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Time to pay ‘amateur’ Jr hockey players

Posted at Waterloo Regional Record

There’s nothing that brings our country together like a game of hockey.

Whether it’s the Olympics, a team in the Stanley Cup finals or the World Juniors, millions of Canadians are vicariously living out the excitement through our cherished players.

Cheers from the thrilling win last week by the Canadian Junior team could be heard in communities large and small across the nation. We feel such pride in our teams and so we should.

Hockey in Canada is a big money maker. Hockey Canada, with its quasi-governmental sounding name, is actually a private corporation, cashing in on the volunteer labour of young players. The World Juniors tournament, held on Canadian soil, must have grossed millions upon millions of dollars — ticket sales, merchandise, food and beverages and more. The money-making potential is limitless, with nothing going back into the pockets of the players or their families who supported them in their efforts.

Across the province, the same is true for the teams of the Ontario Hockey League. Each one is a privately owned corporation. Only the Kitchener Rangers, which is publicly owned, reports its income. Back in November, in Quebec, the junior team the Quebec Remparts was recently sold for somewhere between $20 million and $25 million. Multimedia conglomerate Quebecor scooped up the team, presumably with the plan to make a hefty profit.

And when the London Knights sell out every home game and players are giving their all for fans, it is the team owners who benefit most. The players receive nothing of the wealth they create.

Among sports leagues, this kind of cash hoarding is an anomaly. In every successful sports league, there is a redistribution of wealth, so that it can exist and flourish. It’s understood that certain teams will make more money than others. Without the redistribution, teams can’t pay the salaries of players, keep the lights on or build teams that have any chance of winning.

The Ontario Hockey League and similar leagues across the country create a great benefit for the communities where teams exist. They create role models for even young players and often show the best of the game. But these leagues should also be subject to scrutiny.

The Quebec Remparts example demonstrates that teams are creating considerable wealth, and players — for all of their training, commitment, energy and even injury — are seeing none of it. Many of the young men on Team Canada’s Juniors will be or already have been drafted into the NHL. For them, it could be a case of a deferred payment. But these players are the small minority of the larger pool of teenagers regularly giving their all and not making into the big league.

It’s time government cast their eye and regulations to the junior hockey leagues and see that players are compensated for their efforts and that money is set aside for their schooling, once their amateur hockey careers come to an end. In any other sector, they would be considered employees. League players show up each day at a designated time, to practice, to games, follow the coach’s orders. They are expected to treat team membership as the first priority, above their studies and other commitments. They skate, practice and shoot their hearts out.

Across the border, a U.S. federal judge recently struck down a ban on the National Collegiate Athletic Association paying players. While the judge didn’t suggest the large salaries of the pro basketball players, she did propose “a limited share of the revenues generated from the use of their names, images, and likenesses.” The collegiate athletic association is big money for colleges, particularly the lucrative television rights fees, which can account for $20 million alone for some school’s massive athletic departments. This judge recognized that the amateur players who are creating the wealth deserve some share of it. Canada is a much smaller market, but the principle is the same.

The OHL and other provincial leagues must live up to their reputation of being positive training grounds for young players — not the sporting sweatshops they’ve become.

If owners don’t want to be a good sport and do so voluntarily, for the benefit of the league and the players, perhaps it’s time the government stand up for players and their families.

Jerry Dias is the national president of Unifor, representing 305,000 workers right across the country in every economic sector.


C-525 undemocratic and unfair

December 17, 2014

TORONTO- Unifor is disappointed that Senate has passed Bill C-525 which it recognized was flawed – and is aware will make it more difficult for workers to join a union in a federally regulated sector and easier for a minority of workers to have a union's bargaining rights revoked.
"The bottom line is that unions improve the lives of workers and protect their rights. It's that simple," said Jerry Dias, Unifor National President. "Unions are good for workers – and good for society."

Many amendments have been proposed, but none have passed.

"Workers don't want this bill. Employers don't want this bill. The Harper Conservatives were the only ones who wanted this undemocratic, unfair bill," Dias said.

Unifor maintains that once a majority of workers have declared that they want to join a union by signing cards, the government should not stand in the way of them doing so by erecting a second obstacle to certification.

Bill C-525 will now be sent for Royal ascent.

Unifor is Canada's largest union in the private sector, representing more than 305,000 workers, including 26,700 in telecommunications, 11,600 in airlines and 9,300 in rail. It was formed Labour Day weekend 2013 when the Canadian Auto Workers and the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers unions merged.







Speech by Jean-Pierre Blais to the Vancouver Board of Trade
Vancouver, British Columbia
November 6, 2014

Jean-Pierre Blais, Chairman
Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission

Check against delivery

Good afternoon.

I am sure you would agree that communication technology has undergone a
radical transformation over the last few years. The emergence of new devices
is but one example of the astounding rate of change. We now have a world of
information and entertainment in our palms, pockets and purses.

Chances are, you have given little thought to the infrastructure that
enables these devices to function, or the complex retail and wholesale
regulatory frameworks that allows various players to operate fairly.

Communication devices are so much a part of our daily routines, we simply
want assurance they will be there when we need them to do our jobs, stay in
touch with people who matter, discover what's happening in the world, or
call for help in an emergency. And we want these and other communication
services to not only be reliable, we also want them to be affordable.

Commission's role

You don't have to give these issues a lot of thought. Because that's our job
at the CRTC. It is a job we do with you and for you.

Our mandate is to ensure that Canadians are at the centre of their
communications system: whether as consumers of communications products and
services . . . creators and distributors of content . . . or citizens who
need access to information to engage fully in a democratic society.

It is our job to ensure Canadians have access to a world-class communication

Adapting to change

Theoretical physicist and cosmologist, Stephen Hawking, observed,
"Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change."

So you might ask: How do we ensure the outcome Canadians expect of us at a
time of relentless technological change? How do we go about doing our job
when we can't just rip a page from a pre-existing playbook? How do we ensure
that it will reasonably turn out "OK" when we do not have a time-travel
machine to check out the future?

Today, I would like to speak to you about how we are adapting to change in
light of this unprecedented digital disruption in the field of communication

Not our first spin around the block

The first thing to remember is that although the current disruption may be
unique in some respects, the CRTC has a long history of enabling Canadians
to capitalize on change.

Some of you may be old enough to remember the days when, if you wanted
telephone service, your options were Bell Canada.or Bell Canada-or, here in
the west, B.C. Tel.

You may also recall that the only way to get your hands on a phone, and
we're talking about land lines now, was to rent the equipment from those
same companies. You didn't have the option of buying your own device.

In those days, long-distance calls were a luxury-or strictly for family
emergencies-as the rates were so high. Five-cent-a-minute plans would have
been inconceivable to a consumer in that era.

A lot of people probably don't remember that it was the CRTC that stepped in
and deregulated-not regulated-the industry to increase competition in the
marketplace. Because that was, and remains, in the public interest.

Today, over 90% of telecom revenues in this country are not subject to CRTC
regulations and tariff approvals. Thanks to these decisions, Canadians now
enjoy more competition, better service and reduced costs-such as lower local
and long-distance telephone rates.

Things most Canadians probably take for granted. They assume that it's the
result of what Adam Smith called the market's invisible hand when, in
reality, it is the result of sound public policy combined with the private
sector's investments and innovation. It was as a result of the very visible
enabling hand of the regulator.

Given Canada's vast size and diverse geography, this should be viewed, for
the most part, as a success story.

Sky not falling

I use these examples to make the point that we have been able to adapt to
relentless changes in the world of communications-and derived benefits for
Canadians-because we have approached these developments in a responsible,
measured and intelligent way.

We don't react to every fad or buy into the hype when people claim the sky
is falling and that all things good and Canadian will come to an end if we
don't cling to the security of the status quo.

I'm not exaggerating. It wasn't that many years ago that Canadian firms were
warning of "death stars," their rhetorical hyperbole to describe direct
broadcast satellites that could broadcast signals across Canada.
This would create competition for incumbent cable companies that had pretty
much sewn up the market. The big players wanted us to regulate these threats
and lobbied hard to protect their turf.

Well, the sky didn't fall and U.S. satellite firms did not commandeer our
airwaves. In fact, Canadian businesses like Bell ExpressVu and Star Choice
obtained CRTC licences, made major investments and launched their own
direct-to-home satellite services soon after.

The launch of satellite television services in Canada meant we now had
technologies that served Canadians in remote corners of the country-beyond
the reach of cable-and provided a competitive alternative in areas
traditionally served by cable monopolies.

Thanks to a so-called threat to the cable industry, we were able to
encourage the growth of Canadian businesses, help create job opportunities
and investments in Canada, offered more marketplace choices for consumers
and supported the production of content made by Canadians creators. The
advent of more competition also led to less regulation in the cable industry
to allow it to compete.

Tipping points and other fads

In the interest of time, I condensed the satellite story to its bare
essentials. The path was somewhat more tortured than the beginning and the
end I summarized. But, the lesson to be drawn is that the CRTC will not find
wise counsel in the rhetoric of today's pundits and incumbents who have
created new technological "death stars" to scare the regulator into action
or inaction. Nor should we embrace knee-jerk solutions to complex problems.

Today, some are pointing to a different threat. Some say that all
audiovisual content is moving online and Canadians are cutting the cable
cord at record rates. Many also add that there is no more role for
broadcasting and telecommunications regulation. Some people believe that TV
is at a tipping point. "OTT" or so-called "over-the-top television" is the
new buzz word, which is language that only makes sense to a nostalgic
incumbent. It means nothing to someone who is just looking for good content,
content that speaks to them.

Let me bust a few myths. Yes, some companies are losing subscribers. This is
not a threat; this is precisely what one would expect in a competitive

According to our most recent data, the total number of subscribers to cable,
satellite and Internet Protocol television (IPTV) service providers has gone
down by 7,600 across Canada.  That is a decrease of 0.1% in the span of a
year. Compare that to the cord-cutting occurring in wireline telephony. In
2013, the number of residential telephone lines fell by 6%.

And those alleged cable cord-cutters are actually more connected through
wired and wireless broadband. We live in an age of audiovisual abundance,
both Canadian and non-Canadian. Duncan Stewart from Deloitte coined the
phrase "cord-stacking" rather than cord-cutting to describe what he was
observing. Some Canadians just can't get enough audio-visual content, so
they are finding it on all kinds of platforms, concurrently.

Similarly, cord-shaving may be a matter of the perceived value of current
satellite and cable offerings in light of other more convenient offerings in
the marketplace and the lack of choice offered by some incumbents.

And despite the mountain of media stories about Netflix, and Shomi, and HBO
online, and CBS online and Bell's Project Latte, let's not lose sight of the
fact that about 60% of Canadians do not stream TV programming.
Canadians still watch on average 28 hours of traditional TV a week.  And the
hours of viewing to online video services, including cute kittens on
YouTube, is only 1.9 hours per week.

On the surface, it may look like everything's changing overnight. And there
may very well be some important shifts occurring. But the CRTC needs to
examine the whole system, focus on real evidence, consider trend lines and
act at a measured pace. We must also do so with an eye on our legislative
mandate, and our obligation as an administrative tribunal to provide
procedural fairness to all parties.

No one will benefit from a reckless regulator. If this is acting like a
dinosaur, I will wear that label proudly!

It's about the evidence

As I said, the only way to keep pace with a dynamic communication landscape
is to gather intelligence. So we seek out the latest research and
established facts. To do so, the CRTC is putting the talent and knowledge of
its staff to work. People may view us as an aging institution that is out of
touch the 21st century. The reality is that our employees are young and tech
savvy: a critical mass are under the age of 35.

We are an evidence-based decision-making body. On that score, you may have
read about our public hearing in September about the future of television,
called "Let's Talk TV."

If so, you probably know we were criticized by some commentators over our
demand that interveners provide the hard data we need to make informed
regulatory decisions. I am not speaking about individual Canadians who
appear at our hearings. I am speaking of two companies, with a total market
cap of over 400 billion dollars, which operate in Canada and filed positions
in our hearing. Such parties cannot refuse to provide evidence without
consequences, especially when they appear before an evidence-based decision
maker. Like other administrative tribunals, we struck out their incomplete

This is not about regulating them or not, as some uninformed casual
observers would have you believe. This is about the integrity of an
evidence-based proceeding. Every day, we receive and protect highly
confidential and competitively sensitive information.

In an age of digital communications, and given the importance of Canada's
communication system to our collective economic and social welfare, public
policy cannot be based solely on unsubstantiated statements.

The whole purpose of public hearings is to listen to the views of a broad
cross-section of Canadians to help us uncover the public interest and how it
can best be served. We hold them in the open, not behind closed doors.
Our hearings are webcast and are often broadcast live on CPAC when the House
of Commons is not sitting. Anyone can listen in over the Internet, and we
keep an eye on comments made by the public through our contemporaneous
online forums.

I know of few other institutions, whether here or abroad, that is as public
as the CRTC when we seek to uncover the public interest.

Good decisions cannot be based on anecdotes about how your teenager is using
his smartphone or gaming system either. Neither can we make informed
decisions based on one-sided blog arguments or 140 characters in the
Twitterverse. Nor is it helpful when think tanks and pundits weigh in from
the sidelines, often after our hearings have occurred. I can provide
examples of every one of those behaviours.

If we were to make decisions based on the latest fad or unverified
assumptions, we would find ourselves on a very short pier, rather than an
intelligent bridge towards the "change" destination on the other shore.
And we would risk doing irreparable harm to the sectors of the economy we
oversee, as well as to the quality, reliability and affordability of the
communication services Canadians rely on.

Ultimately, the CRTC's decision-making will only be as smart as the people
who appear at our public hearings and the quality of the information they

I often refer to our hearings room as a darkened stage at the start. But
then, throughout the proceeding, different players shine their lanterns on
the issues before us, exposing a different perspective on the overall public
interest. All of them shine their lanterns on different corners of the
stage, putting the best light on their area of interest. Some lanterns are
skewed to obscure the truth. Others are very dim (but we listen
nevertheless). And the very small lanterns of thousands of individual
Canadians often create a powerful beam of light.

It's only when the stage is fully illuminated, by all those lanterns, that
the full story becomes clear. It is only then that the full public interest
comes to light.

Let's Talk TV

Although analytical rigour in our decision-making is key, timely regulatory
responses must also be provided. For this reason, I'm happy to tell you that
earlier today we announced our first decision stemming from Let's Talk TV.
We have banned 30-day cancellation policies for television services. In the
same decision, we also banned this practice for Internet and telephone
services. Late last year, we did the same thing for wireless services.

This will make it easier for Canadians to switch service providers and
benefit from a more dynamic marketplace.

Some companies had been requiring that their customers give them 30-days
advance notice when cancelling their television, Internet or telephone
services. Anyone tempted to switch to another company to take advantage of a
better deal had a disincentive to do so, because they risked having to pay
both providers for the same service for a month. This is a clear obstacle to
healthy competition.

As for the other decisions on the Let's Talk TV proceeding, you will have to
wait. There are numerous interrelated issues that require a few more months
of thoughtful consideration. But there is one thing I can share:
"regulating" Netflix is the least of our concerns. Whether we choose to
attack these disruptive services or learn from their success will be our
regulatory decision to make and ours alone.

And frankly, the CRTC is looking at much bigger issues with greater
ramifications down the road.

An Ambitious Regulatory Agenda

In order to address the need to adapt to the emerging communication
environment, the CRTC is busy beyond the Let's Talk TV proceeding. We are
currently tackling one of the most ambitious regulatory agendas in over two

We recently concluded a public hearing on wholesale mobile wireless
services. Later this month, we have another hearing on wholesale
telecommunications services.

During our wireless hearing, we examined the wholesale business arrangements
between companies for services such as roaming and tower sharing. We are
looking at whether there is a need to intervene in these arrangements to
ensure that there is sustainable competition in the marketplace-and,
ultimately, that Canadians have choices.

On November 24, we will kick off our hearing on wholesale telecommunications
services. Again, we are looking at the wholesale arrangements between
companies, but this time for wireline services.

Large companies have been making significant investments in their networks
to bring fibre right to your front door. This enables them to offer faster
Internet services, Internet Protocol television services and other services.
Both residential and business services. One of the big questions we will be
asking during this hearing is whether independent Internet service providers
should have access to the large companies'
fibre-to-the-premises facilities.

Wireless and Internet services have impacts far beyond your access to
entertainment such as TV shows and music. They will fundamentally shape  the
future of e-business in a digital economy, just as they will revolutionize
electronic health, e-learning, e-government, machine-to-machine applications
and smart transportation grids.

There will be huge demand on our communication networks as these new
services become available and more and more traditional services migrate to
the Internet.

In addition, less connected parts of our country and their local industries
require access to the latest technologies to satisfy the expectations of the
people who live there and to diversify and grow their economies.

The CRTC has a responsibility to ensure that all Canadians have comparable
access to these services-and future opportunities-whether they are in
Whitehorse or downtown St-John's.

However, in order to build new networks and expand the range of available
services, companies need to have a fair opportunity to make a return on
their investments. The communication sector is among the most capital
intensive in the country. It is a $62-billion-a-year business, employing
more than 150,000 Canadians.

These are hard and very important issues. If you think this is about House
of Cards and Orange is the New Black, you are missing the point about the
breadth of potentially disruptive digital issues on the horizon.

We are not the only people facing this conundrum. Regulatory bodies in the
U.S., Europe and elsewhere are also struggling with the same questions.
Because we know that our respective countries' futures in a globally
connected world require us to make the right decisions.

Canada needs a strong and competitive digital communication industry to take
a leading role in the global digital economy.

Meeting Public Expectations

As we move forward to intelligently achieve our ambitious "change" agenda,
we must be cognizant of general expectations. The current regulatory
environment is a very challenging. It is marked by two phenomena.

The first, I call the regulator's paradox. Under this paradox, members of
the general public don't really care about regulations. In fact, I would
think that many philosophically perceive regulation as a bad thing; until,
that is, they care strongly about a particular issue that is personal to
them. We receive daily complaints about TV advertisements that are too loud,
phone bills that are too high, nudity that is just too much, quality of
service that is lacking, telemarketing calls that are unwanted, spam that is
not desired, and the list goes on.

The second phenomenon, I call the regulated company's corollary. This
corollary is quite simple: leave my company alone, but regulate the heck and
the profits out of my competitor.  And please give him a good kick on the
way down...

Conclusion: Moving forward

So what does the future hold? In my view, the sky is not falling. But that
doesn't mean that there aren't dark clouds on the horizon. Clearly, Canada's
communication system is evolving, but it's certainly not collapsing.

We still have time to get it right-to adapt to change. This means doing it
intelligently, based on what the evidence tell us and what best meets the
public interest test. It also means being nimble and responsive to the
changing environment.

Good regulators don't live to regulate:  they act-or abstain from acting-to
achieve outcomes that Parliament has entrusted them to achieve.
That means ensuring that Canadians benefit from a dynamic marketplace, as
well as networks that are reliable, affordable, high-quality and available
across the country. That's why, as a result of the proceedings I mentioned
earlier, the CRTC may have to step back in through a measured regulatory

That's the duty of care that Parliament has bestowed on us.

We could maintain the status quo. We could simply abdicate any
responsibility to do our job, throwing our hands up in despair because
technology is changing too fast. Or we could respond to those who claim that
there is no need to intervene because the system is successful.

But none of these are realistic options.

As U.S. President, Theodore Roosevelt, once observed, "In any moment of
decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing
is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing."

While many people in Canada's communication system are clinging to the past
(many of whom appear at our public hearings), the CRTC is moving forward
with its eyes firmly fixed on the future. We are reading the Broadcasting
and Telecommunications Acts with 21st century eyes.

We are adapting to the fundamental shifts underway-being innovative and
taking measured risks, but managing change intelligently. Rather than
regulation as a reflex, we are exploring alternative approaches to achieve
the objectives of our mandate.

Because, as Stephen Hawking reminds us, intelligence is the key to
successfully adapting to change.

We are carving out a distinctly Canadian approach, based on the best
available information, that protects the interests of Canadians as
consumers, creators and citizens.

An approach that provides enough incentives and supports to ensure: the
availability of reliable and ubiquitous services, resilient networks,
affordable choices, and sustainable and dynamic competition.

Because we understand that the health of our communications sector in a
digital economy, and the welfare of our country in an information age,
depend on it.

Only the future will tell us if we got it right.

Thank you.

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