The Conservatives won't fight this election on their digital strategy. That came through with the release today of the party's platform (available at the bottom of this link), which basically says 'wait until we're elected.'
That tallies with the interview I did earlier this week with Tony Clement, the Industry Minister up until Parliament fell, who said the strategy is ready — in fact, it was going to be announced at the May 2 Canada 3.0 conference. However, that's election day. Apparently the Tories aren't going to move the annoucement up.
So while the Conservatives favour “building world-class digital infrastructure,” voters won't know how they'll do it, or how much, if any, public money will be spent on it. Nor will they be able to debate the Conservative stand on foreign telecom investment or what the Tories will do with the money that will come in from upcoming spectrum auctions. The Liberal platform has some substance to it, but there are gaping holes — nothing on what level of foreign telecom investment it will allow, and how a Grit government will promote digitial training and improve broadband infrastructure. See my interview with Liberal Marc Garneau. Word is the New Democrats will release their full platform on the weekend.
Telecommunications consultant Mark Goldberg told me you have to be fair: Industry Canada [albiet under the direction of the Harper government] started an industry consulation on rules for the 700/ 2100 Mhz spectrum auctions which only just ended. You could hardly expect theTories to pre-empt the process by announcing policy now, he argues.
I'll grant that the Conservatives had a time-table, one that the election has disrupted. But it's rather convenient to push the digital strategy and its hot-button telecom investment issue off the table. I hope all parties are pushed for more detail on this.
There is one new thing in the Conservative platform: A declaration that some spectrum in upcoming auctions will definately be set aside for emergency responders like police, fire, ambulance and other government agencies. The government discussion paper for the 700/2100 Mhz spectrum auctions raised the question of whether public safety spectrum in these valuatable frequencies should be held only by agencies exclusively, held by these agencies but shared with commerical carriers, or held by commercial carriers and shared with public agencies. In the latter two options, public agencies would get priority in areas where there is an emergency.
The Conservatives have obviously decided there will definately be spectrum set aside. However, the platform leaves this question unanswered.