MP O’Toole and Harper Government Changes Cell Tower Placement Rules

February 10, 2014Ottawa – Over the last twenty years, wireless services have grown into something Canadian consumers rely on daily. As a result we are seeing an increasing number of new cell towers being constructed in our communities. Their placement is becoming an ever more divisive issue with the rapidly increasing demand for wireless services.

Canadians deserve to have a say in how new cell tower locations are identified in their communities.  Improvements to Industry Canada’s Antenna Tower Siting Policy will ensure that local home owners and municipal governments are at the forefront of the tower placement process.

The changes guiding the installation of new antenna towers will include requirements that companies:

  • consult communities on all commercial tower installations,      regardless of height;
  • build any tower within three years of consulting with communities;      and
  • ensure home owners are well informed of upcoming consultations.

The improvements will also strengthen federal communications with the public on tower siting procedures, including new online resources on the process, and new reporting mechanisms to track tower issues and report back to communities.

These measures build on the Harper Government’s current tower sharing policies that require companies to first look at sharing existing tower infrastructure, whenever they can, to reduce the number of new towers needed in each community.

Canadian consumers expect their government to make decisions that will deliver more choice, lower prices and better services in the wireless sector for all Canadians. The Government of Canada will continue to work with the wireless sector in the weeks ahead on ways to more effectively balance the concerns of local communities. 

Quick facts

  • Under the existing cell tower siting policy, a company is only required to consult the community when it plans to build an antenna tower taller than 15 metres.
  • Before any company can build a new cell tower, it is required to look at alternatives like whether there is an existing tower in the same area that it can share.
  • All antenna towers, no matter the height, location or power, have to satisfy Industry Canada’s technical requirements and comply with Health Canada’s rules to ensure the safety of Canadians.


“The placement of new cell towers has been a divisive issue in Durham. It is essential that home owners be at the centre of the process to determine the location of a new tower, and it is up to the wireless industry to ensure local voices are heard. After taking my constituent concerns to Ottawa I’m pleased that Minister Moore and our Government has been responsive. These new rules will give communities, like Durham, a better say in the placement of new cell towers.”

– Mr. Erin O’Toole, MP for Durham


Cell Phone Tower Policy

Industry Canada’s cell tower procedures apply to all companies that want to install a new tower. The procedures outline the steps that must be taken before a tower can be built, and the guidelines for ensuring local residents are involved in the process.

Under the Government’s previous tower policy, established in 2008, a company was only required to consult with local residents when it was planning to build a tower higher than 15 metres. There was no time limit on when the new tower needed to be built following these consultations, and in many cases residents felt they were not being given adequate notice of the details of the consultation or the plan to build a tower.

To help address local concerns about the number of new towers being built in their communities, the Government announced changes to the tower policy in March 2013 that reinforced the requirement that any company wanting to build a new tower had to first look at sharing an existing tower or using an existing structure for its antenna.

The improvements announced today to the Antenna Tower Siting Policy will further strengthen the requirements for the wireless industry to consult with local residents, increase transparency for municipalities and improve communications throughout the tower siting process.

The tower citing process includes:

1. Using existing structures

Before a new tower can be proposed, the company is required to look at sharing an existing tower, or placing its antenna on an existing building or structure. This helps reduce the number of new towers that are built.

If there are no suitable towers that can be shared or other structures that can be used, the company can begin the process of building a new tower.

These steps apply to new structures as well as changes to existing structures.

2. Contacting local authorities

First, the company must contact all local authorities who have a stake in the installation of the new tower. This includes the local land-use authority (usually the municipality) and, in the case of broadcasters, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunication Commission. It must also respect Aboriginal or treaty rights and land claims.

3. Consulting the community

Next, the company must notify residents and engage the community in a way that ensures their participation. Communications such as mail and letters to residents about the consultation must be clearly addressed so they are not confused with junk mail. The company needs to give residents at least 30 days to provide comments.

The company is then required to respond to all reasonable and relevant concerns and make efforts to address them. It also needs to provide a copy of all public comments to Industry Canada.

Community consultations are required for the construction of all new commercial antenna towers, regardless of height.

4. Building a new tower

Lastly, following the consultation and the addressing of any reasonable and relevant concerns, and assuming the municipality supports the new tower, the company can begin construction. The new tower is required to be built within three years of the community consultations.

If there is an impasse between the municipality and the company, Industry Canada gets involved. The department either refers the parties to mediation or examines the facts and makes a decision. Impasses are rare; Industry Canada gets involved in less than 0.1 per cent of all cases.

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