Foreign ownership: Another broken promise of the Conservatives

OTTAWA, March 3 /CNW Telbec/ - The intention stated by the Conservatives in today's Throne Speech to weaken Canada's foreign ownership regulations in telecommunications constitutes yet another attack on Canada's sovereignty, and will threaten the privacy and security enjoyed until now by Canadians under the protection of the Telecommunications Act, say the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada (CEP).

In September 2008, while campaigning in Halifax during the last elections, Stephen Harper said he had no plans to would not ease foreign-ownership restrictions for telecommunications companies. "Evidently, that was yet another broken electoral promise from the Conservatives", said CEP President, Dave Coles.

According to Coles, personal and business data is of paramount importance in the telecom industry, which is a central part of the information economy. "Even the Mulroney government understood this when it introduced a comprehensive policy document that argued that 'the government's longstanding view that domestic ownership of Canada's telecommunications infrastructure is essential to national sovereignty and security'."

CEP views telecommunications as a part of a nation's plans to protect the critical information infrastructure. It would be risky to Canadian national security to allow that infrastructure to be controlled by non-Canadians. South of the border, the U.S. understands how critical a backbone the telecommunications architecture is for their country. Section 310 of the Communications Act imposes foreign ownership restrictions on U.S. common carrier licensees, prohibiting foreign governments, individuals and corporations from directly owning more than 20% of the stock, or holding more than 25% of the indirect investment of a common carrier.

Today's announcement also has direct implications for broadcasting. As the telecommunications industry is now integrated with the broadcasting industry, the separation between telephones, Internet, music and broadcasting has all but disappeared. Allowing foreign ownership in one industry paves the way to foreign ownership in the other. Indeed, the U.S. Communications Act make no difference whatsoever between common carriers and the broadcasters licensees in its foreign ownership regulations.

SOURCE Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada

For further information: For further information: Dave Coles, CEP President - (613) 299-5628

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