TekSavvy asks integrity commissioner to investigate CRTC chair for wrongdoing

The matter relates to Ian Scott's meeting with Bell CEO, and various other telecom companies

TekSavvy asks the federal integrity commissioner to investigate Ian Scott, the Canadian Radio-television Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) chair.

The independent service provider claims Scott committed wrongdoing under section 33 of the Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act (PSDPA).

As evidence, its filing states Scott held “ex parte meetings” with companies that had open files with the CRTC, including at least 11 recorded solo meetings with Bell, Rogers, and Shaw. The meetings occurred during the CRTC’s ongoing discussions on wholesale internet rates.

The interactions include the heavily criticized meeting between Scott and Bell CEO Mirko Bibic in December 2019. The meeting came after the CRTC reversed a decision stating internet rates were too high. 

A BCE communications report reported the meeting as “lobbying communication.”

TekSavvy states this meeting didn’t apply with various rules outlined by the CRTC and the PSDPA.

Scott told the Toronto Star the meeting didn’t breach rules, an explanation he further extended to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Industry and Technology.

Access to information requests

TekSavvy says it filed an access to information request in June 2021 with the CRTC asking for details on the communications BCE posted. It received an email confirming the December 19th meeting, but the CRTC redacted the recipient’s information. The CRTC sent the email at 5:57 p.m. ET, on the day Scott and Bibic met.

Four months after TekSavvy received the response, the CRTC also provided a redacted internal entry from Scott’s calendar with the partial subject line “meeting with incoming CEO of Bell.”

“Each of those categories clearly contemplate records conveying substantial meaning, rather than basic factual information about the existence of a meeting,” the filing states.

Given no other records were provided showing who initiated the meeting, TekSavvy says it’s only logical to assume the meeting between Scott and Bibi was set up personally or by their staff without any records providing details.

The file also claims the email CRTC staff sent to the unknown individual (allegedly Bibic) only came after someone photographed the meeting, calling it a “retroactive attempt” to ensure Scott followed the rules.

Scott and Bibic meeting at an Ottawa bar. Image credit: TekSavvy

The filing also states Scott allegedly held other ex parte solo meetings with Bell, Rogers, Telus, and Shaw while the commission discussed other matters relating to wholesale competition.

“The CRTC’s role is to be an independent arbiter. Its 2019 rate decision was evidence-based. It would have lowered prices on a basic federal utility for millions of Canadians,” Andy Kaplan-Myrth, TekSavvy’s vice-president of regulatory and carrier affairs, said in a statement. “Now they’re having beers with Bell and making up numbers, while consumers pay the price.”

Various calls of wrongdoing

This isn’t the first time Scott has faced questions of ethics. The Competitive Network Operators of Canada filed a request with the CRTC last month, asking Scott to recuse himself or the commission recuse him on decisions relating to internet competition. The CRTC denied this request, stating that Scott himself can only make the decision.

Asked why the TekSavvy made the filing at this time, Kaplan-Myrth told MobileSyrup the timing isn’t tied to a single factor but the emergence of information from various sources.

“Now more information has come to light….Given the emerging picture suggested by all of this information taken together, we decided to make the Integrity Commissioner aware.”

The CRTC told MobileSyrup it has no comment at this time.

Image credit: CRTC (screenshot)

Source: TekSavvy