Spotlight on Industry Minister Maxime Bernier

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

(Industry Canada Photo)

Part 1 of InterGovWorld’s Spotlight on Minister Maxime Bernier of Industry Canada. Bernier discusses the biggest challenge of his job, the recent cabinet shake-up, and the controversial government proposal to change a decision by the CRTC regarding deregulation.

You are a lawyer with a bachelor’s degree in commerce, in addition to having been vice-president of the insurance company Standard Life of Canada and vice-president of the Montreal Economic Institute. How did you transition from those jobs to life in the public sector?

Since the start of my professional career, I have always followed what was happening in politics very closely. As vice-president of the Montreal Economic Institute, I had the opportunity not only to take an in-depth look at government policies, but also to propose to governments different ways of managing public money. My positions were very often in line with the policies put forward by the Conservative Party. In 2005 Stephen Harper, then-Opposition leader, as well as many residents of Beauce [near Quebec City], asked me to stand as the Conservative candidate in that electoral district. After much thought, I decided to make the leap into politics.

What brought you to Industry Canada and the work you’re doing now? What attracted you to working in the public sector?

Prime Minister Stephen Harper was well aware of what I had accomplished throughout my career in law and business. I felt happy and enthusiastic when I learned in February 2006 that he was entrusting me with this important department dealing with economic matters. I would have accepted any portfolio, but I must admit Industry Canada was the department that most interested me. I have always been committed to Canada’s economic development and this department enables me to take part in major government decisions to improve the state of our economy.

The Honourable Maxime Bernier, Minister of Industry, views cells during a tour of the Genome Sciences Centre.
(Industry Canada Photo/Used With Permission)
Source: Brian Hawkes

What is the biggest challenge you face in your job?

Certainly one of my biggest challenges is managing my schedule effectively. The Department of Industry is a big organization that deals with various aspects of economic life. I have many files to see through successfully, such as my reform of telecommunications, the economic benefits from my government’s military procurement, internal trade and more.

I also sit on four Cabinet committees (Priorities and Planning, Economic Affairs, Treasury Board, and Environment and Energy Security). Added to that are files connected with my riding, Beauce. I go back there every weekend to meet my constituents. And of course I must also give time to my family. In short, I wish there were more than 24 hours in the day!

Minister Bernier delivers a speech to the Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal.
(Industry Canada Photo/Used With Permission)
Source: Normand Cadorette

In the recent Cabinet shuffle, you were rumoured to be one of the potential replacements for Rona Ambrose as Minister of Environment. Minister John Baird, former Treasury Board president, is the new replacement; what are your views on the shake-up?

Minister Ambrose took important measures to improve the environment, particularly with her policies on biofuels and the management of chemical substances. She did more in one year than the previous Liberal government did in the 13 years before. [Our government] is determined to take the measures necessary to improve air quality and lower greenhouse-gas emissions. John Baird has considerable experience in politics and I am sure that he will succeed in dealing with the major environmental challenges facing Canada.

What prompted the government proposal to change a decision by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) to revise its framework for determining when to deregulate retail telephone prices of the former monopoly of telecom companies?

This past December, I announced our intention to vary “CRTC Decision Telecom 2006-15: Forbearance from the regulation of retail local exchange services” (local forbearance decision) by instituting a facilities-based test to determine which local markets are ready to be deregulated.

The reason for the government’s decision to proceed with this proposed variance is that under the criteria announced by the CRTC, deregulation would take place too slowly. Many local markets are already highly competitive. There is no longer a need to regulate local exchange services in markets in which it is clear that sufficient competition exists. Facilities-based competition is a durable form of competition that will deliver the greatest benefits to consumers, discipline incumbents and strengthen investment.

Minister Bernier makes announcement on deregulation of local telephone service.
(Industry Canada Photo/Used With Permission)
Source: Patrick Doyle, CP Images

What role did the Telecom Policy Review Panel play in the development of this proposal?

The recommendations contained in the final report of the Telecommunications Policy Review Panel (Panel Report), which was issued in March 2006, addressed a range of issues in the telecommunications sector, including, where feasible, increasing the role of market forces in the telecommunications sector. The Panel Report has formed an important input into the reforms I have already announced, as well as those currently being proposed, including the variance of the local forbearance decision.

What will the implications be for both the telecommunications companies and consumers?

The Panel Report has provided important input into the decision-making process leading to the telecommunications reforms already announced. Consumers and companies will benefit by this, from more choices, improved products and services, and even lower prices.

Readers write back

Continue on to read part 2 of Spotlight on Maxime Bernier >>

To visit the Industry Canada web site, click here.

To access Spotlight Central, an archive of all past InterGovWorld spotlights, click here.

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