Innovation, Science and Economic Minister Navdeep Bains proposed a new ‘policy order’ requiring the CRTC to consider “competition, affordability, consumer interest and innovation” when making decisions.

Bains announced the proposed order during Question Period in the House of Commons on February 22nd.

According to ‘Section 8’ of the Telecommunications Act, the Governor in Council, “may, by order, issue to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) “directions of general application on broad policy matters with respect to the Canadian telecommunications policy objectives.”

Bains’ proposal states that the CRTC must follow ‘Section 7’ of the act, which states several objectives the regulatory body must follow, including encouraging all forms of competition, fostering affordability and lower prices, ensuring affordable access to telecommunication services, enhancing and protecting rights of consumers and other points.

The section state that “the commission, when relying on regulation, should demonstrate its compliance with this order and should specify how the measures used can, as applicable, promote competition, affordability, consumer interests and innovation.”

The last time a telecom order was put in place by then-Conservative Member of Parliament and Industry Minister Maxime Bernier in 2006, it focused on “market forces and encouraging facilities-based investments.”

.@NavdeepSBains just said during QP that the government has announced a new “policy directive” that will require the #CRTC to consider “competition, affordability, consumer interest and innovation.” This is wonky, but significant, IMO.

— Christine Dobby (@christinedobby) February 26, 2019

In a press release, Bains said the government’s intention is to focus on “improving the quality, coverage, and most importantly, the price of telecommunications services for Canadians — no matter where they live.”

“We are giving clear direction to the CRTC that Canadian consumers must be at the forefront of all future decisions. We are ensuring that telecommunications policy will be made through a consumer-first lens to ensure Canadians have access to quality services at more affordable prices,” Bains said in the release.

The proposed directive comes nearly a week after the CRTC released its report on unsavoury and misleading telecom sales practices. In the report, the Commission said, “it is apparent that misleading or aggressive retail sales practices are present in the telecommunications service provider market in Canada.”

Those interested will be allowed to comment on the proposed order within 30 days “after the date of publication of notice in the Canada Gazette.”

Image credit: Andrew Meade

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