Feds reverse approach, defend CRTC in legal battle with telcos

It’s not often that a government reverses course, but the Harper government has apparently done so in the continuing legal wrangling over the federal government’s enforcement of its new consumer wireless code.

In a blog this week University of Ottawa law professor Michael Geist notes  Ottawa has decided it will support the CRTC, Canada’s telecom industry regulator, in its court battle, after appearing to abandon the CRTC to its fate in a legal case before the Federal Court of Appeal.

The court had earlier ruled that the CRTC was not entitled to argue on its own behalf in an appeal launched by major telcos. That left the regulator high and dry as the federal government had shown no interest in defending it.

Bell, Rogers, Telus and others are arguing that while the new consumer wireless code as written applies retroactively to all wireless consumers, it should instead apply only to those who sign up after the code comes into effect in June.

The issue has come up in federal parliament. Geist’s post includes some of the dialogue. On Tuesday, Glenn Thibault, federal NDP MP for Sudbury, Ontario, asked Paul Calandra, parliamentary secretary to the Prime Minister and for Intergovernmental Affairs and MP for Oak Ridges—Markham in Ontario, why Ottawa decided to leave the CRTC on its own after spending millions in advertising to promote the new code (and to blast the telcos for letting consumers down).

In response Calandra seems to have ducked and covered, repeating what Geist refers to as talking points illustrating how Ottawa’s telecom policy has helped consumers, lowering rates and increasing employment in the sector.

Now, according to a Reuters Canada report, Industry Minister James Moore has requested that the Attorney General intervene in the case after all.

“We support the CRTC’s decision to apply the Wireless Code retroactively,” Moore’s spokesman Jake Enwright said on Wednesday. “Our government will intervene in this case on behalf of Canadian wireless consumers to ensure that their voices are heard.”

Andrew Brooks
Andrew Brooks
Andrew Brooks is managing editor of IT World Canada. He has been a technology journalist and editor for 20 years, including stints at Technology in Government, Computing Canada and other publications.

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