POLITICS

Cellphone group says government messaging clause in Nova Scotia law concerning

05/03/2012 05:13 EDT | Updated 07/03/2012 05:12 EDT
HALIFAX - A provision in a proposed Nova Scotia bill aimed at regulating the mobile phone industry could require cellphone companies to transmit any government message, a national industry group says.

The legislative provision would require companies to work with the government as it implements measures to combat cyberbullying.

But Marc Choma, a spokesman for the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association, said Thursday the clause is too wide open to interpretation.

The government has said the provision would require cellphone companies to heighten consumer awareness of the problem through such methods as the use of pamphlets.

Choma said the legislation could also require companies to transmit other government messages, and that's something he hasn't seen before.

"We don't know what those messages would be," said Choma.

He said it also raised questions of privacy for cellphone users.

"How do we know that people want to receive messages from the government?"

The clause says the government can make regulations "respecting the manner of giving, sending or serving any notice or other document that is required to be given, sent or served."

Service Nova Scotia Minister John MacDonell said the clause is only to help the government reinforce its measures to fight cyberbullying.

"I think if we were ever thinking of using it any other way that we really should go back to the people on that one," he said.

MacDonell said he's open to looking at the language around the clause, but he also said he doesn't believe it's an issue as it stands.

Progressive Conservative Leader Jamie Baillie said his party has put forward amendments that would tighten the language around the cyberbullying clause.

"That (provision) is way too wide open and we know they'll abuse it so we intend to propose amendments to restrict the ability of the government to use our cellphones ... by limiting it to legitimate means such as public emergencies," Baillie said.

The amendments are under consideration by the legislature's law amendments committee.