Telus Wanted to ‘Mobilize Western Alienation Activists’ to Fight Rogers-Shaw Deal

Telus tried to “kill, slow and shape” Rogers’s proposed $26 billion acquisition of Shaw Communications, according to an internal presentation the company made to its board back in August (via The Globe and Mail).

The presentation was originally marked as confidential. However, it was shared with the public during a virtual meeting today as part of the Competition Tribunal’s ongoing review of the Rogers-Shaw merger.

Chief Justice Paul Crampton, the Federal Court judge overseeing the trial between Rogers-Shaw and the Competition Bureau, decided to make the presentation public to promote transparency following complaints that the hearings had been opaque so far.

The slides detailed what Telus dubbed “Project Fox,” an expansive set of efforts to influence Ottawa’s reception of the Roger-Shaw deal. Project Fox included attempts to convince Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (ISED) that Quebecor shouldn’t be allowed to acquire Freedom Mobile.

Rogers and Shaw proposed the sale of Shaw-owned Freedom Mobile to Quebecor’s Vidéotron as a remedy to antitrust concerns expressed by ISED Canada and the Competition Bureau. “Telus advocacy highlights danger of [Quebecor] as remedy partner; requests Minister not transfer spectrum licenses,” reads a bulletin in the presentation titled “ISED.”

The telecom giant presented a long list of “ideas” to its board as part of the presentation, categorized by their level of “engagement” and “risk.”

Telus wanted to engage “western alienation activists” and try to cultivate opposition to the Rogers-Shaw merger by telling these groups that it would cause layoffs and decreased investment, hurting western Canada in the long term.

The slides also mentioned third-party “research on anticipated job losses” from the merger that would be released publicly and seeding “regulatory/legal analysis” of the deal with “friendly” reporters.

One of the “high” engagement/risk ideas was to engage “meme factories” like North 99, CanadaProud, and the National Meme Board of Canada.

Telus met with “political leaders to kill, shape and slow the deal,” the slides said. As part of Project Fox, Telus also provided talking points against the merger to NDP leader Jagmeet Singh, who repeatedly asked Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to block it.

In addition, Telus attempted to further turn the Bureau against the deal by leveraging the nationwide Rogers network outage in July. and citing security risks associated with eliminating network redundancies.

Among other tactics employed by Telus were billboards placed in Shaw territory that advocated against the merger, as well as a direct mail campaign to residents living in areas served by Shaw.