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Rogers pushes back against competition watchdog on first day of hearing on Shaw deal



Rogers Communications Inc. is pushing back against Canada’s competition watchdog in the first day of a weeks-long hearing on its $26-billion proposed takeover of Shaw Communications Inc., arguing that the deal is “pro-competitive.” The price tag includes $6 billion of debt.

Earlier in the day, the regulator reinforced its opposition to the takeover and intention to fully block it.

In the Competition Bureau’s opening arguments Monday, it reiterated its position that the planned sale of Shaw-owned wireless carrier Freedom Mobile to Quebecor Inc.’s Videotron Ltd. is not enough to eliminate its concerns that the broader merger would lead to worse services and higher prices for consumers.

The sale of Freedom Mobile to Videotron would see Quebecor buy all of Freedom’s branded wireless and internet customers as well as all of Freedom’s infrastructure, spectrum and retail locations in a move that would expand Quebecor’s wireless operations nationally. Quebecor agreed to buy Freedom in a $2.85 billion deal earlier this year.


The regulator said separating Freedom from Shaw would make it a diminished competitor because it would remove Freedom’s access to certain shared human resources and synergies the company “has enjoyed” as part of Shaw.

It said the divestiture would not replace the “vigorous” competitive presence offered by Shaw.

The Competition Bureau said the sale would create a situation where Videotron is likely to be more “aligned” with Rogers and more vulnerable to anti-competitive actions by Rogers.

Rogers disputed this claim in its opening arguments, saying that dependence on Rogers is “very far from reality.”

Rogers said the Competition Bureau’s view of Videotron is “problematic.” It said the regulator is underestimating Videotron’s “capacities and abilities” and discounting its success in Quebec.

Rogers added that the planned sale of Freedom to Videotron would create an “invigorated” competitor in the wireless market, and rhetorically asked why Quebecor would choose to spend almost $3 billion to acquire a business that is doomed to fail.

Additionally, the Competition Bureau said that barriers for Videotron to enter a new market are high. Videotron only operates in Quebec and a small part of Ontario.

The barriers include the challenge of acquiring spectrum, which is scarce and expensive, building infrastructure, retail distribution, and getting customers on board, the Competition Bureau said.

It also noted that even with the sale of Freedom, Rogers will still be acquiring customers from Shaw Mobile.

In its opening arguments, Shaw called the Competition Bureau’s desire to prevent the deal from happening a “dramatic overreach,” adding that blocking the deal would set the telecom industry back a generation.

Shaw said Rogers would never own or operate Freedom, explaining that Videotron would acquire Freedom before Rogers and Shaw merge.

Shaw added that it has operated Freedom as a standalone company that can “easily” and “cleanly” be separated and sold.

The company also said that Videotron would become a more viable competitor than Freedom is now, especially because the sale would allow Freedom to offer 5G services, which it hasn’t been able to do.

In a separate decision last month, Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne put new conditions on the Rogers-Shaw deal, specifically targeting the sale of Freedom to Videotron.

Champagne — who as minister of innovation, science and industry must approve any spectrum licence transfer — left the door open to a revised agreement, saying he had two major stipulations.

He said Videotron would have to agree to keep Freedom’s wireless licences for at least 10 years.

He also said he would “expect to see” wireless prices in Ontario and Western Canada lowered by about 20 per cent, putting them in line with Videotron’s current Quebec offerings.

In response, Quebecor said it would accept the conditions, agreeing to incorporate them in a revised deal.

In its opening arguments, Shaw also argued that the Rogers-Shaw deal would boost competition not lessen it, particularly in western Canada, due to Rogers’ size, scale and resources being substantially greater than Shaw’s but relatively equal to Telus, which dominates that part of the country, consequently putting Telus and Rogers on equal footing.

The Competition Bureau is one of three regulatory agencies that must approve the deal before it can close, in addition to the CRTC and Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada.

The hearing is expected to last four weeks with oral arguments scheduled for mid-December.

Rogers is hoping to close the Shaw deal by the end of the year, with a possible further extension to Jan. 31, 2023.

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Pierre Poilievre is neither for nor against the Liberals' industrial strategy. Quite the opposite – The Globe and Mail



Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre reads from last year’s budget as he rises during Question Period on March 29 in Ottawa.Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press

You would think that a politician as hard-hitting as Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre would have something clear to say about the big initiatives that the federal government outlined in its budget.

But somehow the Leader of the Opposition can’t tell us whether he opposes the biggest thing in the Liberal budget.

He can’t say whether he is in favour of a massive, government-subsidized industrial strategy.


We’re not talking here about some baroque measure no one saw coming. We are talking about the largest feature in the government’s new fiscal blueprint.

In Tuesday’s budget, Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland outlined an enormous set of industrial subsidies for green technology that reduces emissions that will total $80-billion over the next decade.

This is an expenditure for industrial subsidies on a scale never before attempted in Canada. And we knew it was coming: The Liberal government signalled it was planning to respond to the huge subsidies in the U.S. Inflation Reduction Act. Ms. Freeland budgeted more new money for those subsidies over the next decade than for health care.

Most of that money is supposed to be spent five to 10 years from now, when there could well be another party in power, possibly under Mr. Poilievre. Companies making investment decisions this year will want to know if a potential prime minister is dead set against the whole idea. Canadians should want to know too.

But on Wednesday, Mr. Poilievre was neither for nor against. Quite the opposite.

Asked whether he is in favour of the hefty investment tax credits for things such as carbon capture and hydrogen, Mr. Poilievre said his Conservatives have been in favour of carbon capture for a long time.

So that’s a yes? Well, no, not exactly.

He said his Conservatives would “study what’s in the budget and we’re going to come up with our own election platform.” Apparently it will be a year or two before we know if Mr. Poilievre thinks that a massive program launched in the 2023 budget is a good step or a colossal waste of money.

Mr. Poilievre responded to those questions by talking about the long delays for approving projects like mines – which is a legitimate point but not an answer to the question of subsidies.

And then for a moment, he made it sound like he thinks the subsidies are an outrage. “I have no doubt that Justin Trudeau will stuff the pockets of foreign multinationals,” he said. That’s pretty biting, except for the fact that we’re not sure whether Mr. Poilievre is in favour of all that pocket-stuffing.

Certainly, no one should expect that the Conservatives would release all their policies in the platform now.

And of course there’s plenty of waffling in politics. On Wednesday, Mr. Trudeau dodged questions of whether his government will ever balance the budget, to avoid admitting it never will. Mr. Poilievre refused to say whether the Conservative government would cancel a proposed dental plan.

But in this case the government of the day is launching a major subsidy program that will cost billions of dollars a year and is supposed to be the cornerstone of a decade-long industrial strategy, and key to climate-change policy, too.

The Official Opposition can’t take a pass on that for two years and claim that its mission is holding the government to account.

It can endorse the idea, but quibble over the details. Or it can oppose the very notion of pouring megabucks into subsidies.

It is evidently an uncomfortable issue for Mr. Poilievre. He has spent a lot of his time in politics railing against corporate handouts. He couldn’t help using that language on Wednesday.

But those subsidies also include a lot of money for carbon capture and storage in the oil patch that Alberta’s United Conservative Premier Danielle Smith wants. Ontario’s Progressive Conservative Premier Doug Ford will be keen on the incentives for electricity and battery plants.

Yet there’s no way around it. This is the time when the issue is being decided, if only because the Liberals have tabled the budget with hulking piles of cash devoted to it. That will set Canada’s industrial policy on a course that is supposed to endure for a decade. An opposition leader should be able to tell us if he’s against it.

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As Canadians miss out on benefits, Ottawa promises automatic tax filing is on the way – BNN Bloomberg



The Canada Revenue Agency will pilot a new automatic system next year to help vulnerable Canadians who don’t file their taxes get their benefits.

This week’s federal budget says the Canada Revenue Agency will also present a plan in 2024 to expand the service, following consultations with stakeholders and community organizations. 

The move toward automatic tax filing, first promised in the 2020 speech from the throne, is one of several budget measures the Liberals say are meant to help Canadians with the cost of living.


Experts and advocates have called for automatic filing, noting many vulnerable Canadians miss out on benefits to which they are entitled.

Canadians are generally not required to file tax returns every year unless they owe money, but the federal government is increasingly relying on the Canada Revenue Agency to deliver income-tested benefits to individuals.

That includes Canada Child Benefit, as well as the recent top-up to the Canada Housing Benefit and the temporary doubling of the GST tax credit.

A 2020 report co-authored by Jennifer Robson, an associate professor in political management at Carleton University, estimates 10 to 12 per cent of Canadians don’t file their taxes.

Although there were non-filers across all income groups, they were most heavily concentrated in lower income brackets.

The report estimated the value of benefits lost to working-age non-filers was $1.7 billion in 2015.

The federal budget also said the Canada Revenue Agency will expand access to a service set up in 2018 that allows some Canadians with lower or fixed incomes to auto-file simple returns over the telephone.

The budget says that two million Canadians will be eligible for that service, called “File My Return,” by 2025, which is nearly three times the number of people who can use it now.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 30, 2023.

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U.S. weekly jobless claims rise by 7k to 198000, gold price climbs – Kitco NEWS



Editor note Get all the essential market news and expert opinions in one place with our daily newsletter. Receive a comprehensive recap of the day’s top stories directly to your inbox. Sign up here!

(Kitco News) The initial weekly jobless claims rose by 7,000 to 198,000 the week to Saturday, surprising the markets with a bigger-than-expected increase.

Economists’ consensus calls projected the initial claims to advance to 196,000 from the previous week’s revised level of 191,000.


The four-week moving average for new claims – often viewed as a more reliable measure of the labor market since it flattens week-to-week volatility – climbed by 2,000 to 198,250. The previous week’s four-week moving average was unrevised at 196,250, the U.S. Labor Department said on Thursday.

Continuing jobless claims, representing the number of people already receiving benefits, were at 1,689,000 during the week ending March 18, an increase of 4,000 from the previous week’s revised level of 1,685,000. The previous week’s level was revised down by 9,000.

The four-week moving average was at 1,691,750, an increase of 10,000. And the previous week’s four-week moving average was revised down by 2,250 to 1,681,750.

Traders watch the jobless claims data very closely to gauge its impact on the Federal Reserve’s employment side of the monetary policy mandate.

Gold ticked up to daily highs and then gave up some of those gains, with June Comex gold futures last trading at $1,990.60 an ounce, up 0.31% on the day.

Live 24 hours gold chart [Kitco Inc.]

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