CRTC Chair May Have Violated Conflict of Interest Act, Says Integrity Commissioner
The Office of the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner of Canada has escalated TekSavvy’s complaint of misconduct and a breach of conflict of interest laws, against Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) chair Ian Scott, to the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner (CIEC).
“Since your allegation with regard to Mr. Scott’s ex parte meetings may concern a possible breach of the Conflict of Interest Act, I must refer your disclosure to the Office of the CIEC,” the Integrity Commissioner told TekSavvy, according to a press release sent out Thursday.
The CIEC told TekSavvy that “the Commissioner considers all matters referred by the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner in order to determine if there is reason to believe that the Act has been contravened.”
The CIEC is responsible for enforcing the Conflict of Interest Act, which states that “a public office holder is in a conflict of interest when he or she exercises an official power, duty or function that provides an opportunity to further his or her private interests or those of his or her relatives or friends or to improperly further another person’s private interests.”
TekSavvy’s complaint alleges that Scott broke key federal rules when he held several meetings with telecom lobbyists and executives from telecom giants. TekSavvy’s argument primarily questions Scott’s December 2019 meeting at an Ottawa pub with Mirko Bibic, then-COO, now-CEO of Bell.
The pub meeting in question took place just one week after the CRTC opened an active file to hear Bell’s application to reverse the Commission’s 2019 decision to lower wholesale internet rates paid to Canada’s ‘Big 3’ by smaller ISPs.
Shortly after the meeting, the CRTC “arbitrarily” approved Bell’s request and reversed its previous decision, resulting in less competition and higher internet rates for both wholesale buyers like TekSavvy and the end user.
TekSavvy was quick to appeal the decision, petitioning the federal government to remove Scott while citing the CRTC chair’s meeting with Bibic as evidence of ethical violations at best, and bias at worst. TekSavvy launched a complaint against Scott with the federal Integrity Commissioner earlier this year in March.
In February, Scott claimed that “no rule was ever broken” and that the pub meeting with Bibic was just “beer with someone I have known for many years.”
The CRTC chair later defended himself before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Industry and Technology (INDU). During the proceeding, Scott insisted that he did nothing wrong by meeting with Bibic. “I meet with everyone pursuant to the rules,” the CRTC chief testified.
Scott’s alleged misconduct has caused much uproar in the industry, with TekSavvy and other groups like the Competitive Network Operators of Canada (CNOC) demanding that he recuse himself from proceedings and rulings on internet competition.