Minister Champagne repeats the need for affordability on Rogers-Shaw merger

Minister Champagne spoke at the Collision conference in Toronto

Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, François-Philippe Champagne, said his main focus of all the transactions surrounding Rogers takeover of Shaw is affordability.

“My role is to make sure that rates are affordable, and in Canada, that we have more competition and innovation,” he told reporters at the Collision conference in Toronto.

Speaking on the sale of Freedom Mobile to Québecor lead to a similar answer, with Champagne telling the crowd his department will examine telecom affordability when a submission is made about the sale.

“What is going to be framing our decision is going to make sure that rates are more affordable [and] that we have more competition in Canada that can foster innovation for decades to come.”

Champagne has repeated these words a number of times in the last weeks, an idea that was also shared in a report the industry and technology committee tabled in March, asking Champagne to reject the merger if Shaw’s wireless licenses for Freedom Mobile aren’t sold off.

Rogers since agreed to sell Freedom to Montreal-based Québecor and the deal is waiting on approval from regulatory bodies. But whether or not the sale will answer Champagne’s quest for affordability is yet to be determined.

According to reporting from the Toronto Star, critics say the side deal won’t bring lower wireless prices for Canadians.

John Lawford, executive director of the Public Interest Advocacy Centre, told the publication Québecor won’t be as aggressive as an independent competitor because if the company impacts the wireless services of the Big Three outside of Quebec, they can reduce their prices and take their valuable customers in Quebec.

David Soberman, professor of marketing at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management, also told the publication he doesn’t believe the transaction will reduce prices.

“If what we’re looking for is a situation where there’s truly competition and truly a reduction in phone rates, I don’t think this is going to have much of an effect,” he told the Toronto Star.

The $26-billion Rogers-Shaw merger is also facing pushback from the Competition Bureau over claims the Rogers and Shaw merger will reduce competition.