BUSINESS

James Moore, Industry Minister, Says Wireless Battle Will Go On, Praises Corporate Donation Ban

09/18/2013 03:53 EDT | Updated 09/18/2013 04:52 EDT
CP

OTTAWA — The Conservative government will look for opportunities to defend Canadian consumers from now on, Industry Minister James Moore told a business audience Wednesday.

Pointing to the Tories’ telecom policy, which — much to the chagrin of Rogers, Bell and Telus — set aside a special block of spectrum for regional and new entrants to encourage more competition, Moore said the federal government was focused on “putting consumers first.”

Moore appeared also to give the Tories credit for a ban on corporate donations in federal elections, which had been instituted by the previous Liberal government.

“In the months ahead, we will continue to move forward on a path that ensures that consumers’ interests are at the core,” he told a gathering of the Canadian Club of Ottawa. “Not only of our telecommunications policy but also other government decisions.”

Moore pointed to past action on consumer product safety and truth in airline pricing.

Speaking to reporters later, the Minister wouldn’t offer specifics but said the government planned to enforce anti-spam legislation and he left the door open on addressing high roaming rates.

“We’ll see, certainly our roaming rates are a source of debate and frustration.”

Glenn Thibeault, the NDP critic for consumer protection, told HuffPost the Tories have never been pro-consumer.

"[At] a moment of political desperation — they are reeling from scandals in the Senate and the Prime Minister's Office — they are really trying to change the channel," Thibeault said.

The Tories killed a 2009 NDP air passengers' bill of rights and voted down a 2009 motion that aimed to protect credit card customers, the NDP MP said.

"I don't think they have any real interest in trying to help consumers."

Moore said the government's contentious wireless spectrum auction would go on as planned this January. A list of all the applicants will be made public Monday.

“The auction rules will not change,” he said.

The big three telecom companies lobbied the government extensively to scrap the auction rules and launched an aggressive public relations campaign this summer after rumours that U.S. wireless giant Verizon was contemplating a move into Canada.

Moore told the crowd that since becoming industry minister in July, the virtue of the government’s decision to ban corporate donations to federal political parties had become “painfully, and very clearly apparent to me.”

“(W)e can now make policy decisions that are in the best interest of all Canadians and are not beholden to the pressures of the political finance,” Moore said, to silence from the room.

It was the Liberals, under Jean Chrétien, who banned corporate and union donations to political parties and leadership candidates. The Tories, under Prime Minister Stephen Harper, closed a loophole that allowed corporations to give a total of $1,000 to a party candidate, nomination contestant and riding association.

Moore told reporters that because the federal government doesn’t have to worry about big donations from corporate Canada, he’s not beholden to the big three telecoms or companies in any other industry.

Still, Moore appears to be mending fences with the telecom giants. He’s had dinner with Nadir Mohamed, the president and CEO of Rogers Communications, and has a lunch with Telus’ CEO Darren Entwistle planned in Vancouver.

“In spite of the perception of things, we get along fine,” Moore said. “We have areas of disagreement. They have an obligation to their shareholders but we have an obligation to all Canadians.”

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