The Parliamentary committee examining the foreign investment rules in the telecom sector will not be able to report by the deadline originally proposed by Industry minister Allan Rock, according to the committee’s chair. The House of Commons Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology will give careful consideration to all aspects of the topic, which requires more time than the minister originally contemplated. "We will not rush the study," Walt Lastewka tells Network Letter. "Although the minister has requested that it be done by a certain date, we will be running back to him and telling him that in order for us to do a proper study, we’re going to take a little longer." When he originally announced the review (NL, Dec. 2/02), Rock gave the end of February as a deadline for the committee to report. Lastewka thinks the committee will need another four to six weeks beyond that. Because there are other issues currently before them, the MPs will not get to the telecom review until January 27. Lastewka is in the process of drawing up a list of witnesses. He will not lack for content. "We’re going to have, of course, people from the incumbents, representatives of the wireless telephone companies, and the associations," the St. Catharines Liberal MP says, brandishing a four-page roster. "We’ll have other companies, smaller telecommunication companies. We’ll have, I understand, some cable companies have already requested that they would like to present their half of the story. And there’ll probably be a number of individuals that will want to come forward. People who are consultants in the industry. We’re probably going to have some university people, some of the technology people, the consumers’ associations, and so forth." Although he vows to conduct as thorough a study as possible, Lastewka will not let the hearings proceed forever. If debate begins to get repetitious, it will be halted, he says. He also wants participants to be precise in their use of terminology. "There’s always people who want to put the words ‘sovereignty protection’ out there," he explains. "So they’re going to have to define where the sovereignty protection is – where it is, and where it isn’t – and what are they looking for." In conjunction with the announcement of the review, Industry Canada released a discussion paper on the ownership restrictions. The 10-page document will serve as a template for the committee’s deliberations. But it will not be restricted to that material. The chair has asked the committee’s researchers to prepare additional data. As well, each of the five political parties in the House has its own research bureaus that can provide its own briefing notes. Outside experts have already contacted the committee clerk, offering their services. Lastewka is happy to have access to such a wealth of material. Some of the 16 members of the committee are new to the group and need background information to get up to speed on the issue. Even those with prior experience will need to study the changing landscape of the Canadian telecom sector. "The foreign investment rule has not been reviewed for a while and it’s probably overdue," Lastewka notes. The committee will examine Canada’s regulations as they compare with those in other countries. Lastewka expects to touch base with experts in the United States, Europe, Australia and New Zealand. Other nations have adopted vastly different regulatory regimes. The committee members are already discussing a basic agenda for the proceedings. Lastewka does not expect to have too many items cluttering the list. A web site will soon be running that will allow interested parties to register to appear before the committee.