Fire CRTC vice-chair, MPs demand

MPs on the heritage committee Wednesday debated demanding the government fire Tom Pentefountas, a new appointment to the CRTC.
Opposition MPs are calling for the dismissal of Tom Pentefountas, who is shown in this October 2007 photo. Pentefountas is full-time commissioner and vice-chair (broadcasting) at the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC). THE CANADIAN PRESS/Peter Ray (Peter Ray/Canadian Press)

‪MPs on a parliamentary committee are calling for the government to fire a top official at Canada's broadcast industry regulator.

The House Canadian heritage committee tabled a motion Wednesday demanding the minister in charge of the file immediately fire Tom Pentefountas as full-time commissioner and vice-chair (broadcasting) at the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC).

Pentefountas, who isn't due to start until April 4, is a former president of Action Démocratique du Québec, a Quebec political party.

Opposition MPs say Pentefountas got the government appointment because of his ties to Conservative officials, including Senator Leo Housakos and Dimitri Soudas, Prime Minister Stephen Harper's director of communications.

NDP heritage critic Charlie Angus and NDP House Leader Libby Davies charged last month that Pentefountas doesn't meet several of the job's requirements, including an in-depth knowledge of the broadcasting industry and media convergence.

Heritage Minister James Moore defended the appointment, saying he'll "bring outside, qualified experience to the CRTC."

He also told reporters Pentefountas is an independent voice and has broadcast qualifications as a former radio talk show host.

Angus zeroed in on the application process during committee questioning. He said there were eight other people shortlisted for the job. 

"Did you put in a resume? Did you officially apply?" Angus asked.

Pentefountas said he "expressed an interest in the post" sometime in spring 2010, and got a call in August about it. 

"Mr. Housakos applied, in other words, deposited the resume for me," Pentefountas said.

The motion, which is still being debated, demands Moore "immediately relieve Athanasios [Tom] Pentefountas of his duties … because he does not meet the requirements of the position, having neither the experience nor the knowledge to fulfil these duties, and because his appointment is further evidence of partisanship and the Conservative government's attempt to take control of government regulatory agencies and institutions by appointing friends of the Conservative Party.‬"

The appointment would run for five years at a salary between $190,400 and $224,000 a year.

A spokesman for Moore says Pentefountas went through a selection process and was found to be the best candidate.

"It's shameful the opposition coalition has condemned the appointment before Mr. Pentefountas is even allowed the opportunity to fulfill his duties," James Maunder wrote in an email.

Corrections

  • An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported that the committee had passed the motion to demand the removal of Tom Pentefountas from the CRTC. In fact, the motion was tabled at the committee Wednesday.
    Mar 24, 2011 10:07 AM ET