Source : Montreal Gazette
For years he has fought a running battle with the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, the watchdog of Canada's airwaves.
Now, however, it is Andre Arthur's turn to be the watchdog over the CRTC after the controversial former radio shock jock turned independent MP was named yesterday to the House of Commons standing committee on industry, science and technology.
Arthur won't be the only former radio host on the committee overseeing the CRTC. Liberal industry critic Jean Lapierre, who has pushed his share of limits on air, was also named yesterday to the 12-member committee.
Arthur admits that his relations with the body he will now play a role in overseeing are poor.
"Ask a fire hydrant if it likes dogs," he said, likening himself to the hydrant.
But Arthur insists he won't let his past conflicts with the CRTC colour his work on the industry committee.
"I don't have an axe to grind, not even with the CRTC," he said.
"I will smile nicely at them, I promise."
CRTC spokesperson Denis Carmel declined to comment on the appointment.
In a province where radio hosts have been known to make increasingly outrageous comments in order to attract listeners, Arthur has historically been among the most controversial hosts.
Arthur's conflicts with the CRTC go back more than a decade.
They have frequently resulted in the CRTC putting conditions on licence renewals for radio stations where he has been employed.
In the case of CHOI FM in Quebec City, Arthur's on-air comments were among those cited in the CRTC's decision not to renew the station's licence, a ruling that is still being fought before the courts.
In fact, Arthur blames the CRTC for his having lost jobs in radio.
The industry committee, which now counts Arthur as a member, is key for Canada's business community and one of two panels that oversee the CRTC.
While the heritage committee oversees the CRTC's role of regulating broadcasting and dealing with complaints about the content of radio and television programs, the industry committee oversees the telecommunications side of the CRTC's activities - everything from telephones, satellite signal piracy and the Internet to how to deal with such new technologies as voice over Internet protocol (VOIP).
While the industry committee focuses on the activities of the federal industry department, it also looks at a wide range of other issues, including industry and technology capability, scientific research and development, investment, trade, small business, tourism and the marketplace.
Arthur said he is looking forward to working with the committee: "Science and technology has always fascinated me."
Arthur said there are several issues he expects the committee will study, including VOIP, which allows people to phone long distance at a fraction of the cost of regular long distance calls.
"We already know that there is an important report that has arrived in the (industry) department concerning the deregulation of telephone services," he said.
"That fascinates me because what I understand is that we put the brakes on technological development in order to be sure to protect consumers, but consumers haven't had the technological advances."
Arthur is also concerned that Quebec government manpower subsidies for companies located in resource regions will soon result in a trade dispute with the United States, landing the question in the lap of the federal government and quite possibly the industry committee.
On the telecommunications front, Arthur said he would like to see the committee examine the rules that govern how long distance charges are levied between neighbouring communities like those in his riding and the procedures in place to have them eliminated.
Lapierre, the Liberal industry critic who served as transport minister in Prime Minister Paul Martin's government, welcomed Arthur's appointment, pointing out the ex-shock jock has a proven technique in questioning people.
"God knows we have problems in Quebec, major problems of industrial transformation. There are major problems in his region, so in that sense, welcome."
Lapierre suggested Arthur might have to recuse himself on matters surrounding the CRTC to avoid putting himself in a conflict of interest, but Lapierre said he himself has no such limitation.
"I have never contested the role of the CRTC. He can't settle his personal accounts. I think you have to be a bit above that."
© Montreal Gazette