–Who will be the new Industry Minister?
Among industry analysts, there is a general consensus that Tony Clement has done a fine job in this position. He oversaw the 2008 spectrum auction that brought in new wireless carriers, persuaded the cabinet to over-rule the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) when it said Wind Mobile's parent, Globalive Wireless Management, wasn't controlled by Canadians, stickhandled the resulting problem with foreign telecom ownership rules by presenting three options and was on the verge of announcing a national digital strategy before the election was called.
There have been no slips at Industry — unless the Supreme Court overturns Globalive decision. But first the Federal Appeal Court will have its say. (Arguments will be made later this month).
Now Harper has to decide if he wants stability at Industry as it formulates investment policy, or if he should he reward Clement for his efforts with a bigger portfolio. Clement has been mum. In an interview during the campaign he said his future is in Harper's hands — he will do as the leader wishes.
Had the Tories faced another minority, Harper might have wanted to keep Clement at Industry, at least for a year. Now, if Clement wants to move, the PM will oblige.
–When will the digital strategy be released?
This is a straightforward: Before the election was called Clement was set to announce the government's policy Monday at the Canada 3.0 conference in Stratford, Ont. Even if a new Industry Minister is appointed, it's highly unlikely a new review will be ordered of a previously-approved cabinet strategy. Common sense suggests the digital policy will be revealed shortly, followed by legislation.
–What's the status of foreign telecom ownership reform?
The Harper government has tied this to the rules it has to set for the upcoming 700 Mhz and 2100 Mhz spectrum auctions — and rightly so. Having spent hundreds of millions of dollars on spectrum in 2008, some new carriers will need their coffers refreshed for the next auction. Quebecor's Videotron cable and wireless division will have no trouble raising money, but pure plays such as Globalive, Mobilicity and Public Mobile might.
Or will they? Mobilicity just announced that it raised $215 million from private equity, which is around what it paid for spectrum in 2008. That could be its war chest for the future. If Moblicity can go to private investors, why can't Globalive?
Again, had the Conservatives faced a minority it might have been timid — deciding to raise the investment limit slightly. Now it has the freedom to be bold, raising the foreign telecom investment limit for carriers only (not broadcasters) with a small amout of market share for, say, five years, then opening the doors completely after that.