Former industry minister Navdeep Bains gets Rogers job, sparking criticism

By Nojoud Al Mallees, The Canadian Press

OTTAWA — Former Liberal industry minister Navdeep Bains is joining Rogers as the company’s new chief corporate affairs officer, pushing critics to sound the alarm on a perceived politics-to-industry pipeline. 

Rogers announced several new appointments to its executive leadership team on Thursday, including Bains and a former Shaw executive. 

“This is a terrific opportunity to build on my commitment to champion critical issues facing both Canada and Canadians,” Bains said in a statement. 

“It’s an exciting time to join the company and to work with Tony and the team to help grow the digital economy and deliver more choice, more value and more connectivity for consumers.”

Bains served in Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s cabinet as federal industry minister from 2015 until early 2021, and chose not to run for re-election that year.

The industry minister is responsible for overseeing the country’s national industrial strategy, including regulating national sectors such as telecommunications.

Bains is joining Rogers after serving as a vice chair of global investment banking at CIBC. 

He is just the latest example of an ex-elected official obtaining a high-profile corporate job in an industry related to their former portfolio.

Ben Klass, a PhD candidate at Carleton University’s School of Journalism and Communications and a telecommunications researcher, said the news of Bains’s appointment evoked feelings of “disappointment” and “resignation.” 

Klass testified before MPs on the House of Commons industry committee about last summer’s Rogers outage, where he called for better regulation of the telecom industry. 

“To see our leaders moving seamlessly between government — where they essentially represent the interests of the people — and the industry … it’s hard to overstate how disappointing that is,” Klass said. 

NDP industry critic Brian Masse called the Bains’s appointment “incredibly concerning.”

“This hiring raises questions, especially after the government green-lit the Rogers-Shaw merger, benefiting Rogers at the expense of Canadian consumers,” Masse said in a statement. 

“Canadians have questions – they want to ensure Rogers now has no easy access to cabinet with this hiring.”

The Rogers-Shaw merger was first proposed in March 2021, after Bains left the industry minister role. It was approved last month by current Industry Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne with a set of conditions.

Bains is not the only former Liberal minister to hold a senior position in the industry. 

Earlier this year, John Manley was named the chair of the board of directors for Telus. 

Manley was a member of Parliament for seven years and filled several different roles in former prime ministerJean Chrétien’s cabinet, starting out as industry minister and eventually landing in finance. He left federal office in 2004. 

There are no prohibitions on elected officials taking roles in the private sector after leaving office, so long as they remain compliant with the Lobbying Act.

According to the act, an elected official is not permitted to engage in lobbying activities for five years after leaving public office. 

A Rogers spokesperson said part of Bains’s responsibility will be to lead the company’s public policy and environmental, social and governance efforts. 

His role will involve overseeing government affairs, but the spokesperson said he will not communicate with the government on behalf of Rogers, so as to remain complaint with the Lobbying Act. 

The Rogers rep said that “out of an abundance of caution, Navdeep proactively reached out to the ethics and lobbying commissioners and was provided clearance to join Rogers.” 

Rogers has found itself in the political spotlight several times over the past year. The July 8 outage last summer left millions of Canadians with no internet or cell service, and critics have raised concerns about competition after the recently approved Shaw acquisition.

Given the critical role of government in such issues, Klass said the appointment of Bains begs the question: “Is it the government telling Rogers what to do, or is it Rogers telling the government what to do?” 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 21, 2023. 

Nojoud Al Mallees, The Canadian Press

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