June 16, 2017
Jean-Pierre Blais, Chairman
Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission
Check against delivery
It’s an honour for me to stand before all of you for one last time. To reflect on everything we’ve done and everything we’ve accomplished over the past five years. But most of all to thank you all for your exceptional work.
We public servants aren’t always celebrated for our accomplishments. Too often they go unnoticed or are taken for granted. I’m here today to celebrate the exceptional job we’ve all done together. As Ralph Waldo Emerson, that great American thinker and lecturer, once said: “The reward of a thing well done is to have done it.”
I feel rewarded for the last five years of my work. You should too. Together, we’ve made important changes to the country’s communication system and positioned it for success now and well into the future.
When I started this job almost exactly five years ago, I had a vision in mind for how my term would unfold. I presented that vision a few months later, in October 2012, at the annual conference of the Canadian Chapter of the International Institute of Communications. In that speech, I looked ahead to this day: the end of my mandate. Here’s what I forecasted:
In 2017, I see the CRTC as an institution that is trusted by Canadians. They trust us to ensure that Canada maintains and develops a world-class communication system. They trust us to defend their interests as citizens, as creators and as consumers.
In our case, trust is the by-product of doing the right thing. Of making the right choices that set up Canada’s communication system—and Canadians as consumers, creators and citizens within that system—for success in the face of change on a never-before-imagined scale. That’s the vision I put forward. And it’s exactly what we did.
Almost from day one of my term, we imagined new approaches to consultations that brought Canadians directly into the centre of conversations about issues of fundamental importance to their daily lives: wireless services, television content and broadband connectivity. In so doing, we greatly expanded and diversified the public record upon which my fellow Commissioners and I rendered our decisions. Dozens of voices became hundreds. Hundreds became thousands. Even more followed—from all parts of the country and all walks of life.
That work, by the way, has not gone unnoticed. Many of you in this room have won prizes for the work you’ve done to help the CRTC better engage with Canadians and for the resulting policy decisions. More than this, other departments and agencies of the Government of Canada have followed our lead. Be proud of that fact. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.
In our consultations with Canadians, we learned that the old way of doing business—broadcast quotas, points systems, co-production treaties and other hallmarks besides—mattered less and less in this on-demand, consumer-centric age. Television as a medium is being radically transformed by broadband. The system that supports it had to change too. That’s exactly what we did.
Underpinning all these changes—within the CRTC and across the industry—is broadband. I said as much in my address to the Banff World Media Festival on Tuesday. Broadband is more than just a conduit to entertainment, government services, healthcare, education or even democracy. It’s the very technology that enables these things. It’s why we now talk in terms of living in a digital world.
Enabling access to broadband and shaping the way in which that technology is brought to, and used by, consumers was a recurring theme during the last five years. It was the reason for our decisions on net neutrality, on basic telecommunications services, and even the decision we released earlier yesterday on the review of the wireless code.
Solutions, not problems
I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished as a group over the past five years. I’ll look back on this period of my career fondly. Back in 2012, I set an ambitious plan for change for this organization and I can honestly say that we achieved those goals—with hard work and dedication.
I hope you’re just as proud of what we’ve achieved together. It hasn’t always been easy. Many people have thrown cold water on our decisions. Often, they’re those who never participated in our hearings or contributed to the public record. They’re those who stand at the back of the crowd and criticize our decisions after the fact.
To them, I’ll simply say this: “Leaders think and talk about solutions. Followers think and talk about problems.”
I urge you to continue to think and talk about solutions. To continue to lead.
Some of you have asked whether I want to stay in this job past the end of my term. The answer is no. I haven’t applied because I’ve done what I set out to do five years ago: to put the CRTC back on the path of building trust with Canadians and developing a world-class communication system with Canadians at its centre.
This, by the way, is the same reason why I’m still here with only two days left in my mandate. To leave any earlier—prior to our decision on the review of the wireless code—would have been to leave a job unfinished. Yesterday’s decision lays that capstone. It’s the final reward of a job done well.
Any of you who have visited my office will have seen this figurine. It’s of Merlin, that ancient wizard of Arthurian legend. In his acclaimed account of the life of King Arthur, The Once and Future King, T. H. White imagines Merlin as someone who experiences time backwards. Merlin knows the future. He’s lived it already. This is why he’s the ideal mentor for the king to be.
Merlin was an inspiration for me during my term as Chairman. His presence kept me focused on my vision. After all, he already knew that we would achieve it together!
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