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Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole, speaks to supporters at a campaign stop in Hamilton, Ont., on Aug. 25.

CARLOS OSORIO/Reuters

The Conservative Party says that, if elected, it would look at reducing regulations as a means of encouraging new wireless players to enter the Canadian telecom market.

In a news release, the Conservatives noted that current rules limit foreign ownership of a Canadian telecom to up to 20 per cent of voting shares and no more than 33.3 per cent of the voting shares of a carrier’s holding company, with an effective total limit of 46.7 per cent foreign ownership – as long as the foreign entity doesn’t have control.

Telecoms that have less than 10-per-cent market share are already exempt from any foreign ownership restrictions.

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“A big reason for high cellphone bills is a lack of competition. We need more players in the Canadian market to help improve wireless choice and affordability for consumers,” Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole said during a news conference Tuesday.

The Conservatives also said they have “serious concerns” about the proposed acquisition of Shaw Communications Inc. by Rogers Communications Inc. and, if elected, would reject any mergers that substantially reduce competition.

A spokesperson for Shaw declined to comment. Rogers said in a statement that the regulatory process is under way and that the company will “continue to work constructively with regulators as they review the transaction.”

The deal, which was announced in March and is valued at $26-billion including debt, is currently under review by the Competition Bureau, the Ministry of Innovation, Science and Economic Development and the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission. If approved, it would reduce the number of wireless competitors from four to three in Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia.

Innovation Minister François-Philippe Champagne previously told Bloomberg News that the proposed merger creates “very serious” competitive issues.

A spokesperson for the Liberal Party said that, if reelected, the government would allow the ongoing regulatory reviews to run their course.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh previously said in a statement that the merger would “only help big telecom companies profit more on the backs of Canadians.” The NDP has vowed to “cap fees” on cellphone and internet service if elected, but has provided no further detail.

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