Evidence of meeting #41 for Industry, Science and Technology in the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was market.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Richard French  Vice-Chair, Telecommunications, Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission
  • Sheridan Scott  Commissioner of Competition, Competition Bureau, Department of Industry

5:15 p.m.

Commissioner of Competition, Competition Bureau, Department of Industry

Sheridan Scott

Generally speaking, I would say that the orientation of the various initiatives is toward greater reliance on market forces and the removal of regulation. That's certainly the direction we think we should move in.

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

Dave Van Kesteren Chatham-Kent—Essex, ON

We were talking about Bill C-41 and the penalties, and we heard $15 million. Is that per occurrence, or would that be a collection of occurrences?

February 5th, 2007 / 5:20 p.m.

Commissioner of Competition, Competition Bureau, Department of Industry

Sheridan Scott

The $15 million is a maximum amount. It's a cap. It cannot be more than $15 million. It would be up to the tribunal to determine what amount it could be. It could be $3 for that matter. It's anywhere from zero to $15 million. Bill C-41 has a number of criteria that the tribunal is to assess in determining what the appropriate amount should be.

Other jurisdictions around the world that do have financial penalties associated with abuse of dominance frequently have an amount that's related to the volume of commerce, like 10% of the volume of commerce. If you look at the bottom lines of the incumbent telephone companies, you'll see that $15 million is probably less than 10% of their volume of commerce.

It would relate to the specific charge that is brought forward, so we would look at it on a charge-by-charge basis. It's not really on a charge—that's more of a criminal concept—but on an order-by-order basis that they would be bringing forward evidence of a particular contravention. It would be on a contravention-by-contravention basis.

5:20 p.m.

Conservative

Dave Van Kesteren Chatham-Kent—Essex, ON

Okay. So if I understand that correctly, then, if a large player, like Bell or Telus, thought they might eliminate the competition, that would hang over their heads.

5:20 p.m.

Commissioner of Competition, Competition Bureau, Department of Industry

Sheridan Scott

It would act as a deterrent. That's correct.

5:20 p.m.

Conservative

Dave Van Kesteren Chatham-Kent—Essex, ON

Right. And do you feel that that is enough? Do you think there's...?

5:20 p.m.

Commissioner of Competition, Competition Bureau, Department of Industry

Sheridan Scott

Well, they would probably have other things on their minds. If they were contemplating eliminating the competition, they might find people moving for re-regulation. So I suspect that would also act as a disincentive.

5:20 p.m.

Conservative

Dave Van Kesteren Chatham-Kent—Essex, ON

Okay. Do you have enough tools, do you feel? Do you have enough tools to implement this and to make sure that this is going to be respected and...?

5:20 p.m.

Commissioner of Competition, Competition Bureau, Department of Industry

Sheridan Scott

Well, I'd hate to say that I have enough, because I suspect that they'll come back again and again asking for more, so I don't want to limit my options at this stage.

What I can tell you is that since 1986, the only consequence of breaching the abuse-of-dominance provisions has been the issuance of a cease-and-desist order. There's another separate power that allows for some divestitures, but that has never been used, and I don't suspect that it ever would be. So really, the only power the tribunal had was to say to stop doing that on a forward-looking basis. I see the addition of administrative penalties as being a step in the right direction.

5:20 p.m.

Conservative

Dave Van Kesteren Chatham-Kent—Essex, ON

Madam Commissioner, do you feel that deregulation is happening too quickly?

5:20 p.m.

Commissioner of Competition, Competition Bureau, Department of Industry

Sheridan Scott

Do I think that deregulation is happening too quickly? Well, we don't yet have deregulation. This is a proposed test that has.... With respect to local telephony, if you're talking about that, we already have a number of telecommunications markets deregulated. I think Canadians have seen huge benefits from deregulation in these markets. With respect to local telephony, the future is still to be. It's a proposed direction and will have to go back to the CRTC to be administered.

5:20 p.m.

Conservative

Dave Van Kesteren Chatham-Kent—Essex, ON

Okay.

Thank you.

5:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair James Rajotte

Thank you, Mr. Van Kesteren.

We'll go to M. Crête.

5:20 p.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

If Bill C-41 is not passed, you'll be more or less like a declawed cat.

5:20 p.m.

Commissioner of Competition, Competition Bureau, Department of Industry

Sheridan Scott

No, my agency will be the same as it is now. I don't feel like a declawed cat.