Former CRTC Chair Says He Never Had Private Business Meetings in Bars

Current CRTC chair Ian Scott recently justified his decision to have a beer with a Bell executive (now the company’s current CEO Mirko Bibic) in an Ottawa pub years ago, saying it was just a drink with a friend.

Scott told the Toronto Star earlier this month, “The simple answer is that nothing inappropriate was done,” adding “I went for a beer with someone I have known for many years…and it ended up he chose to address a broadcasting issue a little of what Bell might be doing in the future.”

“However, because we talked about business he (Bibic) properly recorded this as required by the lobbyist registration,” said the CRTC chair. “It was in my agenda and left in my agenda. I didn’t hide the fact it took place,” added Scott.

“At no time did I have a discussion with Bell about a file I have in front of us. I don’t. I never have. And I never will,” explained Scott. “No rule was ever broken.”

While Scott says his conduct was within the realm of doing everything by the book, former CRTC chair Jean-Pierre Blais, who recently brought himself back into headlines by denouncing a recent Bell acquisition, has a completely different stance on where and when to take business meetings.

Gerry Frappier, the former president of RDS for Bell Media, got into a war of words with Blais on LinkedIn, in the comments where EXOX CEO Jean-Philippe Béïque detailed stepping down, after being acquired by Bell.

Blais originally replied, “Very sad. Another example that the competitive framework in the telecommunications sector is failing hard working Canadian men and women.”

That’s when Frappier responded to Blais with, “Those big players who spend billions to create telecommunications infrastructure should be compensated how Jean-Pierre? At some point, government policy can’t be about vouloir le beurre et l’argent du beurre,” said the former Bell executive.

“There are big players who don’t actually compete on price and quality. They instead use their deep pockets to [crush] small players in the courts to delay competition. Or to buy up competition to remove them from the marketplace. Or worse, to have inappropriate meetings with regulators to always have it their way. Winning by lobbying is not a healthy marketplace. You were part of the problem so [don’t] now purport to be part of the solution,” shot back Blais.

That’s when Frappier retorted, “Wow Jean-Pierre, that’s quite the response! Concerning “inappropriate meetings with the regulator”, we’ll, you were the chief regulator so I gather you had the option to not take the meetings or, to simply hear out their positions and arguments and then choose to consider them or not.”

Frappier added, “That to me sounds like a healthy, honest process, recognizing that you / CRTC had complete discretion on your ultimate decisions. I fail to see what is “inappropriate “ about that. As for telling me that I was part of the problem, well I am frankly taken aback a bit but will refrain from further comment on this. Have a nice weekend.”

That’s when Blais responded with, “I never took private inappropriate meetings without an agenda and witnesses. I conducted business in business places. Not in bars or restaurants. Your comment proves you have no understanding where the line is drawn under the rules of natural justice and procedural fairness.”

In early February, the Competitive Network Operators of Canada (CNOC) filed an application calling for Scott to recuse himself from proceedings and rulings on internet competition or be removed by the commission. The request was rejected by the CRTC.

Professor Michael Geist from the University of Ottawa spotted the latest reply from Blais on LinkedIn, and shared a screenshot of Scott’s recent ‘meeting in a bar’ headline and the former chair’s business practices, saying it was “a tale of two CRTC chairs.”