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Bell, Telus React to Commons Committee Vote Against Wireless Hearings

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A week ago the federal NDP demanded a special Commons hearing on the Conservative government’s wireless plans, despite Parliament currently being prorogued. The Star reports this evening the House of Commons committee voted down the proposal in less than 22 minutes:

An NDP spokeswoman said the governing Conservatives, who hold a majority of the committee’s seats, rejected the motion at the in-camera meeting.

“It’s really unfortunate that the prime minister is not as interested as we are in dealing with the concerns of Canadians in a public as opposed to private way,” NDP Industry critic Chris Charlton said in an interview.

The NDP claims consumers are worried about pricing, access and security of wireless services and should have their voices heard. Industry Minister James Moore has made it clear the wireless spectrum auction for the coveted 700MHz spectrum will go on as planned, despite ongoing campaigns by incumbents opposing its timeline and rules; the decision to vote down the NDP proposal does not come as a surprise.

Bell responded to the decision and said it is “disappointed” by the decision, calling it a “missed opportunity.”

“The vast majority of Canadians want a level competitive playing field in wireless and don’t want any companies to receive special favours. It’s unfortunate that the government has rejected the chance to engage with Canadians on the public stage and show leadership in this critical national debate,” said George Cope, President and CEO of Bell Canada and BCE.

Telus also released statement on the decision, with Darren Entwistle, TELUS President & CEO saying:

“If media reports are accurate, it is unfortunate that the government has chosen to not convene a Parliamentary Committee on an issue that is of critical importance to all Canadians. We respect the NDP’s efforts to have an open and transparent discussion on this issue and we encourage Ottawa to reflect, open up the conversation and listen to what so many voices in Canada are saying to them. Recent polls clearly show the vast majority of Canadians are aligned with TELUS’ perspective that new competition should be welcomed but that the same rules should apply to foreign and domestic companies in the upcoming auction of Canadian wireless spectrum. TELUS welcomes competition from foreign companies and, indeed, we have been on the record since 2001 calling for foreign ownership restrictions to be lifted. Certainly, as numerous, diverse organizations such as Canada’s largest unions, the Canadian Taxpayers Federation and the Fraser Institute have stated, applying the same rules to both foreign and domestic firms is the best way to promote healthy competition that would be in the best interest of all Canadians. Giving Verizon or another foreign company a two-for-one advantage in the auction of these airwaves is unjust and harmful to Canadians, especially pensioners and people in rural communities. Moreover, it is not consistent with the intrinsic belief Canadians have in fairness. It is not too late for the government to consider the prevailing voice of Canadians and establish a level playing field in the upcoming spectrum auction.”

Earlier today, WIND Mobile CEO Anthony Lacavera lashed out at Bell and Telus for launching an “aggressive and dishonest campaign” in their recent ‘Fair for Canada’ ad campaign, which he also described as “ridiculous.”

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