembly plant and its Canadian regional engineering centre.

During my visit, I learned about the research activities at the UOIT, and I was very impressed by what I saw. UOIT strives to be fully integrated into its surrounding community. It has strong research links to industry – in the automotive sector with GM, and in nuclear energy with Ontario Power Generation. Its research projects are geared to respond to employer needs and to maximize socio-economic benefits.

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