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Canada’s NDP Seeks Industry Committee Hearing on Spectrum

Canada’s biggest opposition party is triggering parliamentary hearings on the government’s planned wireless spectrum auction.

New Democratic Party lawmaker Chris Charlton said she wrote the Conservative chairman of the House of Commons industry committee asking for the panel to study the auction. When the proposal was rejected, the NDP used a procedural tactic to force emergency hearings, Charlton said today in a telephone interview.

The hearings must begin by Aug. 27 under the rules of the country’s legislature, she said.

“The overarching point for us is to make sure regular Canadians aren’t left out of the debate and aren’t forgotten in this controversy,” Charlton, the party’s spokeswoman on industry matters, said from Hamilton, Ontario.

The country’s three biggest wireless providers are pressing the Canadian government to change the rules for the January auction, which they say favor foreign carriers such as Verizon Communications Inc. The government has rejected the calls, saying it wants to promote competition and lower prices.

Charlton said she hopes the committee completes its study before the Sept. 17 deadline for companies to apply to bid in the auction.

The NDP is concerned that service for rural residents may be threatened, and wants to ensure privacy safeguards and support employment in the wireless industry, she said. The party would like to call Industry Minister James Moore as a witness, as well as Canadian phone companies, Verizon and consumer groups.

“Committees set their own agenda,” Jessica Fletcher, a spokeswoman for Moore, said in an e-mail when asked for a comment about the NDP move. “Our position is clear.”

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