MTS sale to Bell supported by only 23% of Manitobans, poll suggests

Only about one-quarter of Manitobans support Bell Canada's proposed takeover of MTS, a poll by the Public Interest Advocacy Centre suggests.

NDP says the deal will damage cellphone market, lead to higher bills

The sale of MTS to Bell does not have the support of most Manitobans, a new poll suggests. (Joe Bryksa/Winnipeg Free Press/Canadian Press)

Manitobans are not happy with the multibillion-dollar out-of-province acquisition of Manitoba Telecom Service by Bell, the New Democrats say after the release of a new poll.

Only 23 per cent of respondents supported Bell Canada's proposed takeover of MTS in the poll by the Public Interest Advocacy Centre.

"[Premier Brian] Pallister is out there advocating for a deal that less than a quarter of Manitobans support, even though it will damage our cellphone market and leave families with higher bills for little to no benefit," NDP infrastructure critic Jim Maloway said in a news release.

Most MTS subscribers who responded to the poll believed their monthly bill for communications and internet would increase with the takeover. Seventy-five per cent of subscribers also thought Bell would try to put a monthly data cap on their home internet service.

Around 40 per cent of people polled thought the sale would lead to higher bills for television. 

(Public Interest Advocacy Centre)

A month ago, Bell agreed to buy MTS in a deal valued at $3.9 billion — $3.1 billion for the company, plus Bell will assume $800 million worth of MTS debt.

About 50 per cent of Manitoba's wireless subscribers are MTS customers and with the deal, Bell has promised to spend $1 billion on telecommunications infrastructure over five years. Nearly 60 per cent of the poll respondents said they didn't think the takeover would actually lead to more high-speed internet in rural areas.

When asked about the poll in question period, Pallister said Manitobans will get more if they pay more. 

"Improved service is something many Manitobans have told us that they want and they are excited about," he said. 

The Competition Bureau is reviewing the deal and Malloway urged the public to submit their concerns. 

The interactive voice recognition phone survey polled 1,048 people on May 31 and June 1. A probabilistic sample of this size would yield a margin of error of +/- 3.2 percentage points.

Last week a public opinion poll by the Angus Reid Institute suggested 61 per cent of people disapproved of the sale and nearly half thought it would be bad for the provincial marketplace.