CNCP Telecommunications, a partnership of the telecommunications operations of Canadian National Railway (a crown corporation) and Canadian Pacific Railway (a publicly traded corporation).
CNCP wanted to introduce consumer long-distance telephone competition in Canada, which would destroy the highly profitable regulated monopoly position of the telephone companies, including several owned by provincial or municipal governments. CNCP already provided private long-distance to corporations.
CNCP needed the formal approval of the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), the regulator, to launch its consumer long-distance service.
CNCP knew the CRTC hearings would be dominated by anti-CNCP propaganda from Bell Canada, British Columbia Telephone, and the province-owned and city-owned phone companies in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and elsewhere.
To counter this, CNCP set up programs so federal members of parliament from across Canada and regular citizens of all provinces who the CRTC believed it served would learn to trust CNCP and believe its testimony. Trust was paramount.
CNCP’s senior management group and the specialized long-distance proposal team were guided through an issues/crisis management plan. As a highly technical company, CNCP was predisposed to make an economics-focused proposal supported by legal arguments based on new interpretations of the Railway Act from 100 years earlier.
Basically, the argument was “CNCP can make money offering long-distance service for 10 per cent less, and the Railway Act says we can offer services in provinces we don’t operate in now. So let us.” This strategy was supported by senior management and the CNCP Board of Directors, that included the Canadian Pacific legal department head. This man offered the Railway Act argument and was seconded from CP to lead the proposal team.
The case was made by the professional communications team, headed by FPC now-partner Brian Kilgore, that this approach must be supplemented by a politician-friendly trust-building argument, and a politician-friendly benefit-to-citizens argument.
A series of white papers was created for politicians, anti-CNCP propaganda was monitored across the country and immediately countered by our spokesman, and a television advertising program was created. One commercial pointed out that Canadians deserved choice, and, to counter anti-CNCP technical statements, the second commercial demonstrated that “the network is ready” and showed the latest technology, already installed for CNCP’s other services.
The hearings opened with an unscheduled and unannounced anti-CNCP procession of First Nations drummers, who had been told by Bell Canada that their reserve telephone services would be cut if there was competition. The Railway Act and economics arguments fell flat, and CNCP was told to return with more information on how Canada would be a better place to live if there was more competition in long-distance.
CNCP redrafted its proposals, and was later granted the licenses it needed.