Internet activist surprised by appointment of Jean-Pierre Blais as CRTC chair

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An open Internet activist says she’s not sure what to make of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s pick to head up the country’s telecommunications regulator.

Lindsey Pinto, the communications manager for OpenMedia.ca, told the Straight that Jean-Pierre Blais, the next chair of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, is “relatively unknown”.

“His history indicates him possibly being compliant with the government’s policy leanings, but possibly not,” Pinto said by phone from Vancouver. “We haven’t heard very much from him in the past. We don’t really know what to expect from him.”

Harper announced today (June 8) that Blais’s five-year appointment is effective June 18. He’ll take over from acting chair Leonard Katz, who has been filling in since Konrad von Finckenstein’s term at the top ended.

“Mr. Blais is well qualified for the position of Chairperson of the CRTC,” Harper stated in a news release. “He brings a strong legal background and a comprehensive understanding of the broadcasting and telecommunications sectors and the role of the CRTC, having held high-level positions at the Treasury Board Secretariat, the Department of Canadian Heritage and the CRTC. I wish him all the best as he takes on the challenges of his new role.”

Pinto asserted there was a lack of transparency in the appointment process for the CRTC chair, which makes it difficult to assess whether the new head leans toward industry or the public interest.

Her message for Blais? “We have a growing community of Canadians who really are interested in participatory policy making, who are really interested in having a strong and open and accessible digital future and digital policies in Canada. Those Canadians are very smart and very engaged, and they are paying attention to the decisions that are being made. So keeping them in mind and keeping all of us in mind really is the key to success in this position.”

Pinto will be watching closely as Blais deals with the upcoming issues of billing transparency and a national code of conduct for wireless consumers.

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