Speech by Jean-Pierre Blais, Chairman, Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission

To the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage

Ottawa, Ontario
October 4, 2012

Check against delivery

 

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

It is a pleasure to appear before you today and to help you carry out your important role.

I was honoured to be appointed Chairman of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), an important public duty that I take on with both a heavy sense of responsibility and an excitement about what lays ahead over the next five years.

I thank the Committee for having invited me to set out my views on the future and mandate of the CRTC. This is not my first appearance, nor would I expect it to be my last.

Professional background

My interest in the communication industry goes back many years. After completing my university studies, I practised administrative, intellectual property and communication law in Montreal. In 1994, I joined the CRTC’s legal directorate.

Five years later, I was appointed Executive Director of Broadcasting at the CRTC, a position equivalent to an Assistant Deputy Minister. In this capacity, I was responsible for the development and application of all regulatory policies related to broadcasting.

In 2002, I left the CRTC to pursue new challenges at the Department of Canadian Heritage. As Assistant Deputy Minister, first of International and Intergovernmental Affairs and then of Cultural Affairs, my responsibilities included the legislation, policies and programs related to cultural trade, sports, foreign investment, copyright, broadcasting, the cultural industries and the arts.

I then served as Assistant Secretary of the Treasury Board Secretariat’s Government Operations Sector from September 2011 until my return to the CRTC this past June.

First 100 days

It has now been a little over 100 days since I returned to the CRTC. I have been extremely busy. I have visited most regions of the country, all our regional offices, and met with remarkable men and women who have an interest in the CRTC’s work. I also chaired a very important hearing in Montreal on the proposed BCE-Astral transaction.

The future of the communications sector rests mostly on the rapidly changing technology, the dynamism and innovation of the industry, and the creativity of Canadians. The CRTC’s role in the years ahead will be one of an enabler to achieve its overriding objective: to ensure a world-class communication system for Canadians as citizens, creators and consumers.

I’d like to explain how I view the different, complementary and interrelated needs of Canadians:

At the end of August, I announced the creation of a new position at the CRTC—the Chief Consumer Officer. The reason behind this decision is that I saw a need for a heightened integration of consumer issues in all aspects of the CRTC’s work. The Chief Consumer Officer will ensure that the needs and interests of consumers are at the heart of our decision-making process, our research and our outreach.

I want to make sure that Canadians are at the centre of the communication system.

I firmly believe that a well-functioning communication system requires a number of service providers that are able to compete fairly. But a healthy marketplace also requires an informed and empowered consumer. To this end, over the coming months, we intend to proactively provide information and useful considerations to Canadians to help them make informed choices in an increasingly competitive and complex communication environment.

Three-Year Plan

On September 6, we published our Three-Year Plan. An electronic copy of this document was provided to each of your offices.

The plan sets out the activities we expect to carry out between now and 2015 to ensure that Canadians have access to world-class communications system. They are grouped under three pillars: create, connect and protect.

As a regulatory body, we have a duty to inform the public of our intended areas of activity. It is my intention to update our Three-Year Plan at least annually.

To assist public participation in our proceedings, we published on September 4 our annual Communications Monitoring Report. This public document is a source of authoritative data that enhances Canadians’ informed involvement in our work. It provides Canadians with financial, pricing and other key indicators and trends.

Without the public’s participating in our work, we cannot serve the public interest.

Future and mandate of the CRTC

As Chairperson of the CRTC, I chair meetings of Commissioners in support of the policy and regulatory decision-making process. However, I am also the deputy head of this public institution. Wearing that hat, I would like to share with the members of this Committee my views on the future of the institution.

In 2017, I want to leave behind an institution that is more trusted by Canadians, and that enables them to benefit fully from a world-class communication system.

This is a high standard that we have to earn every day, in every decision and in all our actions—whether we choose to regulate or to rely on market forces to achieve the public interest and the objectives set out by Parliament.

Moreover, the CRTC, like all public organizations, must hold itself to the highest standard of probity. Every dollar spent must provide value for Canadians. Every action taken must reinforce the integrity of our processes and our decisions.

Throughout my public service career, one of my core principles has been a commitment to management excellence, which I now bring with me to the CRTC. This will ensure that our conduct is grounded in the public service’s values and ethics, that we are responsible stewards of public funds and that we report on our progress by measuring against well-established benchmarks.

To this end, the CRTC recently adopted its own code of conduct to inform employees of the values and behaviours that are expected of them. The code contains guidelines to frame how to appropriately interact with Canadians and representatives from the communication industry.

At the same time, we have to be careful not to become detached decision makers in an ivory tower. We need to understand the challenges and opportunities faced by the industry, just as we need to understand the concerns of Canadians. Conversations must take place in an environment that ensures the integrity of our processes and the public trust that has been placed in us.

I have been proud to serve Canadians throughout my career in the public service, and am honoured to have been appointed as its Chairman at this critical moment.

Thank you.

 

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