‘It’s really sad for Canada:’ Vidéotron finalizes Freedom purchase after government approval

The Competition Bureau was one of many parties pushing back against the mergers

Ottawa’s approval of Rogers’ $26-billion Shaw takeover has left Anthony Lacavera surprised.

The Chairman of Globalive and founder of Wind (which became Freedom Mobile after a sale to Shaw) said the merger received mountains of opposition from various parties and organizations. “It’s a complete disaster for Canadians and for Canada,” Lacavera told MobileSyrup.

The approval means Québecor subsidiary Vidéotron is now a national wireless company through Freedom Mobile with customers in Ontario, Alberta, and B.C.

Innovation Minister François-Philippe Champagne has subjected Rogers and Vidéotron to 21 different conditions focusing on affordability and the accessibility of wireless services.

But the Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC) says these conditions are “smoke and mirrors.”

“We do not believe the conditions obtained by the Minister can counteract the anti-competitive effects of this merger on Canadians, and will lead to another decade of high wireless prices for Canadians,” John Lawford, PIAC’s executive director, said in a press release.

The details on the specifics of the agreement are sparse. One condition Vidéotron has promised is to offer plans that are 20 percent cheaper than major players. However, without the specifics, it’s unclear how the Minister would enforce this.

“These things are impossible to track and enforce,” Lacavera said. “There are all kinds of ways that the big players have historically and will now going forward get around these types of undertakings.”

Independent service provider TekSavvy also argued against the merger by asking the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) to investigate Rogers’ wholesale arrangements with Vidéotron. The commission recently started looking into the matter.

“TekSavvy hopes that the CRTC’s investigation into Rogers’ and Videotron’s unlawful wholesale agreements results in meaningful action and stops the further dismantling of competition in the telecom market,” the company said in a press release.

The Liberal government started this week off by providing Canadians with a little bit of hope surrounding the telecom sector through affordability measures in the federal budget. Coupled with Champagne’s opposition to roaming fees, the government painted a short-lived picture of affordability.

“It’s a massive betrayal that’s only made worse coming from a government that has long-promised improved telecom affordability,” Laura Tribe, the executive director of OpenMedia, said.

“Despite press releases claiming otherwise, Minister Champagne’s putting the nail in the coffin of competition in telecommunications in Canada.”

Tony Staffieri, Roger’s president and CEO, said the company is pleased with the decision. “Building on a shared legacy with Shaw, we will invest substantially to bring more choice, more value, and more connectivity to Canadians across the country,” he said in a press release.

Updated 31/03/2023 2:57pm ET: The article has been updated with a response from TekSavvy