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Ottawa insider seen as candidate for CRTC chair

Konrad von Finckenstein is the former chairman of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission.

Chris Wattie/Reuters/Chris Wattie/Reuters

The Harper government is preparing to announce a new chair for Canada's telecom and broadcast regulator and industry players believe officials are leaning towards an Ottawa insider and veteran public servant named Jean-Pierre Blais.

Mr. Blais's record suggests he would be a relatively cautious hand at the helm of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, telecom industry sources say.

Unlike former chair Konrad von Finckenstein, telecom insiders predict Mr. Blais would be relatively compliant with Conservative government policy leanings and endeavour to keep the CRTC out of the headlines. Those who know Mr. Blais say he is more of a conciliation-minded type who would seek compromise on issues rather than strike out independently with bold initiatives.

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Mr. Blais has a working relationship with Canadian Heritage Minister James Moore, one of the two Conservative ministers who oversee the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission. Now posted with the federal Treasury Board Secretariat, Mr. Blais previously served in senior roles at the Department of Canadian Heritage, including assistant deputy minister, cultural affairs, where he was responsible for files including copyright and cultural industries.

Mr. Blais is said to have ambitions to be a deputy minister one day and his appointment to Treasury Board last fall was seen as a stepping stone to that.

The CRTC chair is sometimes seed as an end-of-career post, and Mr. Blais is far from retirement. But he has experience inside the CRTC that would make his appointment as chair a defensible choice. Mr. Blais, a lawyer by training, has served as executive director of broadcasting at the CRTC as well as general counsel, broadcasting. Sources say he is nevertheless enforcement minded and would not hesitate to impose consequences for infractions of CRTC rules.

Harper government officials refused to comment on whom they will appoint to the federal regulator and would not confirm Mr. Blais is being eyed for the job.

With a file from reporter Grant Robertson.

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About the Author
Parliamentary reporter

Steven Chase has covered federal politics in Ottawa for The Globe since mid-2001, arriving there a few months before 9/11. He previously worked in the paper's Vancouver and Calgary bureaus. Prior to that, he reported on Alberta politics for the Calgary Herald and the Calgary Sun, and on national issues for Alberta Report. More

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