TekSavvy Solutions Inc. today filed a disclosure to the federal Integrity Commissioner, asking to probe wrongdoing by Ian Scott, Chairperson and Chief Executive Officer of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC).
The filing alleges that Scott broke key federal rules when he held several ex parte meetings with telecom lobbyists and executives from telecom giants. TekSavvy’s argument primarily calls into question Scott’s December 2019 meeting at an Ottawa pub with Mirko Bibic, then-COO, now-CEO of Bell.
What makes the pub meeting suspect is the fact that it 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 internet service providers (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 (both wholesome and consumer).
TekSavvy promptly appealed the move, citing Scott’s meeting with Bibic as evidence of ethical violations at best, and bias at worst.
Last month, Scott said the pub meeting was just “beer with someone I have known for many years,” and 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,” said the CRTC chief.
However, TekSavvy argues in its filing with the federal Integrity Commissioner that Scott misled the INDU committee. TekSavvy accuses Scott of breaking several federal rules, including the CRTC’s internal ethics protocols, the Values and Ethics Code for the Public Sector, and the rule of law.
The Competitive Network Operators of Canada (CNOC) filed an application last month urging Scott to recuse himself from regulatory proceedings on internet rates and competition, but the CRTC chief refused to do so.
TekSavvy provides evidence suggesting Scott tried to conceal his own misconduct after the fact. According to the filing, the records the CRTC provided regarding Scott’s meeting with Bibic were heavily redacted, and the commission also refused to furnish data and details required to verify Scott’s testimony.
Furthermore, the independent telecom operator also notes that the meeting records disclosed by the CRTC were all created after Scott was photographed with Bibic.
TekSavvy’s filing reads:
The meeting was only acknowledged through usual official channels (via the 5:57pm email) once it was already underway… Mr. Bibic appears to notice that he is being photographed; this appears to have prompted Mr. Scott to ask a member of his office staff to send an email confirming the meeting (notably without confirming its start time), containing the usual language advising the other party not to discuss any matter that is currently or imminently before the Commission.
“The CRTC’s role is to be an independent arbiter. Its 2019 rate decision was evidence-based. It would have lowered prices on a basic federal utility for millions of Canadians” said Andy Kaplan-Myrth, TekSavvy’s Vice-President of Regulatory and Carrier Affairs, in a statement to iPhone in Canada.
“Now they’re having beers with Bell and making up numbers, while consumers pay the price.”