Minister Champagne sides with Rogers over Canadian public
Approval of the Rogers-Shaw buyout is a massive blow to telecommunications affordability and competition in Canada
March 31, 2023 — Today Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry François-Philippe Champagne approved the long-contested Rogers-Shaw buyout, outlining minimal conditions for the deal’s approval. The decision also outlines the conditions for selling mobile provider Freedom Mobile to Vidéotron, while allowing the majority of the deal to move forward as originally outlined. The decision is the final stage of government approval for the deal, following prior rulings by the Competition Tribunal and the CRTC.
“This is a dark day for the Internet in Canada. Today’s decision is the largest blow to telecommunications competition and affordability we’ve ever seen,” said OpenMedia Executive Director Laura Tribe. “Minister Champagne has turned his back on Canadians, and has crowned Rogers the effective ‘king’ of Canada’s internet – the single largest company in our already overly centralized market. It’s hard to reconcile this week’s federal budget filled with promises of affordability measures, with such a direct assault on choice and affordability for Internet connectivity. It’s a massive betrayal that’s only made worse coming from a government that has long-promised improved telecom affordability. Despite press releases claiming otherwise, Minister Champagne’s putting the nail in the coffin of competition in telecommunications in Canada. At this point, there’s only one thing he can do to save our downward spiraling telecom sector: full-scale competition reform in Canada. Without it, we could easily be looking at a Bell and Telus merger next.”
While Minister Champagne is claiming that his proposed terms of this deal are conditions of approval, a number of these terms were actually part of the original proposal in 2021 from Rogers. This includes the $1Bn commitment for investment in rural, remote, and Indigenous connectivity, an investment in 5G network expansion, and maintaining a head office in Western Canada.
The Competition Bureau, Canada’s competition watchdog, opposed the Rogers-Shaw deal in full. Unfortunately, the Competition Tribunal ruled that the deal could go through, which was reinforced earlier this year when the Federal Court of Appeal rejected the Competition Bureau’s appeal of the Competition Tribunal’s decision on the buyout. Weaknesses in Canada’s competition law are a key barrier to blocking giant acquisitions such as Rogers-Shaw, even if they are not in the public interest.
Since the Rogers-Shaw buyout was initially proposed in March 2021, OpenMedia and allies have delivered over 83,000 messages from concerned people in Canada calling on policymakers to block the Rogers-Shaw deal. A further 10,000 members of OpenMedia’s community have signed a petition calling on Minister Champagne to take concrete action to curb the dominance of telecom giants like Rogers, Bell, Telus, and Quebecor. And over 23,800 actions taken by the OpenMedia and Ekō communities in support of the Anti-Monopoly Charter.