Saturday April 19, 2014

Tories take on cellphone ‘villains’

Prime Minister Stephen Harper once defined the difference between Canada’s political
parties in terms of market intervention.

The Conservatives are less in favour, while the Liberals and NDP are more in favour.

He also likes to remind us that his Tories are the most fiscally responsible of the bunch.

And many of us here in Kamloops would agree with those assertions. It’s that kind of reputation that has helped the Conservatives win this riding.

So it’s all the more difficult to understand why the federal government has suddenly found an interest in piling more regulations on the cellphone industry. And not only that, but to spend $9 million on advertising to brag about it.

Regulations are often necessary, of course, but they are tricky. Companies such as Telus, Bell and Rogers are in business to make money, and if the government limits their ability to do it one way, they’ll try to find another way to do it.

Before you celebrate the ability to have two-year contracts for your cellphones, for example, you’d better check the fine print. It’s likely you’re being charged in other ways to make up the difference from three years.

The Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association is outraged that the federal government is using tax dollars to attack an industry that pumps billions of dollars into the economy.

There is truth in that, but what it really comes down to is a battle for the hearts and minds of the middle class — and the cellphone industry is a convenient whipping boy. It’s hard not to feel that they are the real villains when we look at their sky-high bills.

The Tories have found that attack ads work during election campaigns, so now they’re trying it with other groups that can be made to seem like the enemy.

If all this actually led to cheaper cellphone plans, we might be happy to turn a blind eye to the usual political shenanigans and reap the benefits. But the more likely result is that cellphones will be as expensive as ever and the taxpayers will be out $9 million with nothing to show for it.

We Say editorials represent the viewpoint of The Daily News and are written by publisher Tim Shoults, city editor Tracy Gilchrist, or associate news editors Dan Spark and Mark Rogers.

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