BlackBerry manufacturer Research In Motion’s troubles notwithstanding, there is little doubt that Canadians love their smartphones. But that affection does not necessarily extend to the industry itself. Wireless bills may have fallen in recent years owing to competition from new players, but consumers still gripe about high prices, restrictive contracts and lack of choice.
Complaints about wireless services have, for the past four years, topped the list of grievances filed with Canada’s Commissioner for Complaints for Telecommunications Services. The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission is set to hold public hearings in the New Year on a new wireless code to help simplify contract language.
“We don’t expect the CRTC to decide to regulate pricing. I think that would be a mistake,” Mr. Lord says. “We just expect them to set a set of standards for how service must be provided and what consumers can expect.”
Although the CRTC embarked on that process at the urging of the industry, the CWTA has found itself in the regulator’s crosshairs over another high-profile issue. In October, the CRTC issued an ultimatum, saying it was prepared to force the creation of a central registry of stolen smartphones. And even when Mr. Lord announced a plan to do so last month, the CRTC pushed the industry to speed up its timelines.
That followed a surprise move by the Competition Bureau to launch a lawsuit against the CWTA and the big three wireless carriers (Rogers, BCE and Telus) over what the watchdog alleges is misleading advertising for text-based services that end up slamming consumers with hidden fees. Mr. Lord has expressed his disappointment over the bureau’s decision to sue, especially since he says it was the industry that alerted it to the problem in the first place. (None of the allegations has been proven in court.)
As for regulation of the wireless sector more broadly, Mr. Lord argues that governments need to be “prudent” when they adopt more rules. That’s because higher compliance costs for the industry are eventually passed on to consumers and taxpayers. “I’ve been in the inside of government and it is always a challenge to make sure that you allocate resources to priorities that impact people the most.”
True to his Canadian roots, he likens politics to hockey – public officials, he said, expect to get checked against the boards. And while it can hurt the player, it hurts more for family and friends watching from the stands.
You can take Mr. Lord out of politics, but politics have a way of sticking to him. As he prepares to leave, he makes the kind of personal appeal that could only come from someone used to living in public, and seeing his name in the news.
“Just use the good stuff,” he says, tongue firmly in cheek. “Just be kind. For once, be kind. I want my mom to read this.”
Born Sept. 27, 1965 in Roberval, Que., the youngest of four children; they were raised in the greater Moncton area.
His father was a pilot , who also grew up in New Brunswick. His mother, a Quebecker, was a teacher who stopped working to raise her family.
Married wife Diane in 1990. They have two children, Sébastien and Jasmine.
University of Moncton: Bachelor’s degree in social science with a major in economics; bachelor’s degree in common law.
1997: Elected leader of Progressive Conservative Party of New Brunswick. The next year, became MLA for Moncton East in a by-election.
1999-2006: Served as Premier of New Brunswick.
2007: Joined law firm McCarthy Tétrault as senior counsel.
2008: Appointed president and CEO of the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association.
Exercising, watching movies with his wife, and spending time with his kids.
Favourite book is Animal Farm.
On a potential return to politics: “I guess I am young enough and old enough to not rule it out – in the sense I’m young enough to think ‘Well, eventually I guess I could go back.’ And I am old enough to say ‘Well, never say never.’”
On government: “I believe it is extremely important for governments to live within their means. To tax people less and to regulate when they need to regulate, not just when they want to regulate.”
On BlackBerry: “I love BlackBerry. I think they are an amazing success story for Canada. I see they are going through some challenges for the moment. It is up to them to figure out how to get through it. But they have some very good products.”