Government to name industry veteran Ian Scott as new head of the CRTC

The government will name Ian Scott as chairman and Caroline Simard as vice-chair of broadcasting

Emily Jackson

July 17, 2017
6:15 PM EDT

The federal government is poised to announce that telecom industry veteran Ian Scott will be chairman of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, the Financial Post has learned.

Cabinet will also appoint Caroline Simard, a bureaucrat, as vice chair of broadcasting, filling two key leadership positions at the telecom regulator, which has struggled with vacancies at the top since fall 2015.

Heritage Minister Melanie Joly announced the appointments Tuesday.

Scott and Simard, both bilingual, will begin their five-year terms in September once interim chair Judith LaRocque’s term expires.

Scott brings a vastly different background than his predecessor Jean-Pierre Blais, who is known for his consumer-friendly policies and contentious relationship with industry.

Scott has worked on both the public and private sides of the telecom industry over the past 25 years, including as a registered lobbyist for satellite company Telesat Canada and Telus Corp. He is currently the executive director of government and regulatory affairs at Telesat and previously served as a vice president at Telus.

He left Telus for a stint as chief policy advisor at the CRTC in 2007 and 2008 as part of the government’s executive interchange program before returning to industry and joining Telesat in 2009. The rotation sparked allegations of conflict of interest in a CBC investigation, given he was still listed on the lobbyist registry while working at the CRTC. But Scott told the CBC he followed all of the rules.

Scott has also held executive positions at Call-Net Enterprises and the Canadian Cable Television Association. Before that, he worked for five years at both the CRTC and the Competition Bureau.

Simard’s background is in public institutions. She is currently legal counsel at the Department of Innovation, Science and Economic Development. She joined ISED in 2007 from the United Nations’ International Telecommunication Union in Switzerland, where she was hired as a senior telecommunications expert in 2004. Prior to that, she worked in academic institutions.

Sources told the Post the hiring attempted to strike the right balance between public and private experience as the industry transitions to the digital world.

The government is also in the process of hiring two regional commissioners. It needs to start the search for a vice-chair of telecommunications after Peter Menzies stepped down last week before his term expired.

Canadian Heritage, the ministry responsible for the regulator, has faced criticism from former commissioners over its slow hiring process. Only five out of a possible 13 commissioner positions are currently filled.

In his final speech as chair, Blais accused cabinet of “bad governance” for not hiring a full-time commissioner since the Liberals were elected in 2015. He had previously criticized the government for not hiring more women and Indigenous commissioners.

In November, Blais told the Post he was proud of breaking the cycle of what he said were too many years of a revolving door between the industry and the regulator.

“If I manage to leave that as a legacy, a lasting one the next chair would carry forward, I think that would be good,” he said in November.

Financial Post