Move to end foreign ownership cap for telcos highlights throne speech

Those hoping for specifics on the federal government’splants to grow, stimulate and support the IT sector in Wednesday’s speech fromthe throne will be disappointed. The throne speech, read in the Senate chamberby Governor-General Michaelle Jean, outlined in broad strokes the government’slegislative priorities for the upcoming session of Parliament – more specificmeasures will likely be forthcoming when the Conservatives introduce the 2010budget Thursday afternoon.

In the broad strokes of the throne speech, however, therewere some signals of where the government is looking to go when it comes to IT,and once major specific – the end of foreign ownership restrictions in thetelecommunications industry, as well as satellite and other key industries.

Here’s what the government said:

Our Government willopen Canada's doors further to venture capital and to foreign investment in keysectors, including the satellite and telecommunications industries, givingCanadian firms access to the funds and expertise they need.

Such a move would require amendments to the Canadian Telecommunications Act,which sets caps in the telecommunications, broadcast and cable industries, andwould seem to be a move to formalize the move the federal cabinet took when itover-ruled the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission inthe case of Globalive Wireless Management Corp., which the CRTC had ruled didn’tmeet foreign ownership restrictions.

Other than the foreign ownership bombshell (read more on the move, including reaction, at Network World Canada), whichcould have widespread repercussions in the telecommunications space, there wasn’tmuch of note for the IT community in the speech. A few sections did, however,offer some hints.

For example, the speech promised a digital economystrategy to encourage IT adoption which, in theory, would be good news for ITvendors and partners:

To fuel theingenuity of Canada's best and brightest and bring innovative products tomarket, our Government will build on the unprecedented investments in Canada'sEconomic Action Plan by bolstering its Science and Technology Strategy. It willlaunch a digital economy strategy to drive the adoption of new technologyacross the economy. To encourage new ideas and protect the rights of Canadianswhose research, development and artistic creativity contribute to Canada'sprosperity, our Government will also strengthen laws governing intellectualproperty and copyright.

There was also a commitment to invest in cleanenergy technology, a promise to support SMBs, and a pledge of steps to makemanufacturers more competitive. There was also a commitment to “xplore ways tobetter protect workers when their employers go bankrupt,” an apparent referenceto the failure of Nortel Networks, which has put the pensions of thousands offormer workers in jeopardy.

Otherwise, the throne speech was largely quiet onIT issues, with certainty none of the specifics the IT community was hopingfor, such as reform of the SR&ED Tax Inventive Program or the need for anational strategy on innovation.

However, the place to watch for more specific initiativeswill be Thursday’s federal budget. Then we’ll have a better sense of whether ornot the government has heard the industry’s concerns, and what measures will beadopted in the next year and beyond to help address them.

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