LILLEY: Looming Huawei decision really doesn’t matter anymore – Toronto Sun

As the Prime Minister rags the puck on this issue, Huawei has taken advantage of the delay and expanded its business in Canada

Author of the article:

Brian Lilley

Publishing date:

Nov 20, 2021  •  1 hour ago  •  3 minute read  •  11 Comments

TRUDEAU INFLATION 2

With Parliament resuming Monday, one of the many anticipated decisions will be whether Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government allows Huawei into Canada’s 5G network.

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But the bigger question, after years of delay, might be whether the decision even matters anymore.

The diplomatic damage caused by Trudeau’s foot dragging is already done. At the same time, Huawei has spent the last several years selling equipment to major phone carriers that have in turn put that gear into Canada’s telecom system.

Since the federal government announced a review of Huawei’s role in Canada’s 5G system back in 2018, the company has sold hundreds of millions of dollars of equipment per year. Those sales may be drying up as companies react to public sentiment towards Huawei but the gear is already installed in cell towers across the country.

Telus, in particular, has a significant amount of Huawei gear installed, as does Bell, though to a lesser degree. And regional player Sasktel is also heavily reliant on Huawei gear.

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Even with announcements such as those by Bell and Telus that they will be using other equipment suppliers in the future, it will take years to fully swap out the existing gear. In essence, Huawei has taken advantage of Trudeau ragging the puck on this issue to expand their business.

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In addition to their sales, Huawei vice-president Alykhan Velshi said in an interview that the company has expanded their R&D business during this time to more than 1,600 employees. He said the company will respect the decision whatever it is and whenever it comes.

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“Our view since 2018 has been that the government should take the time to get the decision right, that it should resist pressures to rush a decision, and that this review should be seen as a marathon and not a sprint,” Velshi said.

The review has turned into a nearly four-year marathon that has only benefitted Huawei.

Security concerns were first raised in the House of Commons by then NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair in May 2012. This was shortly after Telus signed a deal with Huawei at a ceremony in Beijing attended by then Prime Minister Stephen Harper. The issue then, as now, was national security and concerns raised by our allies, in particular the Americans and Australians.

The Harper government dismissed security concerns about Huawei in much the same way as the Trudeau government has since taking power in 2015. Judging by their questions in the Commons, the Conservatives have since become quite concerned about security issues with Huawei, the NDP less concerned and the Liberals have become indecisive.

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Our allies have only grown more concerned.

Warnings about Huawei that started during the Obama administration and increased during the Trump administration have only continued under President Biden. In fact, just months ago, the Americans, Brits and Australians signed onto new security pact that excluded Canada.

That decision was based on the Trudeau government’s weak stance on China including allowing Huawei to continue to be part of the national wireless infrastructure. If, as expected, Huawei is officially banned from Canada’s 5G network in coming weeks, it is unlikely to do much to improve the diplomatic situation.

This review of Huawei’s future in Canada started in 2018, before Meng Wanzhou was detained in Vancouver and before Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor were kidnapped. There is no doubt that those events complicated issues but it shouldn’t have gotten to that point.

For nearly a decade, security experts and our allies have been warning Canada that Huawei being part of our telecom infrastructure was a security threat. Neither the Harper Conservatives nor Trudeau Liberals have listened.

Trudeau has taken so long with this review that when the decision comes, it won’t really matter.

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