Manitoba

NDP MP Niki Ashton asks federal Liberals to review MTS sale to BCE

Manitoba NDP MP Niki Ashton is calling on the federal Liberals to study BCE’s planned takeover of Manitoba Telecom Services, saying the deal could lead to job losses and increased prices.

Ashton calls on Minister Navdeep Bains to conduct public study before rubber-stamping deal

Manitoba NDP MP Niki Ashton is calling on the federal Liberals to study BCE's planned takeover of Manitoba Telecom Services, saying the deal could lead to job losses and increased prices. 2:30

Manitoba NDP MP Niki Ashton is calling on the federal Liberals to study BCE's planned takeover of Manitoba Telecom Services, saying the deal could lead to job losses and increased prices.

The deal, announced Monday, is valued at $3.9 billion and would put Manitoba's largest phone, internet and wireless provider in the hands of Canada's largest telecom company.

Ashton wants the Liberals to look at the deal first.

"Canadians already pay some of the highest wireless prices in the world. Greater competition in Manitoba means that we paid lower prices than other parts of the country, but the proposed takeover of MTS by Bell could erase this advantage," she said during Question Period Wednesday.

The same day the takeover was announced, MTS issued service bulletins for its residential and business customers saying prices would increase for a variety of services effective July 2016.
Canada’s minister responsible for economic development, Liberal MP Navdeep Bains, said ensuring competition for Manitobans was their “number one concern," but would not agree to a public study. (CBC)

"Will the Liberals commit to a public study of this potential takeover? Or will they rubber stamp this deal and stand with well-connected business interests instead of standing up for Manitoba jobs and Manitoba consumers?" Ashton asked.

Canada's minister responsible for economic development, Liberal MP Navdeep Bains, said ensuring competition for Manitobans was their "number one concern."

"While the government does not comment on individual company's plans, such transactions would be subject to all regulatory approvals. We'll be looking carefully to make sure the concerns of Manitobans are addressed," he said. "The government supports competition, choice, availability of service. We want to make sure we have a climate that's good, not only for businesses, but for consumers as well."

NDP MP Brianne Masse shot back that standing up for competition required action, "not words anymore."

For the takeover to go ahead, it would require approval from the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, the Competition Bureau and Industry Canada.
NDP MP Brianne Masse said in Question Period on Wednesday that standing up for competition in Canada's telecommunications industry required action, “not words anymore.” (CBC)

"The fact of the matter is the big three telecom companies have 90 percent of the market in Canada alone. Canadians are now left paying some of the highest wireless prices anywhere in the world," said Masse. "This proposed takeover would be greater concentration and less competition as opposed to to what the minister says."

Masse called on Bains to promise he wouldn't rubber stamp the takeover deal without specific protections for jobs and consumers.

"Will Canadian consumers be supported by a minister who will actually take specific action and timelines to protect them and their services?" he asked.

Bains said the Liberals would "work hard with the sector" to "make sure that we have the environment where prices are lower and there's more competition and choice for the consumer."

The deal is expected to close by early 2017.

BCE's planned takeover of MTS is expected to close by early 2017. (Joe Bryksa/Winnipeg Free Press/Canadian Press)

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