PM takes no stance on sale of MTS

Winnipeg Free Press - SundayXtra - - LIBERAL CONVENTION - By Kristin Annable

PRIME Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau says he wants to see ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties get bet­ter ac­cess to phone and In­ter­net ser­vices but adds it is too early to voice his opin­ion on the pro­posed sale of Man­i­toba Tele­com Ser­vices to Bell.

Trudeau was asked about the pro­posed $3.9-bil­lion sale of MTS to Mon­treal-based BCE Inc. dur­ing a me­dia avail­abil­ity af­ter his key­note ad­dress at the Lib­eral party con­ven­tion Satur­day af­ter­noon.

“I don’t think it would be ap­pro­pri­ate for me to com­ment on, other than to say how im­por­tant it is to have for con­sumers to have re­li­able ac­cess to high­qual­ity phone and In­ter­net ser­vice,” Trudeau said.

“This is some­thing we can’t get around in the 21st cen­tury. Much of our eco­nomic growth, much of our en­trepreneur­ship and many op­por­tu­ni­ties that par­tic­u­larly marginal­ized or re­mote com­mu­ni­ties need are linked to strong, af­ford­able ac­cess to the In­ter­net and to cell ser­vice, and that is cer­tainly what we are keep­ing in mind.”

When asked if Bell could pave the way to this im­proved ac­cess, Trudeau said those ques­tions are bet­ter left to fed­eral reg­u­la­tors. As part of the deal, Bell is promis­ing to spend $1 bil­lion on im­prove­ments over five years. The deal re­quires ap­proval from reg­u­la­tors, in­clud­ing the fed­eral gov­ern­ment and the Cana­dian Ra­dio-tele­vi­sion and Telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions Com­mis­sion.

The Pal­lis­ter gov­ern­ment has faced harsh crit­i­cism by the Op­po­si­tion NDP over its sup­port of the deal. The NDP claims it will lead to in­creased cell­phone rates for Man­i­to­bans be­cause of a shrink­ing mar­ket.

It’s a pos­si­bil­ity Premier Brian Pal­lis­ter hasn’t de­nied. But in sim­i­lar line to Trudeau’s com­ments, Pal­lis­ter ar­gues bet­ter in­vest­ment is needed to im­prove ser­vices for ru­ral Man­i­to­bans.

Pal­lis­ter will have a chance to speak with Trudeau face to face later this week when the prime min­is­ter re­turns to Win­nipeg to at­tend the Fed­er­a­tion of Cana­dian Mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties’ an­nual con­fer­ence, be­ing held Thurs­day to Sun­day.

“I spoke with premier-elect Pal­lis­ter the day af­ter he won to con­grat­u­late him and to talk about how much I look for­ward to work­ing with him on is­sues that mat­ter to Man­i­to­bans and all Cana­di­ans. Is­sues of eco­nomic growth, is­sues on how we re­new the re­la­tion­ship with in­dige­nous peo­ple,” Trudeau said when asked if he had met with Pal­lis­ter this week­end.

“I look for­ward to meet­ing with him later in the week when re­turn to Win­nipeg for the FCM.”

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