TekSavvy Provides Liberal Government With Clear Evidence Of CRTC Chair’s bias

TekSavvy today filed additional evidence with the Liberal Government in support of its May 28 Petition to the Governor in Council regarding the CRTC’s recent wholesale rates decision (Decision 2021-181). That decision stunned observers by completely reversing the CRTC’s own 2019 Final Rates Order, which had already been upheld on appeal by the Federal Court of Appeal, and which the Federal Cabinet and the Supreme Court of Canada declined to review. TekSavvy’s Petition asks Cabinet to overrule the CRTC’s arbitrary Decision 2021-181, to reinstate its evidence-based 2019 Final Rates Order and to remove Chair Ian Scott for bias. 

Today, TekSavvy submitted further evidence to Cabinet regarding Mr. Scott’s bias.  TekSavvy noted that Mr. Scott held numerous ex parte meetings with litigants with open CRTC files, apparently unaccompanied, according to lobbying records. In particular, Mr. Scott held at least 11 reported solo meetings with Bell, Rogers or Shaw during the course of the CRTC’s open and active file, which resulted in Decision 2021-181  and that completely reversed its own evidence-based, years-in-the-making 2019 Final Rates Order. The decision also directly undermined Cabinet’s mandate and direction to the CRTC to promote affordable pricing and competition.

Remarkably, at least one of Mr. Scott’s ex parte meetings took place in a social setting, alone, with the CEO of one of the primary litigants in the open file. Mr. Scott met one-on-one with Mirko Bibic, then chief operating officer of Bell (and now CEO) at D’Arcy McGee’s, an Ottawa bar on December 19, 2019. The meeting occurred just one week after the CRTC opened an active file to hear Bell’s application to reverse the 2019 Final Rates Order, which the regulator arbitrarily approved in Decision 2021-181.

This meeting, in the middle of a contentious proceeding with hundreds of millions of dollars at stake, is described in recent media reports by former Commissioners, as offside the CRTC’s internal norms, policies and practices. One former Chair noted that he “would include a third party, typically the CRTC’s general counsel, in lobbying meetings with industry.” Another former Commissioner and vice-chair of telecom said the CRTC’s recommended practice was to meet with lobbyists in the office and to have a third person present, such that an ex-parte meeting at a bar “would fall into the category of high-risk behaviour.” 

Other media reports describe the harmful impact of Mr. Scott’s private meetings on the CRTC’s integrity and reputation. One article underscores that it is impossible for anyone to know what was discussed, noting with respect to Mr. Scott and Mr. Bibic, “De quoi ont-ils discuté ? Impossible de le savoir.” Another article notes that this conduct has caused a crisis at the CRTC that will undermine public confidence, “[U]n manque de confiance qui pourrait faire mal.”

TekSavvy submitted that Mr. Scott’s ex parte meeting with Mr. Bibic is also clearly offside the standards of conduct required by the Governor in Council for its appointees to the CRTC, as confirmed by Cabinet’s termination of one Commissioner’s appointment for far less egregious conduct in 2017. In fact, both the Federal Court and Cabinet have explicitly recognized the concern of bias raised by ex parte meetings between Commissioners and stakeholders with open files before the CRTC, as the Federal Court described such conduct as “very troubling.”

TekSavvy respectfully reiterated its request that Cabinet quickly take the steps outlined in its Petition and in particular, to overturn the CRTC’s arbitrary Decision 2021-181 and reinstate its evidence-based, pro-consumer 2019 Rates Order and to remove Mr. Scott as chair. 

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