Discussions about how to ensure reliable communications for Canadians took the lead in federal advocacy in July, in response to a network outage that month at Rogers Communications, one of Canada’s largest telecommunications companies, that found millions unexpectedly without internet or cellphone service. “We took steps to learn from the outage and have now brought forward our Enhanced Reliability Plan to deliver the reliable network people have come to expect from Rogers,” said Nilani Logeswaran, senior manager of media relations and public affairs for Rogers Communications in an emailed statement to The Hill Times on Aug. 16. “We continue to be proactively engaged with federal members and government officials as we work to learn more from the outage and implement our Enhanced Reliability Plan.” Rogers Communications was the top advocacy organization in July, filing 19 communication reports last month. The telecommunications company’s activity for the month included contact with Innovation Minister François-Philippe Champagne (Saint-Maurice-Champlain, Que.) on July 8 and July 11. The organization also communicated with Conservative MP Gérard Deltell (Louis-Saint-Laurent, Que.), his party’s critic for innovation, on July 18, and NDP MP Brian Masse (Windsor West, Ont.), his party’s innovation critic, on July 20. Many Canadians woke up on July 8 to find a widespread network outage at Rogers, which resulted in significant communications disruptions, mostly across Ontario and Quebec. The outage, which persisted for more than 16 hours, affected mobile and internet services and disrupted debit transactions. Police in Toronto and Ottawa also reported connection problems for people attempting to call 911. Following a closed-door meeting with Tony Staffieri, president and CEO of Rogers, and the heads of other telecommunications service providers on July 11, Champagne told reporters he wanted the companies to come up with a plan within 60 days for mitigating the impact of future outages. The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) launched an investigation on July 12 into the outage and directed Rogers to provide a full account of the issue. Rogers attributed the outage to a network system failure following an update in the company’s core IP network during the early morning of July 8, causing the IP routing network to malfunction, according to a letter to the CRTC on July 22. To help protect network reliability going forward, Staffieri announced the company’s Enhanced Reliability Plan in a statement on July 24. To ensure 911 calls work every time, Rogers has made “meaningful progress” on a formal agreement between carriers to switch 911 calls to each other’s networks automatically, even in the event of an outage on any carrier’s network, according to the statement. Rogers will physically separate its wireless and internet services to create an ‘always on’ network, to help make sure customers don’t experience an outage with both cellular and internet services again. The company also announced an investment of $10-billion over the next three years towards more oversight, testing and greater use of Artificial Intelligence, according to the statement. The Hill Times reached out to Champagne’s office to ask about how the federal government is addressing network reliability for Canadians. Hans Parmar, an Innovation, Science, and Economic Development (ISED) spokesperson, responded with an emailed statement, which said further action is warranted related to network resiliency more broadly, and that “the CRTC and ISED will be taking further steps and more will be announced in due course.” “Telecommunications are vitally important for Canadians in their daily life. Canadians rely on wireless and internet services for virtually everything: work, school, managing their finances, accessing health care and emergency services, as well as staying in touch with loved ones. The Government of Canada understands the frustration from Canadians who were impacted by the Rogers outage,” said the Aug. 17 ISED statement. “The government will continue to work with telecommunications companies and its partners and use all the tools at its disposal to improve the resiliency of Canada’s telecom networks.” The Hill Times reached out to Deltell to ask about actions the federal government could take to help ensure reliable internet and mobile service. Lyne Bernatchez, an assistant in Deltell’s office, directed The Hill Times to a July 25 press release, where Deltell said that more competition in the telecommunications industry would help spur innovation and prevent further outages. Conservative MP Gérard Deltell said that more competition in the telecommunications industry would help spur innovation and prevent further outages. The Hill Times photograph by Sam Garcia “This was not the first time a major outage on the Rogers network has occurred. Despite a previous major outage occurring on the Rogers network in 2021, and despite recommendations from experts at the time to prevent such an outage from reoccurring, the Trudeau Liberals did nothing after the 2021 outage to ensure that Canadians were able to access critical services,” said Deltell in the press release. “Conservatives will continue fighting for more competition in this sector, listen to the advice from experts, and ensure Canadians always have access to these essential services.” Rogers is represented on the registry by Staffieri, as well as by consultant Daniel Moulton of Crestview Strategy and consultant Barry Campbell of Campbell Strategies. The company is also represented on the registry by lawyer Gerald Kerr-Wilson, co-leader of the technology, media and telecommunications group at law firm Fasken, and Scott Hyman, a partner in the finance, corporate and capital markets and securities practices at Davies Ward Phillips & Vineberg LLP. July lobbying stats Overall lobbying in July resulted in 1,320 communication reports, according to a search of the federal lobbyists’ registry on Aug. 17. This is the third-highest total for any July, based on online records that go back as far as July 2008. The record for the greatest number of communication reports filed for a July was in July 2020, which reached 1,771 communication reports filed, followed by July 2021, which reached 1,724. Following closely behind Rogers last month in federal lobbying was the University of Calgary and the University of Alberta, which each contributed 18 communication reports for the month. John Alho, associate vice-president of government relations for the University of Calgary, told The Hill Times that his university was active in engaging federal officials last month partly because of the Calgary Stampede, which took place between July 8 and July 17. The Calgary Stampede, an annual rodeo and fair, typically attracts more than one million visitors to Alberta each year. According to Alho, the event provides an opportunity to meet Ottawa’s cabinet ministers who come to visit the province, which this year included Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (Papineau, Que.) and Tourism Minister Randy Boissonnault (Edmonton Centre, Alta.). Representatives of the University of Calgary communicated with Trudeau on July 10, and with Minister of Agriculture Marie-Claude Bibeau (Compton-Stanstead, Que.) on July 14 to discuss the value proposition of the university, according to Alho. John Alho, associate vice-president of government relations for the University of Calgary, said the whole post-secondary sector will be pushing for a renewed investment in science and research from the federal government as funding from the 2018 federal budget runs out. Photograph courtesy of LinkedIn “We pride ourselves as being a very entrepreneurial university. In fact, we're number one in the country for new company creation. Having those leaders out is an opportunity to sit down and talk to them a little bit about … how are we advancing commercialization,” said Alho. Another advocacy issue currently important to the University of Calgary and other post-secondary institutions is the level of federal investment in science and research, according to Alho. Ottawa supports researchers and scientists through three agencies: the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, which collectively are referred to as the tri-council or tri-agencies. Alho said that the 2018 federal budget included a significant investment in science and research, which is about to run out. The 2018 budget included almost $4-billion in funding for science over five years, with a significant portion invested in the tri-council. “There was a large investment in the tri-councils and research a few years ago. That investment runs out at the end of this year,” said Alho. “Collectively, as a system, the whole post-secondary sector … are pushing for a renewal of that investment in science and research at universities.” The University of Calgary is represented in-house on the registry by Alho, as well as its president and vice-chancellor, Edward McCauley, and Ken Barker, the director of the university’s Institute for Security, Privacy and Information Assurance. Jcnockaert@hilltimes.com The Hill Times Top lobbying organizations in July Organization Communication Reports Rogers Communications Inc. 19 University of Alberta 18 University of Calgary 18 J.D. Irving, Limited 14 Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers 12 Wal-Mart Canada Corp. 12 Federated Co-operatives Limited 11 Pathways Alliance Inc. 11 National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation 10 The Nature Conservancy of Canada 10 Vancouver International Airport Authority 10 This table shows the most active organizations in July, in terms of communication reports filed. Based on a search of the federal lobbyists’ registry on Aug. 17. Top lobbying activity in July over the last decade Month Communication reports July 2020 1,771 July 2021 1,724 Jul 2022 1,320 July 2018 1,058 July 2019 971 July 2017 942 July 2016 878 July 2008 712 July 2015 641 July 2011 561 This list shows the top 10 Julys that included the most communication reports filed on the federal lobbyists’ registry. The most active July on record is July 2020, which ended with 1,771 communication reports filed. Information courtesy of the federal lobbyists’ registry.