TORONTO (Reuters) - Canada is determined to get its rules on foreign investment right, but the country’s new industry minister on Tuesday refused to say how he would rule in two crucial decisions coming up in the telecoms space.
Christian Paradis, who replaced Tony Clement after the May 2 election, will have to decide on rules for auctioning airwaves to be used for wireless service and on whether to loosen curbs on foreign ownership in the sector.
“Foreign ownership...remains an important piece of this puzzle, and one that I am personally committed to getting right,” Paradis told the Canadian Telecom Summit in Toronto in his first speech as industry minister.
Canada’s Conservative government has long championed the idea of greater competition in telecoms — a sector that is dominated by Rogers Communications, BCE Inc’s Bell Canada and Telus.
But they have appeared more cautious since rejecting a $39 billion overseas bid for Potash Corp last November. The party translated its minority status into a majority in the May election, so no longer needs opposition support to push legislation through.
Paradis said he would be working on issues surrounding the telecoms sector for “the next few months,” but gave no timeline for either decision, or on release of a new digital strategy.
He said the election, and the cabinet shuffle that followed it, had pushed the two decisions back.
“There is a new cabinet, a new government, so we have to work with new colleagues,” he said. “We won’t go with the new auctions without addressing that (foreign ownership) issue.... It’s a priority, so we are working on that.”
Paradis seemed eager to balance the lure of competition against the threat that established players might reduce investment in infrastructure if there was more competition.
He said he had heard from industry executives such as Rogers’ Rob Bruce, who wants the auction to proceed without restriction.
Paradis would not bite on his likely response on another big deal that needs approval from his office, the London Stock Exchange’s bid to buy the Toronto Stock Exchange.
“This is a process that is being assessed by the provincial authorities and there is a law, the Investment Act, and it will have to be monitored according to the law,” he said.
Reporting by Alastair Sharp; editing by Janet Guttsman