With nine new faces added to the federal Cabinet in Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s shuffle on Monday, the one with the most impact on technology will be a familiar one.
James Moore, longtime Minister of Heritage and Official Languages, takes over the portfolio of Industry Minister from Christian Paradis, who was appointed in 2011. He becomes the third Industry Minister charged with delivering a comprehensive digital strategy to build a world-class broadband infrastructure for all Canadians which will enhance digital skills, boost Canadian-created digital content and help the nation compete against others who have already set lofty targets. The strategy was first promised in May 2010 by then-minister Tony Clement; Paradis promised a competed document by the end of 2012. Canadians are still waiting.
John Reid, president and CEO of the CATA Alliance, expressed some optimism that Moore could “help advance a file that’s been lagging for years.” Reid called Moore vocal and engaging, and pointed out his activity on a number of standing committees, “which I think bodes well for Industry Canada,” Reid said.
The digital strategy is “a pretty important file, given the wireless discussions we’ve been having,” Reid said. But it has horizontal implications, Reid said, touching the portfolios of health care, public safety, public works and more. Reid said he’d like to see Moore as “an accelerator” for the discussion on innovation and digital performance.
B.C.-born Moore most recently served as Heritage Minister, being appointed in 2008, and briefly added the interim Aboriginal Affairs title earlier this year. A former broadcaster and talk show host on a Prince George, B.C., radio station, Moore is articulate and could bring more Canadians into the innovation discussion, Reid said.
One thing Reid said CATA would like to see “underlined 10 times” is a cloud-first approach to shared services in government at all levels.
“You have to understand, beyond the vertical … we can get a lot better value for our tax dollars” with a cloud-first approach, Reid said. The federal bureaucracy has been “less than insightful” regarding the potential of cloud models. CATA had been working with Paradis’s staff on the issue, and while the organization might have to do some spadework over again, it’s an opportunity to highlight its significance, Reid said.
On the wireless front, Moore takes over a portfolio that’s focused on using an upcoming spectrum auction to ensure the establishment of at least four carriers in all regions of Canada and pressing forward on changes to foreign ownership rules.
Paradis stood up to incumbent wireless carriers and disallowed Telus Corp.’s planned acquisition of startup Mobilicity, and said he wouldn’t allow Rogers Communication to take up options to buy unused spectrum from Shaw Communications in Western Canada and Videotron’s unused spectrum in Toronto.
Dvai Ghose, head of research at Canaccord Genuity, told the National Post Moore’s appointment is won’t bring big changes to regulation in the wireless sector. He’s unlikely to change the CRTC’s new wireless code or the rules for the upcoming 700MHz spectrum auction, Ghose said.
Given the centralized nature of the Harper government’s decision-making and messaging, some are skeptical of the significance of shuffle.
“The only minister with any power in this Cabinet is the Prime Minister,” tweeted federal Liberal leader Justin Trudeau. “Today’s shuffle does nothing to change that.”