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Feds looking into multi-billion dollar sale of communications giant to rival company

The Competition Bureau in Federal Court affidavits seeks confidential data from four telecom companies as part of its review of the deal.

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The feds are looking into the $26 billion buyout of Alberta-based Shaw Communications by rival Rogers Communications, said Blacklock’s Reporter report.

The Competition Bureau in Federal Court affidavits seeks confidential data from four telecom companies as part of its review of the deal.

“In the Bureau’s previous investigation of Bell’s 2016 proposed acquisition of Manitoba Telecom Services, the Bureau concluded where Bell, Telus and Rogers face competition from a strong regional competitor, prices are substantially lower,” wrote Laura Sonley, a bureau investigator.

The Bureau filed notice on four telecom firms: Telus Corporation, BCE Inc., Xplornet Communications Inc. and Quebecor Inc., operator of Fizz mobile service in Québec. Investigators asked that a federal judge compel the companies to submit records “about marketing strategies, competitive strengths and weaknesses, customers won and lost” and “pricing policies” against competitors.

“The Commissioner is investigating the likely substantial lessening or prevention of competition arising from the proposed transaction,” said the affidavit.

Rogers said last March 15 it would buy Shaw, subject to federal approval under the Competition Act and Telecommunications Act. Shaw dominates cable service in the four Western provinces. The buyout would leave two large competitors, Bell and Telus.

“Obviously a lot of Canadians are concerned,” Liberal MP Ali Ehsassi (Willowdale, Ont.), parliamentary secretary for industry, told telecom executives at a March 29 hearing of the Commons industry committee. “Would you agree with me that less competition should very much concern Canadians?”

Replied Joe Natale, CEO of Rogers: “I think the most important factor around competition is having strong players that have the ability to invest in the future with new technologies and new ideas.”

“Your company is pretty profitable, correct?” asked MP Ehsassi. “I would agree that our company is very competitive,” replied CEO Natale.

“But it is profitable?” asked MP Ehsassi. “It is profitable,” replied Natale. Rogers last year reported pre-tax net income of $2.2 billion. CEO Natale was paid $11.7 million in salary and benefits.

Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre (Carleton, Ont.), who requested the committee hearings, earlier told reporters the “status quo is unacceptable” in telecom services. “We don’t have a free market in telecommunications,” said Poilievre. “We have a protected, regulated oligarchy.”

“Let’s be honest,” said Poilievre. “This model has not particularly performed well. We have among the highest prices, and among the poorest coverage in the developed world.”

Canadians pay an average $2,123 a year for telecom services, by CRTC estimate, including $69 per month for internet, $49 a month for mobile services, $34 for telephone landlines and $25 for cable TV.

Mike D’Amour is the British Columbia Bureau Chief for the Western Standard.
mdamour@westernstandardonline.com

Mike D'Amour is the British Columbia Bureau Chief and Copy Editor for the Western Standard. He worked as an investigative crime reporter at the Calgary & Winnipeg Suns. mdamour@westernstandardonline.com

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Left Coast

    July 26, 2021 at 9:51 am

    Poilievre. “We have a protected, regulated oligarchy.”

    Solution . . . flush the CRTC and allow the competition access to the Canadian Market. Giving market access to only Cdn Companies who fleece the Dumb Canooks is just silly.

    No one in Govt worried about Canadian Content in our major Cities when they were welcoming in the Grifters of the World at Roxham Road.

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LIVE: Election night 2021

Starting at 5:30 p.m.

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Vaccine passports now mandatory in Alberta

In place of a vaccine passport, a negative test result from a privately-paid rapid test within 72 hours of service will be adequate or a person will need to show a valid medical exemption.

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The Alberta government’s new vaccine mandates for businesses, entities and events are in effect.

Each organization must follow one of two options: implement the Restriction Exemption Program (REP) requiring proof of vaccination or negative test result, plus mandatory masking, to continue operating as usual, or comply with all public health restrictions as outlined in Order 42-2021.

In place of a vaccine passport, a negative test result from a privately-paid rapid test within 72 hours of service will be adequate or a person will need to show a valid medical exemption.

The REP allows operators to avoid the majority of public health restrictions with the implementation of a proof of vaccination program, although vaccine requirements for staff are at the employer’s discretion. Face mask mandates are still required in all indoor spaces.

The program doesn’t apply to those under 12 years of age and businesses that need to be accessed by the public for daily living purposes, including all retail locations. As well, employees, contractors, repair or delivery workers, volunteers or inspectors will be permitted access to spaces without requiring a vaccine passport.

To enter spaces participating in the REP, adults need to provide valid photo identification that matches their paper or digital vaccine record showing name, vaccine type and date of administration. From now until October 25, proof of partial vaccination (one dose) will suffice, however after that date, proof of full vaccination (two doses) will be required. Those under 12 will only need to show vaccination paperwork.

Indoor entertainment, event and recreation facilities that don’t implement the REP will be limited to one-third capacity of their fire code occupancy and attendees must be in household cohorts or with up to two close contacts if they live alone.

Outdoor events and facilities have no capacity restrictions, but attendees must maintain a two-metre distancing between households.  

Restaurants that don’t follow the REP cannot offer indoor dining, and outdoor dining will be limited to six people per table from one household, and liquor sales will have to end by 10 p.m. with consumption cut off by 11 p.m.

Retail, shopping malls and food courts aren’t eligible for the REP, therefore will be reduced to one-third capacity of fire code occupancy and are required to stop all in-person dining, switching to take out only.

Indoor private social gatherings will be permitted for those that are vaccinated to a maximum of two households up to 10 (vaccine eligible) vaccinated people. There are no restrictions for children under 12. For those who are unvaccinated, indoor social gatherings are not permitted.

Private outdoor social gatherings are limited to a maximum of 200 people who are socially distanced.  

Churches will be limited to one-third of fire code capacity and masks and social distancing are still mandatory in places of worship.

Employees are mandated to work from home unless their physical presence is required for their duties.

Proof of vaccination will not be required to enter a polling place for Monday’s federal election although physical distancing, masking and other transmission reducing measures will be in place.

For more information on the Restriction Exemption Program, click here.   

Risdon is a reporter at the Western Standard
mrisdon@westernstandardonline.com

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Hockey arena backs down on banning unvaccinated kids

Within hours of the Western Standard posting the exclusive story, Oaten was contacted by the SLSFSC and advised of an update to their policy.

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Public pressure has brought minor hockey out of the penalty box in Cochrane.

Following an exclusive story by the Western Standard on Saturday, along with mounting pressure from the community, a Cochrane sports facility has revamped its vaccine passport policy.  

The Cochrane Minor Hockey Association (CMHA) and Hockey Alberta were not mandating a vaccine passport system, but Spray Lake Sawmills Family Sports Centre (SLSFSC) announced it would be requiring proof of vaccine status for anyone 12 and up.

Within hours of the story being posted, CMHS President Cory Oaten was contacted by the SLSFSC and advised of an update to their policy with this statement: “Youth between the ages of 12 (vaccine eligible) to 18 years of age are exempt from the REP vaccination requirement to enter the facility for the purpose of participating in a youth organized sport organization. Examples include (but not limited to) Cochrane Minor Hockey, Ringette, Cochrane Minor Soccer, Lacrosse, Cochrane Figure Skating Club, Comets, Junior Lifeguard Club, etc.”

Although youth may access the facility without being vaccinated, all adult spectators, coaches, volunteers and organizers of any youth activity “must show proof of vaccination, proof of a negative test, or medical exemption to gain entry to SLSFSC premises.”

“Although this helps our kids get on the ice in Cochrane, it’s still an issue at lots of other facilities, especially in larger facilities in Calgary and Airdrie,” Oaten said.

Oaten, who works in the insurance industry, points out the “huge liability issue” this poses to his and other sports organizations.

“Originally, Spray Lakes pushed us to collect this medical documentation from our members,” he said.

The CMHA board consists of 18 volunteer members.

“They can’t put those expectations on a board of volunteers. It’s a big legal issue for us,” Oaten said, adding he and his board refuse to take responsibility for requiring proof of vaccine or the collection of their members’ private medical information.

Oaten was informed the SLSFSC will now have its own security checkpoints set up in the facility and will take responsibility for checking the vaccine status of anyone 18-plus entering the building.

Oaten anticipates families will still pull their kids from hockey and other sports programs as those who remain unvaccinated will not be permitted in the facility to accompany their child.

Hockey Alberta stated on their Facebook page they are working with the Alberta government on how last Wednesday’s announcement will affect hockey for Alberta players. Oaten has asked his members to hold off on making a decision to pull their child from the program until Hockey Alberta comes forward with their updated season plan.

The Western Standard reached out to the SLSFSC for comment but did not hear back in time for publication.

Risdon is a reporter for the Western Standard
mrisdon@westernstandardonline.com

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